Located in a former department store building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, the Petersen Automotive Museum offers visitors three floors of exhibit space, with roughly 100-150 vehicles on display at any given time. This number is a fraction of the museum’s vehicle holdings, so following a recent expansion and renovation of the Petersen’s underground “Vault,” a new series of guided tours will be offered to showcase this normally unseen part of the collection.
Vault tours at the Petersen began in late 2012, years before the museum’s recent – and polarizing – renovation. Initially offered to small groups for a limited time, the behind-the-scenes tours proved popular enough to schedule on a regular basis, with no shortage of visitors willing to pay an additional $25 for the docent-guided experience.
Where else but the Vault is one likely to see brass-era cars parked beside a 600 hp, all-wheel drive Ford Fiesta?
The newly expanded Vault now encompasses over 63,000 square feet of floor space, more than triple its original size. That’s enough room to hold 250-plus automobiles and motorcycles, along with the technical documentation needed to keep them serviced and running. From horseless carriages to hot rods, and street cars to racing cars, the Vault encompasses the same broad range of vehicles as the museum itself, but in a more utilitarian setting.
Beginning June 1, the general public can once again tour the Petersen Vault, but this time the museum is offering three distinct tours of varying lengths. The 75-minute tour is priced at a budget-friendly $20, the two-hour tour runs $30, and for those who want the maximum underground experience, the Tour of Legends will be priced at $75 when it debuts in late summer 2018. Regular museum admission – currently priced at $16 for adult visitors – is also required for Vault tours.
Alain Prost’s 1987 McLaren MP4/3 F1 car, parked alongside Teo Fabi’s Porsche-powered 1988 March 88C Indy Car.
As with most things, there’s fine print involved. Children under 10 are not permitted in the Vault, and backpacks, food and drink are also forbidden. Photography or video is also against the rules, but for a very good reason: Given the value of cars in storage, the Petersen wants to avoid having its security measures captured in images or video. Guests touring the Vault must remain with the tour group at all times, and touching any of the vehicles is also against the rules.
The expanded tours are part of a 10-year partnership between the Petersen and Hagerty Insurance. Speaking about the expanded tour offerings, museum executive director Terry Kargas said:
As the world’s preeminent automotive museum, we constantly strive to educate our guests about automotive history, technology and design and how it has impacted both local and global culture. The Vault presented by Hagerty will offer the pubic an opportunity to now select their tour experience and see compelling new content that has never been displayed before at the Petersen.
The specific cars included in Vault tours will vary as the exhibits change upstairs, but the current displays include the two-time Le Mans-winning 1966 Ford GT40 Mk I, chassis #1075; a 2018 Ford GT in Heritage livery, matching the 1967 Le Mans winner; a 1929 Bugatti Type 46; a 1936 Delahaye; Steve McQueen’s 1956 Jaguar XKSS; a 1947 Cisitalia, and more.
For additional information on Vault tours, or to purchase tickets in advance, visit Petersen.org.