2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica, Ferrari F50 and a Ferrari F40
  • 2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica, Ferrari F50 and a Ferrari F40
  • 2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica — Derived from the 575M Maranello coupe, the Pininfarina-designed Superamerica was fitted with a roof panel that could be lowered for a targa effect.  For open air motoring, the driver simply releases a catch on the windshield header and pushes a switch on the center console. The glass roof then rotates backward on the axis of its rear edge and comes to rest upside down on top of the trunk lid. An innovative electrochromic layer in the top allows the driver to control the level of interior light while reducing heat and glare.  The Superamerica, which derived its name from a small series of ultra exclusive limited production Ferrari coupes of the 1950s and 1960s, is powered by a 351 cubic inch V-12 engine that delivers 532 horsepower. (Parked next to a Ferrari F50 and a 1991 Ferrari F40.)

  • 1967 Ford GT40 MkIII and 2005 Ford GT
  • 1967 Ford GT40 MkIII — Of the seven Ford GT40 Mark IIIs built, only four were delivered with left hand drive like this car.  This rare street-legal example (serial #MK3 1105) was originally owned by well-known Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, who drove it sparingly—and never in the rain.  The Mark III differed from earlier versions in that it had round rather than oblong headlights, an extended rear deck with room for luggage, a less rigid suspension and a more comfortable interior.  Powered by a 289-cubic-inch 306-horsepower Ford V8 engine coupled to a ZF 5-speed manual transmission, the low-slung car can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds. Top speed is approximately 165 miles per hour.  The GT40 model designation was derived, in part, from its low height, which was a mere 40 inches from ground to roof. (Parked next to a 2005 Ford GT.)

  • 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe (aka "Round Door Rolls")
  • 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe (aka "Round Door Rolls") — Owned by the Raja of Napara and passed through several owners before landing in Belgium in 1932. Through a turn of events, it ended up in a junkyard in New Jersey in the 1950s, before being saved and restored. Purchased by the Peterson Museum in 2001, and re-restored to its present condition.

  • Volkswagen Beetle, in "Herbie" livery, built for one of the many movies (inside the cabin is a lever used to raise the front decklid so the vehicle may "talk"). Parked next to is a "NASCAR Herbie" from the movie "Herbie: Fully Loaded."

  • 1999 Mach 5
  • 1999 Mach 5 - The Mach 5 has been described as the most famous race car in the world because of the continuing popularity of the 1967 Speed Racer cartoon series, which has an estimated fan base of 50 million people.  In 2000, this hand-built, mid-engine interpretation of the cartoon Mach 5 completed a nationwide automotive safety tour sponsored by the Child Safety Network.  The Speed Racer Motors organization then unveiled plans to build a series of 100 road-ready replicas based on front-engine Corvette platforms, but few were made.  The most recent popular appearance of the Mach 5 was in the 2008Speed Racer movie, for which no running vehicles (only prototypes) were constructed because all action was digitally produced.

  • 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen — One of the 25 exact full-scale replicas built by John Bentley Engineering in the U.K. between 1986 and 1997. (Parked next to a 1903 Cadillac.)

  • 1967 Toyota 2000 GT
  • 1967 Toyota 2000 GT — Secretly fabricated entirely by hand in the Yamaha factory in Shizuoka, Japan, the 2000GT represented Toyota’s earliest attempt to make a sports car that could rival European supercars like Lamborghini and Porsche. The 2000GT was introduced in 1965 at the Tokyo Motor Show and special racing versions quickly claimed three world endurance records.  Its performance-oriented, two-liter twin-cam six-cylinder engine produced a remarkable 149 horsepower. Priced in 1967 at a then-high $7,230, Toyota sold only 337 2000GTs of which 54 were purchased new in the United States. This example was sold when new by Len Sheridan Toyota in Santa Monica.

  • 1926 Ford T built by Lil John Buttera, 50th Anniversary Hot Rod Magazine 1927 Ford T, Ala Kart II (replica of the AMBR-winning Ala Kart), 1930 Chevrolet, Van Halen "Hot For Teacher" 1932 Ford Phaeton, 1932 Ford built for Mr. Petersen, 1932 Ford Miller Automotive Special (original condition), 1932 Ford “Orange Twist” – won America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 1988.

