For those who are passionate about all things automotive, visiting an automobile museum is a must. Whether you enjoy early automobile history, racing cars, the Art Deco period or you just want to see some of the most special, unique and interesting vehicles ever to turn a wheel on public roads, there's a car museum for every interest.
Here is the definitive guide to the best and most interesting automobile museums in the world. In each museum, you'll find the most spectacular collections, most famous cars and will be able to immerse yourself in the amazing history of the automobile.
Petersen Automotive Museum
Arguably the most famous automobile museum in the United States, the Petersen Automotive Museum was founded in 1994 in Los Angeles, California. The Petersen is famous for its curated exhibits that explore influential design, technological innovation, and importance to automobile culture.
Beneath the Petersen lies the famous "Vault" housing cars that are not on display and the workshops that maintain the collection. The Vault contains over 250 cars and includes Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, race cars, custom hot rods, and movie cars. On permanent display, and one of the star attractions is actor Steve McQueen's personal 1956 Jaguar XKSS. One of the most valuable cars in the world.
Lane Motor Museum
If quirky, unique and innovative cars pique your interest, there is no better place in the world to go than Nashville, Tennessee's Lane Motor Museum. Specializing in European, eclectic and technically interesting automobiles, there's a very good chance that you won't find the cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and airplanes in the Lane's collection anywhere else in the world.
One of the featured exhibits is the 1932 Helicon. A French automobile that uses an airplane-style propeller for movement instead of having the engine drive the wheels. The Lane Motor Museum houses a collection of 580 vehicles, but only about 150 are on display at any given time. You can see the whole collection by taking the Vault Tour.
Henry Ford Museum
Henry Ford was a collector of Americana, and by the 1920s was one, if not the largest collector in the US. Of course, the Henry Ford Museum is full of wonderful cars, but it's also packed with folk art, furniture and significant designs from the history of the United States.
Located in Dearborn, Michigan, the museum is home to a number of significant automobiles including the very first car built by Henry Ford, the 15-millionth Ford Model T, and the Lincoln Continental that President Kennedy was assassinated in.
Mullin Automotive Museum
Dedicated to French Art Deco automobiles, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California houses one of the biggest and most spectacular collections of pre-war French automobiles in the world. The Art Deco period represents an era in automotive design that is universally acknowledged as the pinnacle of elegant styling and sophisticated luxury.
Today, cars from this era are easily some of the most valuable in the world and highly sought after by collectors and museums. Some of the Mullin Museum's most significant cars include the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, 1939 Delahaye Type 165 and the 1937 Talbot-Lago T150 C-SS "Teardrop." All works of art form a time when style and luxury were beyond compare.
Cite de l'Automobile - Schlumpf Collection
The Cite de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, France houses the incredible Schlumpf Collection of automobiles which includes over 243 cars from 1878 to the present. The story of the Schlumpf Collection is just as incredible as the cars themselves and is well worth your while to explore and learn about.
With the drama of the collection well behind it, the museum today houses a spectacular collection of road and race cars with the focus being on pre-war automobiles. The cars are organized by era and the early Grand Prix racing cars are surely the stars of the show. But if it's the visual impact you're after, there is no car that has a presence like the Bugatti Royale Type 41.
With a history of producing vehicles that stretches back 130+ years, there's a lot to take in at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The museum itself is organized in a "top-down" fashion with the start of the tour beginning on the highest level with the oldest cars and working down to ground level with the modern racing cars and futuristic prototypes.
On display are more than 160 vehicles that include the very first automobile, legendary Grand Prix racing cars, the epic DTM Touring Cars and of course the famous "Pope-mobile." One of the more unique cars on display in the C111, a rotary-powered mid-engine prototype that Mercedes-Benz used to test new technologies and engines.
Porsche is a brand that needs no introduction. Their sports cars and race cars are household names and their exploits on the great racetracks of the world are the stuff of legend. Located in Stuttgart, Germany and across the strasse from the factory, the museum houses the most significant road and race cars produced by Porsche.
Eighty cars on display tell the story of the legendary marque and showcase its many technological innovations and massive history in motorsport. On display you'll find a Porsche F1 engine, 917s, 962s, the very first Porsche and some unique prototypes. One of the best features of the museum is the workshop, where you can watch Porsche mechanics restore and maintain the racing cars.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
The Simeone Foundation Automobile Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is often regarded as the greatest collection of significant racing cars in the world. And when you look at the list of cars in the collection you can see why.
