Petersen Automotive Museum’s Full Virtual Tour Is the Gift You Need to Give Yourself

This is the best two hours you’ll spend since Metallica’s Black Album.

byKristin V. Shaw| UPDATED Dec 6, 2020 1:55 AM
Petersen Automotive Museum’s Full Virtual Tour Is the Gift You Need to Give Yourself

Walking tours are fun but sometimes you don’t want to be attached at the hip to the tour guide. If we're looking for silver linings for this hectic year, however, is that self-paced virtual tours have become A Thing. In the case of the new Petersen Automotive Museum free full video tour, you have the glorious option to back up, rewatch, and pause when you need to stop for a quick break in the process of feasting your eyes on more than 200 cars.

On Giving Tuesday right after Thanksgiving, the museum launched its first-ever full museum and vault tour. For two hours, the museum's deputy director Michael Bodell takes you through the whole magnificent building, from the third floor down to the vault. Before March, the museum was open every day of the year except for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. As of July 2, the museum has been closed, the exhibits eerily silent.


In normal times, tickets for the museum cost $16 per adult ($11 for kids and $14 for seniors), and the vault tour was a separate price. It’s vastly generous for the Petersen to create this video for all of us hanging out at home who can’t get to Wilshire Boulevard in the Los Angeles area any time soon.

From the comfort of your couch, you can see all of the vehicles in the museum, including the newest exhibitions: Supercars, Extreme Conditions, Reclaimed Rust, and Redefining Performance. Bodell does a fantastic job covering each vehicle and it’s easy to see that he has a ton of knowledge top of mind.

I enjoyed seeing Freddy Hernandez’ Lamborghini Murcielago from The Fate of the Furious, Bruce Canepa's rare Porsche 959, Magnum P.I.’s iconic red Ferrari, and a 1971 Pantera owned by Elvis Presley. Bodell tells the story of Elvis having a bitter argument with his then-spouse and wanted to go for a drive to cool off. The Pantera wasn’t having it and refused to start, so Elvis pulled out his revolver and shot the car three times.

The stories keep coming, rapid fire. There's Greased Lightning from the 1977 musical Grease. Oh, that's the Land Speeder from Star Wars: A New Hope. Whoa! There's the '32 Ford from Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" video.


The absolute highlight, though, is James Hetfield’s Reclaimed Rust assemblage of his nine favorite customs. This exhibit opened to the public on February 1 for the collection’s very first public showing, and had a woefully short live debut at the museum before the shutdown, which is a damn shame. Bodell says in the video that this is one of the most spectacular customer car collections he has ever seen. And happily, it's now extended until March 2021. 

The Metallica frontman lent his most-prized custom vintage cars to the Petersen and these are less vehicles than they are works of art. Much like Metallica’s genre-bending music, the cars in the Reclaimed Rust exhibit are beyond what you’d expect. And each one of them has a name. As Bodell leads the tour past the Crimson Ghost (a 1937 Ford coupe), Iron Fist (1936 Ford), Voodoo Priest (1937 Lincoln Zephyr), Black Pearl (1948 Jaguar), you can’t miss the stunning Art Deco touches like massive teardrop fenders and sweeping coach doors. You could get lost in there for days and never want to come out.  

Clearly, we would all rather be standing right next to the Iron Fist, snapping our own photos and standing there staring at it. In the meantime, this is the next best thing. 

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