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A nerd travel trip to LA would be remiss without seeing the Hollywood Dream Machines! The Petersen Automotive Museum is the best car museum in Los Angeles and one of the world’s largest automotive museums! The special Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit, which was curated in collaboration with San Diego Comic Con, is a perfect addition to your Los Angeles itinerary for film, TV, and of course car lovers.

Hollywood Dream Machines

Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy

The car museum takes you through classic films and TV shows to more recent releases, providing something for everyone. Some of the most notable vehicles on display are the Back to the Future DeLorean, the Tron Lightcycle, Luke Skywalker’s X-34 land speeder, and several cars from Batman, Blade Runner, and Transformers. And it’s not just the marvelous vehicles on display; there are also several props, design drawings, and models. My favorites were the Black Panther Lexus with the claw marks thru it. As well as Bumblebee from the self-titled film last year. As I enjoyed both films immensely, it was extra special to see them there.

The following quotes were taken from the Petersen Museum website…

Back to the Future: The DeLorean

The DeLorean DMC-12 time machine has been on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum since April 22nd, 2016. Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood, it’s the first time the on-screen hero car has been at the museum.

“The Back to the Future films are part of Universal Studios’ legacy, and we take enormous pride in preserving its history,” said Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood. “From the original movie sets on the Universal backlot to the DeLorean that has been on display for guests from around the world to enjoy, the films continue to resonate and we are incredibly pleased to share this iconic hero car with the Petersen Automotive Museum to enable future generations to go back to the future.”

As part of it’s unveiling, they had a panel discussion with Back to the Future writer and co-creator Bob Gale, Universal Studios Hollywood Creative Director John Murdy, and the movie car builders and technicians who restored the DeLorean back to its on-screen condition in 2010. The one and only DeLorean is on permanent loan to the Petersen and currently part of the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit. If you’re looking for more Back to the Future fun, you can visit the Universal Studios Hollywood’s Studio Tour where the famous Courthouse Square and Clock Tower are located.

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Mad Max: Fury Road at the Petersen

Each vehicle in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has a unique look with its own personality. Miller told production designer Colin Gibson, “make it cool or I’ll kill you.” Gibson and his crew then went to work, creating 88 unique vehicles. In the end, they created 150 in total, which included backup vehicles for stunts and destruction. Making a triumphant return, the Interceptor 1973 XB Ford Falcon Coupe still has the Maxrob three-spoke steering wheel. As well as the blower, a Scott injector hat, long-range fuel tanks, and zoomie exhaust pipes.

With the transition from Mel Gibson to Tom Hardy, they wanted to connect the two through the car. Colin Gibson told Shortlist, “We needed a touchstone that tied us to the earlier series, to the myth, and yet let us move on. So we took the Ford Falcon that everyone knows and loves, we connected it to the man driving it, and then wiped it out in the opening scenes. It actually comes back two-thirds of the way through the film, and it’s been jacked up, double blown, put on an off-road racing buggy kit and weaponized to hell, then sanded right back. So Max has to do battle with his own car.”

Gibson wanted the cars to be cool and beautiful. “Why bother making it unless it tickled something deep in your heart, unless it had its own beauty?” Gibson said. “I can’t see anyone schlepping a Camry halfway across the desert and rebuilding it.” (Gibson gave his apologies to Toyota.) Several vehicles from Mad Max: Fury Road were decimated during and after production. However, you can see two of them—the last of the V-8 Interceptors and Nux’s car—at the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit.

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Hollywood Movie Vehicle Designer

One of the most notable designers of these vehicles is Tim Flattery. With about 50 film credits to his name, this conceptual artist isn’t stopping anytime soon with credits as recent as Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Bumblebee. Some of which are on display in the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit.

Designing Back to the Future II and III

“One of my first films was Back to the Future Part II. They needed a bunch of futuristic designs for cars and I had the portfolio for that.” Flattery was hired as “consultant: future” by production designer Rick Carter. “Rick is a great collaborator; he would give me parameters on what he was looking for, to serve the emotions of the story. Then he would say ‘Show me ideas and let’s go through them together.’ Then we went through them with the director, Robert Zemeckis. Once they picked a direction, I developed it further.” In Back to Future Part III, he was tasked with creating the off-road DeLorean.

“…which was the same design but with a unique chassis that could handle off-road driving.” Flattery shrugs, “You might notice that the suspension on that car is jacked up more than on other DeLoreans. I’m always afraid people will ask ‘Why does that look so high off the ground?’ I also needed to come up with a different flux capacitor, one that could have been created in the 1800s.”

Designing Batman Returns

Flattery also worked on Batman Returns which he described as “hellacious, for a lot of reasons. For one, I only had a few months to conceptualize a vehicle, get the director’s approval, production center’s approval — and then build it. I had a few months to do it, while car companies get years to develop these things. And I had to make sure it performed all the things that the script called for.”

“I also did two versions, one built for stunts, and the other was a ‘hero car,’ for quieter scenes. The one for stunts had reinforcement front and rear brakes that stuntmen had requested during construction.” Building it from the ground up, “it’s a little overwhelming because of course there are safety issues. Plus, it’s a piece of machinery, so inevitably, something will go wrong on the set. “Oh, and, by the way, it’s gotta look good!” Although challenging, he says, “I’m incredibly proud to have done one of the Batmobiles.”

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Designing for Steven Spielberg

One of the standout designs he has done was an all-electric vehicle for A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Which is on display at the Petersen car museum in Los Angeles. “It was the first electric vehicle built for film, and we decided to go for battery packs on a three-wheel chassis that Steven had chosen. I did various designs, he chose that and we built it from the ground up.”

“He’s definitely a visionary,” says Flattery, “and he knows what he doesn’t want when he sees it. “With the amphibicopter, Steven got specific about the interior: ‘I’m going to shoot this way, so I need this section to be art-directed-out with technology’ or ‘I’m not gonna shoot that area of the interior much.’ That’s as a director. But then then he puts on his producer’s hat, and expresses all his budget concerns,” Flattery laughs.

His career highlight has been working with Steven Soderbergh on the 2002 George Clooney film Solaris. “Personally it was the most satisfying for me, because I’m a sci-fi geek and because it had a strong point of view about where we are going with space travel and the space stations.”

Visiting the Best Car Museum in Los Angeles

I don’t see any end date for the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit. So you may want to check the museum site before visiting. Whether you missed out on San Diego Comic Con this year, or are just missing Comic Con, the Petersen Museum is your answer. I truly enjoyed my tour of the best car museum in Los Angeles. It’s also centrally located to other museums so you can make a day of it on your next trip!

Petersen Automotive Museum tickets are available online or onsite.

Petersen Automotive Museum hours are 10 AM – 6 PM.

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Michelle Jensen is a twenty-something traveler, occasionally solo, you’ll find road tripping across the U.S. or hostel-hopping in Europe. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA with a day job in Television.

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