The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles just opened a new exhibit gathering some of the most famous TV and movie cars of all time into one room. Officially titled “Cars of Film and Television,” the show joins an incredible display just downstairs that features arguably the most iconic film car of all time, James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, alongside an enormous assemblage of other cars, boats, and even skis from the spy thriller franchise. Two other exhibits running concurrently include a look at the evolution of the hypercar and a group of decommissioned F1 race cars and official show cars from the collection of Juan Gonzalez.
The Petersen‘s proximity to silver screen stardom just up the street, including in the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures building about 100 feet north, no doubt helped bring together all the fun cars in the new show, which should delight movie buffs both young and old who want to get up close and personal with their favorite automotive heroes (and villains).
Going Back In Time
Many of the cars that now sit on platforms in the Petersen’s main gallery might feel like blasts from the past, but none more so than the famous DeLorean DMC-12 that Doc Brown modified and Marty McFly piloted through multiple decades in the Back to the Future films. This rolling and flying time machine might even remain more famous than Christopher Lloyd or Michael J. Fox today, arguably inspiring the (most recent) modern DeLorean revival as an electric vehicle. The original Ghostbusters “Ecto-1” above, meanwhile, might also seem more identifiable to most modern and classic film lovers than the (human) co-stars of the movie.
Up Close And Personal With Hollywood Magic
Of course, the DeLorean never actually traveled in any direction through time but one and the Ecto-1 only fought effects-generated ghosts but the Petersen’s new exhibit allows fans to check out all the attention to detail that Hollywood prop designers put into their craft when creating the suspension of disbelief so crucial in fantastical tales. All the buttons and wires on the time machine, the rust and muck on the Ecto-1, even the Batmobile’s jet turbine intakes sit on display (no more hiding in a Batcave for this Tim Burton-era throwback).
Alien Technology Aplenty
Motorcycles even fit into the mix, like the two from Men in Black 3 pictured above—though one can only go by the “monocycle” moniker. These two concepts reveal the aesthetic MIB3 tried to capture when Will Smith travels back in time (a theme seems to be developing here) and joined a young Agent K (Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones) chasing Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal on a pair of the strange vehicles. The most creative vehicles always seem to emerge when time travel, aliens, and humans interact, even if the monocycle looks a lot like a certain suggestive invention by Mr Garrison on South Park that mocked the gyroscopic balance of the two-wheeled Segway PT scooter.
Visions Of The Future
As much as film fans love their favorite movie cars, visions of evil vehicles also fit into Hollywood’s automotive lore. This robotic motorcycle looked lean and mean as an autonomous hunter in Terminator: Salvation and adds a definite HR Giger element to the whole collection. Incredibly detailed and life-sized, the prop bike actually originated as a Ducati Monster 1100 S before receiving all the vicious accessories and chopped handlebars for the screen. Whether the mock-up served to film CGI renderings (stuntmen apparently struggled to ride due to the lack of usable handlebars) or actually appeared on real film remains unknown, though the sheer build quality reveals a forgotten art seemingly lost in today’s age of green screens and excessive computer graphics.
Automakers Getting In On The Action
Automakers clearly recognize the sales benefits made possible when their cars appear in movies, most notably the Mission Impossible franchise’s almost complete devolution into a series of extended BMW advertisements. More recently, Lexus promoted the LC500 Inspiration Series in Marvel’s Black Panther franchise addition (can any Avengers-related movie really count as a spin-off, if they all are?) where it received some gnarly scratches from the canine crusader.
Actors Used To Drive While Filming?
Driving around Los Angeles, cars and actors filming on trailers occasionally join in traffic jams and on freeways. The technique largely replaced the famously bad effect of putting a parked car in front of a large screen, with actors moving fake steering wheels out of sync with the background behind them. But the camera mounted on the side of the Starsky and Hutch car above raises a real question: did actors used to actually film and drive at the same time? Severe liability concerns probably rendered that skill obsolete years ago—probably a good idea given that only three of the Gran Torinos used to film the original TV series survive to this day.
Real-Life Cartoon Cars
Of course, the Petersen’s Hollywood film car exhibit couldn’t be considered complete without one of the only cars that actually served as a real main character, Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s 2006 blockbuster hit Cars. But unlike most of the other prop vehicles, this life-sized version of an animated character served mainly as a promo piece for the movie, its sequels, and Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim.
Car Movies As Culture
While the star cars still seem like stars at the Petersen, a few posters for forgotten automobile-focused masterpieces grace the walls of the exhibit. Who remembers Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop starring musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson alongside Warren Oates and the ill-fated screen-stealer Laurie Bird? And an original poster for the original Gone in 60 Seconds looks purposefully placed to remind younger fans of the Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie reboot that Eleanor didn’t always look quite so good (somewhat surprisingly, no Eleanor from either of the two films appears in the showcase).
Bonus Lowriders Downstairs
As an added bonus for fans of Hollywood history who happen to love cars of all eras, the Petersen also recently opened a new gallery starring some of the most famous lowriders and custom cars in history. One, named Gypsy Rose, even appeared in the opening title sequence of the 1970s sitcom Chico and the Man, helping to popularize LA’s burgeoning lowrider culture for the entire nation. With chrome aplenty inside and out—not to mention underneath—these classics serve as another reminder of the attention to detail that goes into all the most famous and iconic cars that star in movies and TV shows, not to mention the masterpieces rolling by on city streets and busy highways the world over.
Sources: petersen.org, academymuseum.org, batman.fandom.com, and disneyland.disney.go.com.
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