What It’s Like To Tour The World From One Of Its Best Garages
Photography by Hayley Holmes
I arrived early on this particular morning. I am never early to anything and being on time is rare, but when you are offered the chance to get a sneak peek at more than 250 of the world’s most iconic and obscure sports cars, race cars, Hollywood film cars, and everything in between—literally—you take it, and you bring your camera with an extra battery pack just in case.
The Petersen Automotive Museum has partnered with Hagerty to bring us this stunning collection as part of their new exhibit: “The World Tour Vault.” A recent renovation of the secret underground facility saw it nearly tripling in size to house vehicles spanning 120 years and representing more than six countries.
I was ushered from the front desk over to my designated tour starting point, a Honda S600 coupe that was sitting quietly in the lobby. My tour guide, Jeff, warmly greeted me after a few moments, “So, I guess we’ll hang out here and wait for the rest of the tour party before we journey downstairs.” Jeff got called to the front desk and returned with a furrowed brow. “So, um, I’m told it’s just you today. A couple things, I can’t let you go down there by yourself. You have to wear a hard hat down in the vault because it’s still under construction. And please don’t touch anything, as tempting as it might be. So, shall we?”
When the elevator opened to reveal the basement level, I was immediately hit with the familiar smell of… books? Shelves filled with grease-smeared, dog-eared repair manuals stand as gatekeepers to what lies beyond. “The hard hat?” Jeff coaxed. I had already pulled it off instinctively. Removing your hat is what ones ought to do in a sacred place, right?
“The cars are grouped according to country of origin,” Jeff tells me as we enter the main room. “Well, they will be when we are finished setting up.” He knocked on his hard hat. We began on familiar American soil with the earliest of Henry Ford’s creations, moving on into cotton-candy-colored Cadillacs and baby blue Shelby Cobras.
“The Hollywood cars are this way. You like James Bond?” My camera turned towards the unmistakable, hawkish Jaguar XKR sitting in its own private corner. “And the Green Hornet menace is over here.” A gold-plated DeLorean peeked over the rear fender of the Magnum P.I. 308. As my camera clicked away, Jeff nervously looked at his watch. “I have another tour starting soon. If you promise to not touch anything, I can leave you to it while I go upstairs to prepare. I’ll only be gone a few moments.” On my best behavior, I moved into the second room, the largest one, and tried to stifle a school girl’s squeal.
On one side, a Renault Alpine A110 sat next to Elvis Presley’s Pantera. On the opposite wall, a tour of Italy was split by a 1976 934 Turbo from Vasek Polak’s old fleet. A Toyota Eagle MKIII GTP was pushed past me as the mechanics continued to set up the display.
“Hey, you okay?” Jeff called from somewhere between a 911 GT1 and a 410 Superamerica. “You didn’t touch anything, did you?” We picked up right where we left off on the tour.
Buried behind the construction equipment, a single light shone in the furthest corner. “Oh, yes. It’s hiding right now,” Jeff mused. The nose of a Ferrari 250 LM peered out from the shadows. “Truly a treasure hiding around every corner.” At the end of our global tour, Jeff and I rode the elevator back towards reality.
If you get the chance to visit the Petersen Museum, make a point of traveling down below. Go for the chronological time lapse of the Ford GT lineup, go for the child in you meeting all of his heroes in one room. And don’t forget your hard hat. Tours are now open and will run through the month, so if you live in or are planning a visit to Los Angeles in June, I’d imagine you’d want to check this out.