A 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, 1966 and 1967 Ford GT40s, 1970 Porsche 917LH, 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, 1931 "Blower Bentley," 1958 Aston Martin DBR1 and a 1958 Ferrari 250 Test Rosa among many, many more. The collection represents nearly every era of sports car racing and contains the most significant and successful cars of those time periods.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
The most famous race track in the U.S. has an incredible museum showcasing the history, the cars and the drivers of IndyCar. Located in the center of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, the museum houses Indy 500 winning cars dating back to 1911 and also contains a few F1 cars, motorcycles, and cars from other racing series.
If gasoline flows through your veins, then the Indy Motor Speedway Museum should be high on your list of must-see museums. Being situated in the center of the speedway, it's possible to also tour the race track, kiss the famous bricks at the start line and even drive the circuit, just not in an Indy Car, of course.
Located in Naples, Florida, the Revs Institute houses the car collection of the legendary Miles Collier. The museum is dedicated to preserving technologically advanced road and racing cars as well as compiling one of the largest automotive research libraries on the planet. The Collier brothers, Sam and C. Miles, are credited with bringing sports car racing to the United States in the 1930s.
The museum and its collection of cars is a reflection of this passion for motorsports and European style sports car racing. The Rev's collection contains some of the finest and most significant road and race cars of the past 100 years including a Porsche 917K, a Blower Bentley, Ferrari racing cars and the legendary Ford GT40.
Audi Forum Ingolstadt
Audi's museum in Ingolstadt, Germany is a treasure trove of cars from the company's long and illustrious history. More than 100 cars and motorcycles are on permanent display with additional revolving exhibits focused on a specific part of the company's history.
The Le Mans race car section is especially exciting as it contains 14 cars that competed in and have won the legendary 24-hour race. In addition to the static car displays, the museum has a cinema (Audi sponsors many major motion pictures), a themed restaurant and a kids area with car-related activities designed specifically for younger gearheads.
Museo Ferrari is ground-zero for the Tifosi and THE place to see some of the greatest cars and F1 cars ever produced. Located near the Ferrari Factory in Maranello, Italy, the museum houses a rotating collection of significant road cars, Formula 1 racers and sports racing cars.
The museum regularly changes the themes of the exhibits with a focus on a specific aspect of the companies designs, racing history and even some of the heroic drivers who have raced for the team. The museum also houses a driving simulator which allows visitors to sample what it would be like to drive flat-out in one of the company's road or race cars.
Lamborghini, as a car manufacturer, can trace its history back to a feud between Enzo Ferrari and Ferruccio Lamborghini. Mr. Lamborghini founded Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963 to build a better, more capable sports car and to out-do Ferrari.
Today, Lamborghini's sports cars are a benchmark by which others are measured and some of the most visually striking vehicles on the road. The museum, in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy, is across the street from the factory and houses a magnificent collection of GT and sports cars across the entire history of the company. The Muiras are works of art and are a must-see for anyone that appreciates Italian design.
Saab Car Museum
When the Saab car company went bankrupt in 2011, the city of Trollhatten, Sweden stepped up to help save the museum. Saab automobiles had been made in the city since 1948 and were a part of the area's identity.
The museum itself houses 120 vehicles dating back to the very first Saab car. At any given point 70 cars are on display that includes a fascinating array of designs, technological innovations and the down-right weirdness that defined the company. Included in the collection are 2-stroke V4 powered cars, a vehicle with joystick controls and a number of exciting prototypes like the 9-2X Concept.
National Corvette Museum
America's sports car, the Corvette, is built in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Across the street from the factory lies the National Corvette Museum which preserves and showcases the best Corvettes in a beautiful setting with over 80 cars.
The museum has significant models from Corvette's history along with racing cars and innovative prototypes. There are a number of interactive exhibits and if you have purchased a new Corvette, you can take delivery of it at the museum. One of the highlights is certainly the race track. It's home to the factory Corvette Racing Team and regularly hosts driving events, races and offers you a chance to drive your own car at speed on the circuit.
BMW Welt And Museum
In the heart of the BMW factory and headquarters in Munich, Germany lies BMW Welt and the museum. The architecture of the state-of-the-art complex is amazing, and inside you'll find areas to see, touch and experience all of BMWs models along with a museum that houses over 120 cars and motorcycles from the companies long history.
Significant models like the1936 328 and the 1956 507 are on display along with the famous M-cars and racing sports and touring cars from BMW's motorsports history. You'll also see prototypes that never made it to production and get a chance to view cut-away cars and engines to see how they work.
