Petersen Museum, Car Museum in California
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Hollywood Dream Machines at the Best Car Museum in California

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A nerd travel trip to Los Angeles would be remiss without seeing the Hollywood Dream Machines! The Petersen Automotive Museum is the best car museum in California 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, car museum in California

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 Batman, Blade Runner, and Transformers cars.

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 its 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 is 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.

car museum in California

Mad Max: Fury Road

Each vehicle in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has a unique look and 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. Several vehicles from Mad Max: Fury Road were decimated during and after production. However, at the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit, you can see two of them—the last of the V-8 Interceptors and Nux’s car—at the best car museum in California.

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 these are on display in the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit.

“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.

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.”

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 best car museum in California. 

“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.

Visiting the Best Car Museum in California

I don’t see any end date for the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit. So you should 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 California. It’s also centrally located to other museums, so you can make a day of it on your next trip! And if you’re in LA for a bit, check out this perfect 5 Day Los Angeles itinerary!

Petersen Automotive Museum tickets are available online or onsite.

Petersen Automotive Museum hours are 10 AM – 6 PM.

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