Gallery: inside the world’s greatest car museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is 100,000 square feet of car nirvana
The Petersen Automotive Museum stands on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, like some sort of giant spaceport. It’s a truly gobsmacking piece of architecture, and one that’s worth the visit alone. But if you make it that far, we urge you to pop in and ogle one of the world’s finest car collections.
Or you could pop the kettle on, put your feet up and enjoy our pick of its fluid 300-strong collection from the comfort of your computer. The choice is yours…Advertisement - Page continues below
1925 Roll-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe by Jonckheere
Originally based on a Phantom cabriolet, this spectacular one-off Roller – placed front and centre in the museum’s lobby – was converted by Belgian coachbuilder Jonckheere in 1934. Notice the perfectly round doors, hence it’s highly imaginative nickname, ‘the round-door Rolls’.
1971 De Tomaso Pantera
Being riddled with bullet holes isn’t generally seen as a desirable optional extra. But when the slugs are fired by Elvis Presley, at his own car, presumably in a fit of ‘hangry’ rage, legendary status is assured.Advertisement - Page continues below
Spectre’s 2015 Jaguar C-X75
If you read our first drive of this car, you’ll already know its dirty secret. Although it looks like the 2010 C-X75 concept (powered by electric motors and jet turbines), it actually uses a familiar Jag 5.0-litre V8 dropped into a bespoke reinforced chassis – essential to withstand the stunts a Bond movie threw at it.
2014 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse ‘KPM Series’
There was no shortage of Veyron special editions during its brief production run, but this one was a bit special. Its paintjob was designed to mimic natural light reflection in an all-white studio, and painted over a 12-week period using techniques borrowed from high-end porcelain production. Smashing.
1948 Davis Divan
Aircraft-inspired styling, pop-up headlights, four-abreast seating, aluminium body construction and the simplicity of three wheels. The Divan was touted as the car of the future by its inventor, Gary Davis, when it was introduced. Sadly nobody else agreed, and so only 16 were ever built before the company went under.
1967 Ford GT40 MkIII
Just like the new Ford GT racecar will have a road-going sibling, this was the everyday version of the Le Mans-winning GT40. Softer suspension and a rear luggage deck made it semi-liveable; 0–60mph in 5.3 seconds made it stonkingly fast.Advertisement - Page continues below
1966 General Motors Electrovan
The first hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle ever produced featured 32 thin-electrode fuel-cell models connected by 200m of plastic piping. It was a one-off, but with 215bhp, a top speed of 70mph and a range of 150 miles it’s a stark reminder that fuel-cell tech has worked for 50 years, yet still isn’t ready for the mainstream.
1948 Cadillac Sedanette ‘CadZZilla’ by Hot Rods by Boyd
Said to be inspired by Japanese movie monsters, this was one of many custom creations by ZZ Top guitarist Billy F Gibbons. It appeared (in cartoon form, at least) on the cover of their Recycler album.Advertisement - Page continues below
1964 Chevrolet Impala ‘Sinful Sin’ lowrider
Sporting one of the cleanest undercarriages we’ve ever come across, this particular lowrider was a Grand National Roadster Show award-winner. An extreme example of how ingrained customisation is in Southern Californian car culture.
1959 Chevrolet XP-87 Stingray Racer
The Stingray originated through one man’s desire to beat Europe’s best on the racetrack. That man was GM vice president of design, Bill Mitchell, who ended up funding this one-off track car you see here, himself. GM bosses warmed to the idea when they saw the car’s performance and quickly asked Mitchell and his team to start work on a road-going version. Well played, Bill.
1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa by Scaglietti
One of two cars commissioned by John von Neumann – a more-than-handy racing driver and Ferrari distributor in Southern California – for him to take apart the competition with. Originally fitted with Ferrari’s 625 2.5-litre Grand Prix engine, that was swapped the following year for a 3.0 Testa Rossa V12 with upwards of 300bhp.
1933 Duesenberg Model SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan
Car names have really gone downhill recently, haven’t they? Anyway, this modest motor was built, quite simply, to outclass everything else on the road. Powered by a 320bhp straight-eight engine, it features bespoke coachwork by Rollston and made its debut at the 1933 Century of Progress exposition.
1995 McLaren F1
Not sure we need to introduce this one, but this particular 627bhp, 243mph missile is in good-as-new condition and comes from the collection of Charles Nearburg – a former racing driver who once competed at Le Mans in a Ferrari 333 SP. Chances are he’s driven it properly at some point, then.
1964 Aston Martin DB5
DB10? Pah! This is the definitive Bond car, as confirmed by starring appearances stretching from Goldfinger (1964) to alongside Daniel Craig in Skyfall (2012). This particular car featured in Goldfinger, Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale, and cost its current owner, Harry Yeaggy, a cool $4.6m in 2010.
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
Only four of these impossibly beautiful coupes were ever built. It was previewed by Jean Bugatti’s Aérolithe Coupe, unveiled at the 1935 Paris Motor Show. Riveted flanges pay homage to aviation engineering, while the fin that runs the length of the roof is echoed in Bugatti’s latest model, the Chiron.
1975 BMW 3.0 CSL
BMW’s first ever art car is arguably its best. The idea was dreamt up by French racing driver Hervé Poulain, who wanted a car that would be competitive at Le Mans and serve as a canvas. Poulain offered the commission to Alexander Calder, and the rest is art history.
1915 Detroit Electric Model 61 Brougham
Built between 1906 and 1939, this had the longest production run of any electric car, although only around 3,000 were ever sold. Top speed was a limp 20mph, but the range was quoted as 80 miles – not a whole lot less than a Nissan Leaf.