All Roads Lead to L.A.'s Car Collections

Get your motor running

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Orbitron at Galpin Auto Sports | Instagramby @dekedickerson
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Orbitron at Galpin Auto Sports | Instagram by @dekedickerson

Los Angeles is world famous for its long love affair with the automobile. Car culture has been part of the city's DNA for generations, and one of the best known destinations for gearheads is the spectacular Petersen Automotive Museum. But the Petersen isn't the only museum for car buffs. From classics to custom builds and hot rods, read on for extraordinary car collections on view at museums and showrooms across Los Angeles.

Petersen Automotive Museum

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019, the Petersen Automotive Museum houses one of the best collections of classic and modern cars in the world. From blockbuster exhibits like Hollywood Dream Machines to permanent displays such as the Cars Mechanical Institute and the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, the whole family will enjoy a visit to the Petersen.

If you're serious about cars, The Vault at the Petersen is a bucket list experience - an extraordinary collection of 250 iconic and rare cars from around the world exhibited in a renovated 60,000 square-foot underground space.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Orbitron at Galpin Auto Sports
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Orbitron at Galpin Auto Sports | Instagram by @dekedickerson

Galpin Auto Sports

Based in the San Fernando Valley since 1946, Galpin Motors is a family-owned, award-winning automotive collective that includes ten dealerships, Galpin Auto Sports (GAS), and the Horseless Carriage, "America’s first full-service, in-dealership restaurant."

Galpin Motors' renowned in-house customizing and aftermarket center, Galpin Auto Sports offers everything from window tinting to complete restorations and coach building - taking the wildest ideas from concept art to reality. Not mentioned on the GAS website, the showroom is a stunning display of dozens of customs, race cars, hot rods and more. Highlights include a "barn-find" 1965 Shelby Mustang GT-350, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Orbitron, the famed Galpin Ford GTR1, a 1933 Duesenberg, and the outrageous Pink Panthermobile.

Photo courtesy of Automobile Driving Museum, Facebook

Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum

Located in El Segundo a half-mile south of LAX, the Automobile Driving Museum (ADM) displays a rotating selection of 130 vintage automobiles. The ADM is the only automobile museum in the world that takes guests for rides in the fleet. Every Sunday (weather permitting) the ADM features three different cars - guests can expect to ride in anything from Joseph Stalin’s 1936 Packard to a 1982 DeLorean. Suggested donation is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and older), $5 for children ages 10-17, and free for kids under 10.

Batmobile at Barris Kustom Industries | Instagram by @poxfilmsinc
Batmobile at Barris Kustom Industries | Instagram by @poxfilmsinc

George Barris Showroom

World-renowned as the "King of Kustomizers," George Barris and his custom car company, Barris Kustom Industries designed and built some of the most iconic cars in TV history, including the Batmobile from the 1960s Batman series; the Munster Koach and the Drag-U-La from The Munsters; a hot rod for The Beverly Hillbillies; and updated versions of KITT for Knight Rider. Film projects include the "Wagon Queen Family Truckster" station wagon from National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) and the sinister Lincoln Continental III from The Car (1977). Barris also customized cars for celebrities like Elvis, John Wayne, Dean Martin, and "his and hers" Ford Mustang convertibles for Sonny and Cher.

Generations of fans continue to make the pilgrimage to the Barris Kustom Industries showroom in North Hollywood, where the Batmobile, Munster Koach and other classics are on display.

The Nethercutt Museum | Instagram by @ericrenn

The Nethercutt Collection

Founded by J.B. and Dorothy Nethercutt in 1971, The Nethercutt Collection features over 250 American and European automobiles dating from 1898 to 1997. Unique to automobile museums, each car on display is serviced to maintain its original, drivable showroom condition. The entire collection is housed in two exhibition facilities, the Museum and the Collection. The Nethercutt Museum showcases more than 130 of the world’s greatest automobiles, including many winners of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and cars once owned by movie stars, royalty and other notable figures. Outside the Museum are a meticulously restored 1937 steam locomotive and a 1912 Pullman Private Car, which was owned by the eldest daughter of Santa Anita Racetrack founder, “Lucky” Baldwin. 

Spanning four floors, The Nethercutt Collection recreates an opulent automotive grand salon of the 1920s and '30s, featuring an amazing collection of antique and classic cars, automobile "mascots," antique furniture, clocks and watches, and one of the world's finest collections of Mechanical Musical Instruments. Admission to The Nethercutt Museum & Collection facilities is free.

Photo courtesy of Porsche Experience Center, Facebook

Porsche Experience Center

Located in Carson, the Porsche Experience Center (PEC) is a 53-acre venue with a four-mile driver development track, state-of-the-art driving simulators, a retail store with exclusive PEC branded merchandise, and fine dining at Restaurant 917. Drivers can pilot the latest Porsche models through eight different driving modules. Inside the 50,000 square-foot building, which is also the new home of Porsche Motorsport North America, guests can get an insider’s look at historic Porsche race cars and the workshop team.

NHRA Motorsports Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona
Photo: NHRA Motorsports Museum, Facebook

Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

Presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum opened to the public in April 1998. A longtime dream of National Hot Rod Association founder Wally Parks, the museum is housed in a 28,500-square-foot building on the edge of the Fairplex in Pomona. The museum displays an impressive collection of vintage and historically significant racing vehicles, photographs, trophies, helmets and driving uniforms, artifacts, paintings, and other memorabilia chronicling more than 60 years of American motorsports.