Petersen Museum Puts Iconic Movie Cars on Display

The Petersen Automotive Museum is one of the greatest car museums in the world and an icon of motoring here in the U.S. Founded in 1994 by magazine publisher Robert Petersen, the museum has over 100 vehicles on display with an extensive vault holding even more cars being restored, refreshed, and prepped for exhibition. 

The Petersen Museum is known for the architecture of its building and the incredible rotating exhibitions. A new show, set to open on March 12, 2022, will feature some of the most famous and iconic vehicles in film and TV. Here’s a quick preview of what will be on display.

The Cars of Film and Television exhibit

A 3/4 front view of the 1989 Batmobile from Tim Burton's Batman movie. Car is displayed in a white studio background.
1989 Batmobile from the Tim Burton Batman movie | Petersen Automotive Museum

The interesting part about cars in movies and TV shows is that they often become just as famous as the actors who drive them. The cars become stars in their own right. These are some of the vehicles that the Petersen is putting on display. 

The exhibit will include the 1989 Tim Burton Batmobile, Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 Cadillac, Black Panther’s Lexus, and several vehicles from Men in Black. Of course, no movie car display would be complete with the 1981 DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future. The DeLorean on display at the Petersen is the only example that appeared in all three films of the Back to the Future franchise. 

Other cars include the Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino and the Innovative Online Industries SUV from Ready Player One. 

Oscar season is the perfect time for a film car display

A profile view of the 1981 DeLorean Time Machine from the movie Back to the Future. Car is displayed in a white studio background with the doors open.
1981 DeLorean Time Machine from the movie Back to the Future | Petersen Automotive Museum

Vanity Fair spoke with Petersen deputy director Mark Bodell about the exhibit. Bodell had this to say, “Being so close to Hollywood, the cars of film and television have always been one of our biggest draws, and it’s Oscar season.

Most of the cars on display come from the studios that produced the films. A few are from private collections and the Petersen’s permanent collection. As Bodell explains, none of the vehicles are one-offs, “Most movie cars are made in sets of between one and 10.

“The Batmobile we have is one of three [built for the movie], and it was the promo car. It actually runs, believe it or not. But it runs a little warm because the studio didn’t intend that car to drive very far.”

Movie cars typically fall into a few categories. The first is the “A cars,” which are the fully functioning vehicles you will see actors driving on screen. Stunt vehicles are built for jumps, chases, and crashes. They often have fake interiors and are either driven by stunt drivers or remote control. Finally, there are promo cars. These are complete and running vehicles used for publicity.

The Petersen’s other exceptional exhibits

Pairing nicely with the movie vehicle display is the Bond in Motion exhibit. The collection has more than just cars, featuring some of the most iconic vehicles in the Jame Bond movie franchise. Naturally, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 is present but so too are some of the planes and submarines used in the films.

Notable cars include the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day and the 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 submarine used in The Spy Who Loved Me.

The Petersen Museum is also exhibiting a hypercar display with some of the most extreme cars ever built. A Devel Sixteen, Pagani Huayra BC, Bugatti Veyron, McLaren Speedtail, and a Koenigsegg Agera RS are on display.

For fans of Formula 1, there is the Pole Position display, which features the Juan Gonzalez car collection. One of the star cars is Lewis Hamilton’s 2009 McLaren MP4-24.

The Petersen Museum is one of the great destinations for car enthusiasts. Their exhibits are always fascinating and, in the case of the movie vehicle display, very nostalgic. You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to appreciate these vehicles. They are often as big a star of the film as the actors themselves. We think it might be time for a road trip.

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