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From the Delorean to the Batmobile, these are the cars that shaped film history


From the Delorean to the Batmobile, these are the cars that shaped film history

Getty Images | Aurich Lawson | Petersen

Cars and Hollywood go together like chocolate and peanut butter (or mashed potatoes and gravy—choose your favorite pairing). The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles pays tribute to that legacy with its new exhibit, the “Cars of Film and Television.”

Founded in 1994 by the magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen, the museum was originally folded into the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles before moving to a new, largely windowless space that once housed a department store. (The absence of sunlight helps preserve the cars displayed inside.)

In 2015, The Petersen Automotive Museum space got a complete renovation, which included a controversial exterior redesign featuring large stainless steel ribbons painted red and white, almost like racing stripes—they’re meant to evoke speed and movement. Many people hated the exterior design, most notably Curbed LA’s Marissa Gluck, who memorably described the new facade as “the Guy Fieri of buildings: obnoxious, loud, and, ultimately, sure to be inexplicably embraced by the public.” Speaking as a member of the public, I love it precisely because it’s so unique and different; it doesn’t even try to fit in with the staid architecture that surrounds it along Miracle Mile.

An exterior view of the Peterson Automotive museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.
Enlarge / An exterior view of the Peterson Automotive museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.

FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty Images

There are currently more than 200 cars in the museum’s permanent collection, roughly 100 of which are on display in the various galleries at any given time. The gems include a 1956 Jaguar XKSS once owned by actor Steve McQueen, a De Tomaso Pantera once owned by Elvis Presley, a 1967 Ford MKIII GT40, and a rare 1939 Porsche 64 (there’s only one other in existence).

Given the Petersen Museum’s Los Angeles location, it’s not surprising that it has collaborated with Hollywood in recent years to develop exhibits devoted to cars in film and television—guaranteed crowd-pleasers that work to expand its audience beyond hardcore car buffs. A previous exhibit featured the cars of the James Bond film franchise (“Bond in Motion“), including the 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day; the 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me; and, of course, the iconic 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Skyfall, Spectre, and last year’s No Time to Die.

According to Business Operations Manager Lincoln Ramirez, the new exhibit was inspired by the success of 2019’s Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit—more scaled back, but following the same basic theme—and builds on the relationships the museum forged in Hollywood. “I think the industry is recognizing more and more how important these relics are,” he told Ars.

1981 Delorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future

Could there be a more famous luxury car than the Delorean DMC-12 that Doc Brown converted into a time machine? (If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style!) This car is one of three used in Back to the Future; it is designated A, meaning it was used on-screen for action and still shots. It spent 25 years as a tourist attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, suffering considerable wear and tear before being restored—complete with a new flux capacitor.



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