LOS ANGELES—On display now on the third floor of the Petersen Automotive Museum is Supercars: A Century of Spectacle and Speed, a collection of high-performance vehicles dating back to the early 1900s. Beginning with the 1913 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout and closing out with the 2005 Maserati MC12, the exhibit highlights some of the most iconic road-going supercars of the past 100 years.
Characterized by performance, limited production, outlandish styling, and speed, the Petersen’s supercars display showcases many of the cars that put “ultimate” in “ultimate dream-car garage.” While the Petersen Automotive Museum remains closed to the public and will reopen pending a change to California’s pandemic restrictions, we compiled a preview gallery for you to explore here. And because we didn’t want to waive the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of our favorites, below are nine supercars from the exhibit that really get our imaginations racing.
Petersen Automotive Museum Supercars: 1956 Jaguar XKSS
Originally featuring a white exterior paint finish with a red interior, this 1956 Jaguar XKSS once belonged to American actor and race car driver Steve McQueen. The King of Cool had the car painted in British Racing Green, and he often referred to it as the “Green Rat.” Limited to 16 examples, this one owned by the Petersen, the Jaguar XKSS was the street-legal version of the Jaguar D-Type race car built to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Petersen Automotive Museum Supercars: 1967 Ford GT40 Mk III
Occasionally driven by famed Austrian conductor and original owner Herbert von Karajan, this left-hand-drive 1967 Ford GT40 Mk III is one of seven examples built for road use. With a history that includes Le Mans, the Ford GT40 Mk III was the well-behaved version of the Le Mans-winning GT40. One of four in the left-hand configuration, the 306-horsepower Mk III got its power from a 4.7-liter V-8 engine paired to a ZF-sourced five-speed manual transmission.
Petersen Automotive Museum Supercars: 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400
Making its official debut at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show and limited to 764 builds, the V-12-powered mid-engine Miura was unlike any car on the road. As the story goes, when Ferruccio Lamborghini pulled up to the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco in a Miura, the crowd went bonkers. All die-hard movie fans will never forget the 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 from the opening sequence of the 1969 British film The Italian Job, featuring Matt Monro’s timeless voice.
Petersen Automotive Museum Supercars: 1981 BMW M1
Developed in collaboration with Lamborghini (a deal that later fell apart) and designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the fiberglass-bodied BMW M1 was the 3.0 CSL replacement intended for the track as a Group 4 race car. But before BMW could move forward with building a race car, homologation requirements tasked the German automaker to produce 400 roadgoing M1s. In production from 1978-81, not quite 400 M1 road