  • 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster / 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe
  • 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe — Originally designed for road racing, the 300SL had a tube-frame for strength and rigidity and was the world’s first production car with fuel-injection.  The model’s most notable design feature was its roof-hinged doors which, when opened, resembled the wings of a bird in flight, hence the unofficial nickname “Gull Wing.”  Factory list price for the hand-built 300SL was a high $7,500.  The 300SL coupe was in production from 1954 through 1957, at which time it was replaced by the more practical, but less interesting roadster variant.  The “SL” in the model name stood for “sehr leicht” (super light) and is still used today in the model designation of Mercedes-Benz’ sportiest cars.

    1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster — When new, this red roadster was given by Desi Arnaz as a gift to Robert Stack when he won the Emmy for his role in the Untouchables TV series.  Like all 300SLs, it was equipped with a 237-horsepower six-cylinder engine that was mounted in the chassis at a slight angle to allow for a low, sloping hood.  Top speed was a high 160 miles per hour.

  • 1957 Norton w/ Busmar sidecar, 1917 Harley-Davidson Model J, 1904 Studebaker Doctor’s Carriage

  • In the middle of the aisle: 1931 Ford Model A Coupe, 1926 Pedroso, 1967 Toyota 2000GT

  • Left to right: 1913 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout, 1912 DeDion Bouton, 1914 Series H Royal Mail Roadster

  • 1930s Model A
  • 1931 Ford Model A — Although the Ford Model T was the best selling, low priced automobile in America in the mid-1920s, the growing popularity of competitive makes meant that even buyers of inexpensive cars were yearning for more style and substance. The first Model A was built in October 1927. It offered buyers more comfort and performance than anything else in its class. Nine different models were available ranging in price from the $500 Tudor Sedan to the $1200 town car. By the end of 1931, Ford had sold over 3.5 million Model As.

  • The car in the foreground is an air-cooled 1924 Franklin. Next is a 1922 Chevrolet, then a 1915 Buick, a 1914 Chevrolet, a 1912 DeDion Buton, 1913 Mercer, 1903 Cadillac, 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen replica by John Bentley

  • Right side (right to left): 1998 Cadillac Popemobile, 1937 Packard 12 Sport Phaeton, 1930 Packard Victoria, 1967 Toyota 2000GT

  • The black car is a 1952 Ferrari 212/225 Barchetta, a gift from Enzo Ferrari to Henry Ford II. It was the last Barchetta ever made, a left hand drive example completed with unique white wall tires and polished wheels. Interestingly, it was parked inside Ford's studio while they were working on the 1955 T-Bird (in white behind it)... note the similarities.

  • Left to right: 1985 Ferrari Mondial, 1982 Ferrari 308 GTSi, 1974 Dino Spyder

  • Left to Right: 2008 Ferrari Superamerica, 1995 Ferrari F50, 1990 Ferrari F40

  • 1982 Ferrari 308 GTSi — This 1982 Ferrari 308GTSi was the actual car driven by both Tom Selleck and Larry Manetti during the 1982-1983 shooting season of the television detective series Magnum P.I. The driver’s seat was modified to fit six foot, four inch Tom Selleck. The seat rails were relocated and the filler material from the driver’s seat bottom cushion was removed.  The mid-engined successor of the Ferrari Dino, the 308GTSi is powered by a fuel injected 3 liter V-8.

  • 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 "Daytona" Spyder
  • 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 "Daytona" Spyder — The Gumball Rally was one of the earliest cross-country race movies.  The competitors’ vehicles included a Chevrolet van, Shelby Cobra, Kawasaki motorcycle, Rolls-Royce, this Ferrari, and others.  Raul Julia, the Ferrari’s driver, portrayed a reckless Italian who plucked the rear-view mirror from the windshield because “what’s behind…is not important.”  One of only 120 built, the Ferrari Daytona Spyder was the ideal choice for an actor playing an international playboy during the 1970s.  It was dashing, self-indulgent, and irresistible to the women characters.

  • 1964 Porsche 901 — Few realize that the iconic sports car was originally called the 901, until Peugeot claimed that designation was theirs. Porsche subsequently renamed it the 911.

