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A tour of the Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum (pictures)

Check out some of the cars from the Vault underneath the Petersen Automotive Museum.

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Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Enter!

Beyond those doors ...

Check out the full story at A tour of the Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum

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Area 1

The Vault comprises two main garages. There's additional space for more storage beyond these, but while I was able to peek in, even I couldn't take pictures in that part.

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1903 Caddy

The first year for Cadillac. They've changed a bit in 100 years, eh?

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1952 Ferrari

This 212 Barchetta was personally given to Henry Ford by Enzo Ferrari. They liked each other ... briefly.

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Colombo

I would have liked to have been able to see, or more importantly hear, the 2.6 liter Colombo V12.

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Such lines

Looks pretty good for a 60-year-old car.

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Hit it

The keys are in the car.

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Is that a ...

Next to Magnum P.I.'s actual 308 GTS Targa, is the Mondial. Quite possibly the worst car Ferrari ever made. Granted, this one is probably the best preserved example of one, but still ...

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Tom's car

Tom Selleck is 6'4''. In order for him to fit comfortably in the Ferrari, they had to modify it. Notice how the driver seat is lower than the passenger seat.

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Cisitalia

This beauty is a Cisitalia, the first car where the hood is lower than the fenders.

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Thelma & Louise

Thelma and Louise's 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

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Nash

A Nash-Healey, body by Pininfarina.

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Kinda odd

It's cool, but a little weird, right?

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Simple yet beautiful.

I'm guessing that steering column doesn't collapse.

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A what?

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Angles and curves

Another weird look, yet it works.

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Not just any Pantera

This is Elvis's De Tomaso Pantera.

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Trigger happy

Turns out Elvis liked to shoot things. Like this car.

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A gift

Who deserves a 1953 Cadillac with a body redone by Ghia? Rita Hayworth, apparently, as a gift from her third husband, Prince Aly Khan.

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Odd pairing

Not two cars you'd normally see next to each other. Apparently the Petersen takes donations, so when Fisker went tailpipe up, one owner donated his for the tax write-off. Smart. Too bad about the car, so beautiful.

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Go ...

Greece Lightning!

Sorry, what? Oh ...Go Greased Lightning!

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So, umm ...

This was Saddam Hussein's limo. Presumably before he was too worried about security, as it's not bulletproof.

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McLaren

Not sure the background on this one; most likely a 1970s CanAm racer.

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Really classic

From right to left: 1929 DuPont Speedster, a 1937 Jaguar SS-100, a 1928 Studebaker President, and a 1924 Franklin.

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Doc?

Yep, a gold-plated DeLorean.

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Lotus Europa

Probably the only car in the Vault I could afford, and I've always wanted one. Like a clown shoe, only uglier. But sooo light.

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One of these things

Both of these cars were styling experiments. Clearly the one on the right became the RX-7. The one of the left ... not sure. But what I am sure of, is it's a massive lump of clay with wheels. Yep, it's not even metal.

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ZZTop

This is Billy Gibbons' car.

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V-16

Surprisingly, not all that powerful. Still, it's a V-16.

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American roadsters

From left to right: 1923 Ford "Candy Root Beer," 1925 Ford "Golden Star," 1926 Ford Model T by Lil John Buttera, 1932 Ford "Ray Brown Roadster," 1932 Chevrolet Roadster, 1932 Ford Phaeton (more on this one to come), 1929 Ford Niekamp Roadster, and the 1932 Ford "Orange Twist."

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Pipes

Yes, those are blue tennis balls.

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Carbs

Gotta love that exposed metal.

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Got it bad -- for a 1932 Ford Phaeton

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More American Roadsters

From right to left (basically, the reverse angle from a few slides ago): 1932 Ford "Orange Twist," 1929 Ford Niekamp Roadster, 1932 Ford Phaeton "Hot For Teacher," 1932 Chevrolet Roadster, 1932 Ford "Ray Brown Roadster," 1926 Ford Model T by Lil John Buttera.

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American classics

Foreground: 1960 Cadillac Coupe deVille (full picture in the next slide) Background: 1929 Ford Niekamp Roadster and 1932 Ford Phaeton "Hot For Teacher"

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Caddy

I have to admit, that's a fantastic custom license plate.

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Eyeball

Can you guess what this one is?

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The Round Door Rolls

This behemoth's full name is the 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe. I think it's the largest car I've ever seen. It plays tricks on the eye its so big.

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8,000 feet long

It takes 45 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

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The details...

Check out how the windows retract.

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Great rearward vision

And you thought backing up in a Countach was hard.

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Winged

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GT40

Oh, the Ford GT40. So amazing. This is one of seven Mk III road cars. One of four left-hand drive, and the only one never converted for racing.

Check out Ford GT40, GT70 and GT all in one place.

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1959 ... Corvette?

Underneath the beautiful Scaglietti bodywork is a Corvette. Before Carol Shelby became known as a Ford guy, he tried to get GM to build this. Not so much ...

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Not old at all

The new GT is much bigger than the GT40.

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Easter Egg

This GT was developed for Ford's 100th anniversary. The designer left an Easter Egg, visible in this shot, to commemorate it.

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1939 Bugatti

A mint Type 57.

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Yellow headlights

I miss how French cars had yellow headlights. That was awesome.

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1939 Bugatti

A Type 57C which was given to the man who would later become the Shah of Iran by the French government.

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Steve McQueen's 1956 Jaguar XKSS

Only 16 of these were made before the factory burned to the ground. Gorgeous. Probably my favorite of the whole collection.

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I would like to sit there

Apparently McQueen was losing his sunglasses from the cubby on the left, so he had a door put on. Aftermarket glove box?

Check out the full story of the tour, A tour of the Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

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2018 update!

Periodically the Petersen swaps out cars from the Vault, adds new cars, and otherwise updates their collection. On a recent revisit to check out the Porsche Effect exhibit, we took a spin around the Vault to see what's new. 

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Rods

Some hot rods ready to go. For years the Petersen had an extensive hot rod exhibit. Now many of the cars are down here.

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Alpine

You don't see too many of these in the US. An Alpine A110 racer.

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110

By any era's standard, this was a tiny car. 

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Now that's a paint job

A Pollock-inspired paint job. It kinda works, right?

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Bugatti

Just a random Bugatti, sitting off by itself. Totally normal down here.

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3... of a kind

Ok, so they're all sports cars, but I think that's the only thing the De Tomaso Pantera, Toyota 2000GT, and Dodge Viper have in common.

I got to climb in and around a 2000GT during my tour of Toyota USA's museum.

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Bugatti

Here's a car you probably forgot existed, a Bugatti EB 110.

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Mint

This '61 Corvette probably looks better then when it rolled out of the dealer's lot.

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Plastic wrap

Many more cars, waiting their turn for display. For the story behind this tour, check out A tour of the Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum. For reason behind these updated photos, check out the story behind the new exhibit: Stuttgart stunners: The Porsche Effect at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

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