5 celebrity-owned rides from the Petersen Vault
The Petersen Museum’s recently expanded vault is up and running, with tours available of its 200+ cars. You can find a little bit of everything in the vault: motorcycles, hot-rodded engines, race-winners, coachbuilt French masterpieces, and pre-production cars and concepts. Among all of the cars that are special for what they are and what they’ve accomplished are a number of vehicles that are particularly special for who owned them.
Elvis Presley purchased this 1971 Pantera in 1974 as a gift for his girlfriend Linda Thompson. What followed are numerous stories of Elvis driving at excessive speeds through the streets of Memphis and more than one story of Elvis being so exasperated with the finicky tuning of the Ford small-block that he pulled out a handgun and shot the car. The steering wheel still shows the signs of the scuffle.
When a Jaguar roadster was a bit too flashy and he wanted to cruise under the radar, Bullitt and Thomas Crown Affair star Steve McQueen would pick this unsuspecting Hudson Hornet. As dowdy as it may look, the Hudson Hornet dominated the 1952 NASCAR season with its handling.
1927 Rolls Royce Phantom
More than 80 years after his film debut, Fred Astaire is still perhaps the world’s most famous dancer, known for making the most difficult of feats appear effortless—it’s often noted his frequent partner Ginger Rogers did the same, backwards and in high heels—over a long career in film. His Rolls Royce Phantom is fittingly elegant and features custom monogrammed emblems on the front apron and on the matching luggage in the back. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Astaire’s film debut was in 1935’s Dancing Lady, which starred Clark Gable.
1941 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe
Clark Gable was a big car guy, but not a stickler for originality. He purchased this Cadillac new in 1941 and had the top chopped by a California Cadillac dealer named Don Long. Along with the chop, some of its chrome was removed and the overall look became much sportier as a result. The car was a gift for Gable’s wife, Carole Lombard.
You may assume that the director of such car-centric films such as Grand Prix and Ronin was also a fan of cars—and you’d be correct. While John Frankenheimer’s personal collection contained a number of high-performance machines, it also included this Rolls-Royce he purchased while taking a filming break on location in France. This car was also holds the macabre distinction of being the automobile that Robert F. Kennedy was walking to when he was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
For more vault photos, visit our stories about the Ferraris and Rods and Customs. If you would like to plan a trip of your own, vault tours require general admission tickets to the Petersen Museum, which are $16 for adults. An additional $20 gets you a 75-minute guided tour and an additional $30 gets you a two-hour tour. Tickets can be purchased at the Petersen website.