    1965 Porsche 356 — Last year of production

    1955 Porsche 356 Continental — Ford eventually forced Porsche to drop the Continental designation.

  • 1998 GM Cadillac Fleetwood "Popemobile"
  • 1998 GM Cadillac Fleetwood "Popemobile" — While today's "Popemobiles" are manufactured on Mercedes-Benz platforms, GM built a custom sled for the Pontiff's Mexican visit in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the front-wheel drive four-door lacked a bulletproof bubble so the Vatican never used it.

  • The purple vehicle is a 1933 Ford Victoria Hot Rod, by Boyd, originally owned by Nicolas Cage. To its left is a 1932 “Little Foose Coupe”, 1932 “Little Foose Deuce” and a 1930 Ford Model J.

  • 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster — Priced at $1,628, the convertible was the second most expensive Chevrolet for 1948, exceeded only by the wood-bodied station wagon at factory price.  Standard equipment included a power top, 90-horsepower “Stovebolt” six-cylinder engine, and DeLuxe two-spoke steering wheel.  With total model year production of 775,982, Chevrolet outsold archrival Ford by a wide margin to retain its position as America’s best selling car.  Academy Award-winning actor Jack Nicholson drove this convertible in "The Two Jakes" (1990) before donating it to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2003.    

    1913 ROLLS-ROYCE 40/50 Silver Ghost Roi de Belge Tourer — By Woodall Nicholson

    1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Limousine — By Chapron (cost $55,000 new and was the most expensive vehicle sold new that year).

  • Right to left: 1932 Ford “Orange Twist”, 1932 Ford Miller Automotive Special (original condition), 1932 Ford built for Mr. Petersen, Van Halen Hot For Teacher 1932 Ford Phaeton

  • Right to Left: 1957 Plymouth Pro Street Fury, 1968 Chevrolet Biscayne, 1967 Dodge Coronet 440 “WO23” Dragcar.

  • 1997 Chrysler Lugano Concept
  • 1997 Chrysler Lugano Concept — The full-size clay model of the Chrysler Lugano Concept was built by Chrysler's Pacifica Advanced Design Studio in Irvine, CA. The clay concept sits on a structure called a rig which acts as a solid base for the model as it is worked on. In order to reduce the model's weight and the amount of clay used, a foam core is added before applying any layers of clay. Once a model is completed, details such as light graphics, paint, imitation glass and black tape to outline the doors and hood are applied. This Concept was donated to the Petersen shortly after being built. Parked next to it is a Mazda RX-7 Prototype.

  • 1957 Jaguar XK-SS "Green Rat" owned by Steve McQueen. Built for racing, it was fitted with a 3.4-liter inline-six topped with a six-pack of side-draft Weber carburetors. It generated upwards of 275 horsepower, meaning the lightweight (about 2,000 pounds) two-seater was capable of a 0-60 sprint in about five seconds — amazing performance for a street car in that era!

  • 1957 Jaguar XK-SS "Green Rat"
  • 1957 Jaguar XK-SS "Green Rat" owned by Steve McQueen. Built for racing, it was fitted with a 3.4-liter inline-six topped with a six-pack of side-draft Weber carburetors. It generated upwards of 275 horsepower, meaning the lightweight (about 2,000 pounds) two-seater was capable of a 0-60 sprint in about five seconds — amazing performance for a street car in that era!

  • 1957 Jaguar XK-SS "Green Rat" owned by Steve McQueen. Built for racing, it was fitted with a 3.4-liter inline-six topped with a six-pack of side-draft Weber carburetors. It generated upwards of 275 horsepower, meaning the lightweight (about 2,000 pounds) two-seater was capable of a 0-60 sprint in about five seconds — amazing performance for a street car in that era!

