Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

The front grille of a Ford automobile inside the Petersen Automotive Museum vault. The collection is open to the public through Jan. 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

Visitors look at the unique details of rare cars during a tour of the museum's vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

Tour guide Kevin Blackley talks about a trio of Ferraris to visitors touring the vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

The Mongrel T, front, (from a Model T) was built for the Elvis Presley movie "Easy Come, Easy Go." The vehicle was later repurposed as the Joker's car in the first Batman television series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

This 1942 Lincoln was ordered the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor for President Roosevelt. It was built with steel plating nearly a quarter of an inch thick and has windows made up of nine panes of laminated glass.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

The Round Door Rolls originally was a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom but was modified by a wealthy owner a decade later. After bouncing around among numerous owners, it was discovered in a New Jersey junkyard in the 1950s before Robert E. Petersen bought it and restored it to its current condition.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

The 1941 Cadillac owned by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

The 1957 Jaguar XKSS owned by Steve McQueen.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

A black 1952 Ferrari Barchetta once owned by Henry Ford.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Chris Brown, the Petersen Automotive Museum's marketing director, looks at the 1939 Bugatti once the property of the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

The 1958 Edsel owned by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

A Chrysler Imperial that was the parade car of President Eisenhower.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Visitors check out a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom coupe.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

A popemobile blessed by the pope but never used because of safety concerns by Swiss Guards.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

The front grille of a Rolls Royce inside the vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

The 1982 Ferrari 308 GTS convertible driven by Tom Selleck for the television show "Magnum P.I."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

The front grille of a 1939 Bugatti.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

Vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles inside the vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

A Chevrolet convertible rests in the semi-darkness of the vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

Other classic cars parked in the vault.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times

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Stepping down in time | The Petersen Automotive Museum vault

Taking up a city block on Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, the Petersen has drawn visitors since 1994. Its collection is considered one of the finest in the country with detailed dioramas and presentations that provide historic and cultural context.

The vault — once restricted to high-ranking museum personnel and visiting VIPs, but now open to the public through Jan. 6 — is far different than the galleries upstairs. Inside, in a space the size of a football field, are 150 cars parked as if in a city lot. There are no special displays with manikins, velvet ropes and faux boulevards.

Many of the cars have been displayed at other times in the museum, but to see them in such simple circumstance is a chance to appreciate the swoop of a fender, the rake of a radiator grille or the grain of a leather interior.

“When you see a car upstairs,” said Jay Leno, who visited the vault before its opening, “it’s all polished up and roped off and everything. For a car guy like me, I prefer to walk up to a car and see it without all the pomp and circumstance.”

Read W. J. Hennigan’s article: Vaulting into car history at the Petersen museum

1 Comment

  1. December 26, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Dear Bob Peterson,

    I knew you and your wife many years ago when we were members of the charity “The Thalians” in the 60s. My name at that time was Cindy Robbins. I live in Sandpoint, Idaho now and I hope to see your Museum someday when i visit my only child, Kimberly Beck Clark in the LA area. I’m so proud that you have done such a wonderful of preserving these wonderful dreams of my youth. Thank You! Cindy

    By: Cynrhia Chenault

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