Two years ago we went to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to meet one of the original Black Beauty Chrysler Imperials from The Green Hornet television show. When the work was done, we were asked if we wanted a tour of the underground vault, to which we of course consented. We were instructed, however, "You can't mention this to anyone." And we didn't.

Now it's a secret that won't need to be kept if you're in LA from December 15 to January 6. The Petersen is opening its vault to the public for the holidays, offering guided tours of the roughly 250 cars in the stash to groups of 10 or fewer. You'll need an additional $25 ticket on top of the $12 museum ticket, but the metal in the photo above will immediately prove its worth. If you haven't seen the "Round Door" Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe, that is worth the price of entry by itself.

Each tour will last for more than an hour, so you won't worry about being rushed. You won't be able to take photos, however, and those under 12 will not be allowed. The press release below will tell you how to get into the automotive safe, and the high-res pics above will help you figure out where you want you want to focus your eyeballs when you get there.
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PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM'S LEGENDARY VAULT TO OPEN TO PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME

Visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum's underground vault has always been an opportunity reserved strictly for staff, docents, curators and industry insiders. Now, for the first time, the Vault will publically open its doors for the 2012 holiday season and the general public can view over 150 vehicles and other automotive treasures not on display in the museum itself – many of which belonged to world leaders, actors, rock stars, famous collectors and museum founder Robert E. Petersen.

The Vault will open for tours on Dec. 15 and close on Jan. 6. An additional ticket purchase of $25 is required and includes access to the vault, as well as a guided tour by museum staff. Tours will be intimate-no more than 10 people at a time-and guests must be over the age of 12. Tours may be scheduled by calling 323.964.6331 or at the admissions desk.

"In a way the vault has become a legend," says Terry Karges, the museum's Executive Director. "At any given time we have as many as 150 vehicles on display in exhibits around the museum, but with over 400 vehicles in our collection many go unseen by the public. People are always asking for access to the vault and we're excited to finally be able to offer the opportunity."

Examples of vehicles currently located in the vault include the spectacular one-of-one 1925/34 "Round Door" Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe, a Ferrari given to Henry Ford II by Enzo Ferrari, a rare Jaguar XKSS formerly owned by actor Steve McQueen, the Volkswagen Beetle driven by Lindsay Lohan in "Herbie Fully Loaded" and a 1939 Bugatti given to the Shah of Iran as a wedding present. A wide variety of hot rods, muscle cars, Hollywood vehicles, exotics, vehicles used by heads of state, motorcycles, and even a Popemobile are housed in the vault. Tours will last over an hour and photography is not permitted.

The optional Vault tour adds a third level of exciting vehicles to see. Other exhibitions in the museum include an exhibit titled "Aerodynamics: From Art to Science." This exhibit, which runs through May 27, 2013, presents an entertaining and enlightening visual overview of the landmarks of aerodynamic design, from the quirky 1928 Martin Aerodynamic and the 1940 BMW 328 Mille Miglia to the technologically advanced Bugatti Veyron. Also on display is "Sculpture in Motion: Masterpieces of Italian Design," a look at the finest Italian automotive designs from the 1930s through today's modern supercars in the museum's grand salon through February 3, 2013. These temporary exhibitions join permanent galleries which cover topics ranging from Hollywood vehicles to alternative power, motorcycles, hot rods, and the Streetscape, which takes visitors through the evolution of Los Angeles and the automobile. Families will find the Discovery Center on the museum's third floor to be a fun place where children can interact with the exhibits and learn art and science through the automobile.

About the Petersen
The Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational institution. The Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax) in Los Angeles, California 90036. Admission prices are $12 for general admission adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for students with ID, $3 for children ages 5 to 12. Museum members, active military with ID and children under five are admitted free. Parking is free for the first 30 minutes and $2.00 each additional 30 minutes. One hour validation with purchase of $10 or more in the Museum Store or Johnny Rockets located in the museum lobby. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm. For general Museum information, call 323/930-CARS or visit the Museum's Web site at: www.petersen.org.


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  • 27 Comments
      ShutoSteve
      • 2 Years Ago
      I look at this one of 3 ways. 1. Thank God these cars are being taken care of and treasured by a museum, for the rest of time, so that people can enjoy them and cherish them for many years to come. 2. It's a damned shame that they are "permanently" held by the museum, with no chance of resale, so that no one qualified/well off enough to take care of them and enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed, can do so. 6. Lastly, it's even more of a damned shame that they sit in a basement, undriven, without being allowed to be even photographed, therefore completely abolishing the use of having them, besides sheer greed itself of the curators/owners, who are the only ones who can go look at them besides special occasions such as this. I'm at a crossroads here. Cars were meant to be driven and enjoyed and shared. Not squirreled away, privatized, and left standing. And yet at the same time, I'm glad someone is taking such good care of them. Hm.
        Klep
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ShutoSteve
        All valid points, but I would be able to accept the fact that they are acting as a historical archive if they allowed for thorough photographing of them. I, for one, want to know what the inside of a MkIII's glovebox looks like. (If it even has one.)
      OptimusPrimeRib
      • 2 Years Ago
      Who broke into my dreams and stole my cars?
      Lucky Vanos
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why no pics?Are the cars shy or scared it might steal their souls.
      superchan7
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sweet, a US-spec F40.
      joe shmoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      kids not allowed. ha. I was about to say, little kids might key the cars.
      Klep
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'll have the front two, please and thank you.
      john m
      • 2 Years Ago
      A MK 3, WOW... You don't see many of those.
      Serenespeed
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let's see... tuesday should work.
      bee1000
      • 2 Years Ago
      If there's any way for you to get yourself to the museum for this tour, do it! I got a tour as part of a special group trip to the museum and the man who led the vault tour was great at bringing the cars to life. Despite the foreground of that first photo, it's not filled with pretty sports cars, but all sorts of cars from antique to vintage luxury to oddities, and most of them have interesting stories that make them one-of-a-kind. I don't remember him even talking about that run-of-the-mill F40, for instance. Definitely worth your $25.
      wllharrington
      • 2 Years Ago
      If onlythey would allow photos with a brief description and history of each vehicle so that those of us who are nowhere near LA can enjoy them.
      Scr
      • 2 Years Ago
      It really is too bad that ths Museum is in LA. One good earthquake or natural disaster threatens these car's safety.. Move it Nevada or something.
      Robert Fahey
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think I see a DeTomaso Mangusta way back there (four headlights).
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