As a jaded automotive journalist, exposed to some of the world's finest automotive machinery on a regular basis, it takes something extraordinary to raise my pulse. Yet here I was, standing in the chilly underground vault of the famed Petersen Automotive Museum, and I was getting choked up.
Last month, the Los Angeles museum opened its hidden storage garage (located beneath its concrete parking structure) to the public for guided tours intended to last just a few weeks over the holidays. Officials expected a handful of visitors would pay the additional $25 fee for the private up-close-and-personal 90-minute excursions. Instead, enthusiasts flooded the lobby each day and some even lined up out the doors.
To satisfy demand, Petersen officials have announced that they are extending the intimate vault tours... indefinitely (twice a day on weekdays, and four times a day on weekends). Visitors may call and reserve a space in advance (recommended), or show up and attempt to grab any remaining slots.
Whetting your appetite, we lugged our camera equipment (sorry, public photography is not allowed on the tours) downstairs to shoot a select gallery of just some of the vault's rare treasures – nearly all with colorful and storied histories. Click through the gallery (most have been captioned) to learn about vehicles like Steve McQueen's 1957 Jaguar XK-SS "Green Rat," a mint 1967 Toyota 2000 GT, GM's hand-built Cadillac Fleetwood-based 1998 "Popemobile" and a 1972 Ferrari "Daytona" Spyder from The Gumball Rally motion picture.