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.


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  • 56 Comments
      zamafir
      • 1 Year Ago
      Without a doubt some of the best $25 a car buff can spend, easily one of the most unique collections this side of leno's garage.
        recharged95
        • 1 Year Ago
        @zamafir
        I dunno, I did the tour, we got 2 guides, one was "in training" and other was more of a hollywood history buff than car buff. You sporatically move through 2 garages, each having maybe 25 cars... and the tour guide doesn't explain them all and you can't touch of course. For $25, 20min to wait and reservation to get on the list. *it was a waste*. I want my 45min back. The $12 tour through the museum was MUCH better. I should have went to the month end's Cars and Coffee in Irvine for free, considering they had the LFA, Aventador and new Viper that weekend. Engines RUNNING too! :) Save your money, just go to a CnC show on Sat or an end of month's Supercar Sunday--both easily top this lame tour.
          recharged95
          • 1 Year Ago
          @recharged95
          On cool thing was the newer GT40, McQueen's Jag, Shah's Bugatti and the one-off Rolls Royce. CnC has almost the same "air" of cars... and they are running them to boot.
      Mike M
      • 1 Year Ago
      I worked at the museum for a summer, and the vault still gives me goosebumps. Some amazing stuff down there.
      tinted up
      • 1 Year Ago
      I absolutely LOVE how tiny the old school japanese sports cars are. Everyone marvels at how small they are until they get in and has MORE legroom than modern cars!!! Anywayyy, who's down to pull a gone in 60 seconds on this one?
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @tinted up
        By the way, Suki's Honda S2000 from "2 Fast 2 Furious" is down there too! - Mike
      rbrtkyte
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'll take that one .....and that one !!........
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rbrtkyte
        [blocked]
      Jonas
      • 1 Year Ago
      I dig how many of the people that work at the Peterson are commenting on everyone's posts. Most places could give a crap about the opinions of others, but clearly they do and are passionate about their work and their collection. Kuddos to The Peterson and your employees, I will visit soon.
      BNEVIN
      • 1 Year Ago
      I only hope that underground vault is NOT near or on the fault line. Yikes.
      mhdjl
      • 1 Year Ago
      A number of years back, we heard about the Petersen Automobile Museum. We took a day off from visiting with family out there and went to see the cars. It was fascinating to read the signs with the historical information about the cars on them. My son is a "car nut", so he was in heaven when we went (he was a teenager then). I sent him this article about all of the cars we could not see back then...
      david m waltman
      • 1 Year Ago
      car candy store
      gleam1946
      • 1 Year Ago
      WOW a Toyota
      Andrew Pullin
      • 1 Year Ago
      It sure was a nice collection, and the docent gave lots of information. The problem was that the tour wasn't really quite "personal"; it was advertised as being groups of 10 people, yet in our group, there were easily 25 on the tour. It does diminish it, since 10 people can surround and observe a car, but 25 is too many, and it becomes crowded.
      trpeg
      • 1 Year Ago
      My family and I went to the above grade museum this summer which was awesome. We may be returning to SoCal sooner than expected to experience the vault, TR in Leawood Kansas
      Stumpy
      • 1 Year Ago
      I want that, and that and that... They would have to call the police to get me out of that place, I would never want to leave. ..
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