  • 1957 BANGERT Teverbaugh & Kirkland Bonneville Special
  • 1957 BANGERT Teverbaugh & Kirkland Bonneville Special — Built by John Teverbaugh & Robert Kirkland, this special ran in the "D" Modified class on the Bonneville Salt Flats from 1957 through 1959 and was the first ever Bonneville car equipped with a parachute to improve its stopping ability. Its fiberglass body by Bangert Enterprises of Hollywood was mounted on an innovative chrome-moly tube frame that was equipped with disc brakes sourced from an airplane. Originally powered by a supercharged and fuel injected Mercury engine, the innovative racer was designed to exceed 200 miles per hour and was featured in numerous period magazines including Hot Rod, Motor Trend, and Sports Car Illustrated. Working closely with Dr. Teverbaugh, who originally built the car, the donor restored and updated it during the period 1992 through 2005 with the goal of creating a vintage racecar with modern performance and reliability that remained true to its heritage

  • 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe (aka "Round Door Rolls") — Owned by the Raja of Napara and passed through several owners before landing in Belgium in 1932. Through a turn of events, it ended up in a junkyard in New Jersey in the 1950s, before being saved and restored. Purchased by the Peterson Museum in 2001, and re-restored to its present condition.

  • 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe (aka "Round Door Rolls") — Owned by the Raja of Napara and passed through several owners before landing in Belgium in 1932. Through a turn of events, it ended up in a junkyard in New Jersey in the 1950s, before being saved and restored. Purchased by the Peterson Museum in 2001, and re-restored to its present condition.

  • Clockwise: 1960 Barbershop Car, 1967 Boothill Express, 1978 Stagefright, 1999 Speed Racer Mach 5, 1954 Plymouth “Sniper”

  • 1967 Ford GT40 MkIII
  • 1967 Ford GT40 MkIII — Of the seven Ford GT40 Mark IIIs built, only four were delivered with left hand drive like this car.  This rare street-legal example (serial #MK3 1105) was originally owned by well-known Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, who drove it sparingly—and never in the rain.  The Mark III differed from earlier versions in that it had round rather than oblong headlights, an extended rear deck with room for luggage, a less rigid suspension and a more comfortable interior.  Powered by a 289-cubic-inch 306-horsepower Ford V8 engine coupled to a ZF 5-speed manual transmission, the low-slung car can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds. Top speed is approximately 165 miles per hour.  The GT40 model designation was derived, in part, from its low height, which was a mere 40 inches from ground to roof.

  • 1939 Bugatti Type 57C, 1938 Delage D-8

  • 1953 Bosley GT Mark I, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette “Outer Limits”, 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Derby Speedster by Brewster

  • The white vehicle is a 1952/56 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton used by President Eisenhower, President Nixon, and several astronauts. One of just three built (the other two are owned by the cities of Los Angeles and New York).

    The copper vehicle is a 1955 Mercury D-528 Concept Car "Beldone." The D-528 was built to test advanced concepts in seating, lighting, air conditioning and front frame design. The hinged rear fender bulges were functional, concealing a spare tire on one side and a gas tank on the other.  Such a design gave the car adequate luggage capacity despite the need to accommodate a large air conditioning system.  Although it boasted design features such as a pillarless windshield and Ford's first reverse-sloping retractable rear window, it was an in-house research vehicle that was never shown publicly.  "Beldone" was a stage name selected by Paramount Pictures for the car's appearance in the 1964 Jerry Lewis movie, "The Patsy," not an official Ford designation.

  • 1959 Ford Thunderbird "Macabre Mobile"Driven by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson), 1964 Calico Surfer by George Barris, 1956 Ford Thunderbird Bonneville Racer

  • 1992 Jaguar XJ220
  • 1992 Jaguar XJ220 — One of only 278 units manufactured. Supposed to have come to market with a 6.2-liter V12, it instead arrived with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 making 542 horsepower.

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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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      zamafir
      • 2 Years 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
        • 2 Years 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
          • 2 Years 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
      • 2 Years Ago
      I worked at the museum for a summer, and the vault still gives me goosebumps. Some amazing stuff down there.
      tinted up
      • 2 Years 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
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tinted up
        By the way, Suki's Honda S2000 from "2 Fast 2 Furious" is down there too! - Mike
      rbrtkyte
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'll take that one .....and that one !!........
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rbrtkyte
        [blocked]
      Jonas
      • 2 Years 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
      • 2 Years Ago
      I only hope that underground vault is NOT near or on the fault line. Yikes.
      mhdjl
      • 2 Years 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
      • 2 Years Ago
      car candy store
      gleam1946
      • 2 Years Ago
      WOW a Toyota
      Andrew Pullin
      • 2 Years 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
      • 2 Years 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
      • 2 Years 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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