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Wheels & Reels

On our recent trip to the Petersen Automotive Museum to see Press Kale’s Terraplane in the Pickups exhibit, we stopped by their Hollywood Cars exhibit, and were delighted to find a few authentic vintage hot rod movie posters on display.


Cashing in on the drive-in car craze of the day, the low-budget Hot Rod Gang debuted in 1958.  This film’s simple plot line centers around John Ashley’s character, who joins forces with Gene Vincent’s character in an effort to secure the funds for the next big race.


Motorcycle gangs abound in this pulp classic of the same year.  After a member of the motorcycle gang loses control of his bike and plummets off of a cliff, Gary Clarke’s character is harassed by the entire gang.


While not quite a hot-rod film, this B flick from 1957 certainly has the same feel of the pulp hot rod films of the era, which depicts trouble between friends who have parted ways, many of whom now belong to a motorcycle gang.


Considered one of the classics of automotive films, Le Mans is more documentary than fiction, as much of the movie is comprised of actual footage from the 1970 Le Mans race in France.  With little plot and dialogue, this film is a perfect fit for those who ever wished that the cars were the stars of the film.  Between the edge-of-your-seat racing and throaty roar of the engines, this film is a treat for Le Mans fans.


Quite a step up from the 50s B movies in budget, script, and cast, this 1966 classic gives us a glimpse at Formula One racing through four drivers – American, French, Italian, and English.  The film retains a cult following for its live racing footage of the 1966 season.  Popular at the box office, thanks in large part to the international, star-studded cast, this cult classic is a must-see for race fans.

This summer, the Petersen hosted Wheels & Reels, an evening screening of Grand Prix, which featured a Q&A with Director John Frankenheimer’s wife Evans, Camera Operator John M. Stevens, and Driving Consultant Bob Bondurant.  We’ll be sure to be checking next summer’s Wheels & Reels schedule – while a classic automotive film is enticing, the guests of the Q&A segment are not to be missed!

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