National Motor Museum - England
The National Motor Museum in Hampshire, England has one of the finest car collections in the world and also one of the biggest collections of motoring memorabilia.
The earliest vehicle in the collection is a steam-powered carriage that dates from 1875. Along with early examples of cars, you'll also see a collection of Grand Prix cars, sports cars, racing cars and motorcycles that comprise the amazing history of racing and transportation in the United Kingdom and beyond. The entire collection comprises 285 vehicles with some of the most exciting being the land speed record cars from past to the present.
Shanghai Auto Museum
The Shanghai Auto Museum in Shanghai, China is the countries first dedicated automobile museum. Opened in 2007, the museum has over 70 cars on display from the history of Chinese motoring as well as significant vehicles from around the world.
Classics from Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz are paired with American muscle cars and early vintage cars from the turn of the 20th century. The museum's focus is on the history and culture of the automobile and exhibits are changed regularly to promote different themes and events. One of the most interesting exhibits is the "exploded-view" Volkswagen Jetta, which allows visitors to see all of the components that make up a modern car.
Museo Alfa Romeo
One of the most storied automobile manufacturers, Alfa Romeo, can trace its history back to 1910. Known for performance and style, the Italian auto maker's vehicles are both exciting to drive and to look at.
The Alfa Romeo Museum is located in Arese, Italy, just north of Milan and contains 70 on-display vehicles. The museum is divided into three parts: Timeline, Bellezza and Velocita, or history of the company, beautiful designs, and the fastest racing cars. A recipe for a truly great auto museum experience. The C52 Disco Volante is surely one of the stars of the museum along with the numerous sports prototype race cars of the 1960s and 1970s.
National Auto Museum - The Harrah Collection
In downtown Reno, Nevada, lies one of the great car museums and collections of the world, the legendary Harrah Collection. Founded by casino and hotel pioneer Bill Harrah, the National Auto Museum houses some of the most spectacular, rare and exceptional vehicles from the golden age of motoring along with celebrity-owned cars and vehicles used in Hollywood films.
Some of the incredible cars include a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500k roadster, 1937 Airmobile, Lana Turner's 1941 Chrysler, a Ferrari powered Jeep Wagoneer and James Dean's Mercury from the film Rebel Without A Cause.
Museo Enzo Ferrari
Located in Modena, Italy, Museo Enzo Ferrari differs from the Ferrari Musem in that it tells the history of the company's founder and the road cars that defined his legacy. Built on and around the original Ferrari workshop, the museum houses a collection of road cars that date back to the origins of the company. You'll also find a comprehensive biography of the legendary Enzo Ferrari and an exploration of the philosophy that defines the brand.
The museum focuses on the timeless designs of Ferrari's road cars and on the personal history of Enzo Ferrari. If seeing all the beautiful metal makes you want to drive, the museum offers a chance to lap the Autodromo di Modena circuit in your own car.
LeMay - America's Car Museum
The LeMay Museum in Tacoma, Washington is one of the largest collections of vehicles and memorabilia in the world. At one time, the collection contained over 3,000 cars. Today, the museum has 250 vehicles on display with another 100 vehicles that are on loan from various collectors.
The vast majority of the collection is American made cars but there are several European vehicles included as well. The museum and car collection is dedicated to showing America's love affair with the automobile and how it has shaped our culture.
The Blackhawk Museum is actually part of a group of museums in Danville, California that is well-known for its collection of rare automobiles. The car collection portion of the museum complex consists of roughly 70 vehicles, of which about 40 are on display at any given point. The complex also houses art from China, Africa, and the Old West.
While the collection may seem small by comparison to other museums, the significance of the vehicles is worth the visit. On display, you'll find a 1947 Delahaye 135MS Cabriolet, a BMW 507 roadster and a 1924 Voisin C4S Sport Tourisme.
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum
The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Auto Museum in Auburn, Indianapolis is a masterpiece of Art Deco design from an era in automobile manufacturing that remains iconic to this day. The building itself was the administration and showroom for the Auburn Motor Company and thanks to an extensive restoration, now houses a museum dedicated to preserving the legacies of Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg's vehicles.
If you have a passion for Art Deco design and a love of classic 1920s and 1930s automobiles, then you'll fall in love with the museum. One of the more spectacular cars on display is the stunning Auburn Boattail Speedster.
The Nethercutt Collection
Located in Sylmar, California, the Nethercutt Museum is home to the J.B. Nethercutt car collection and also houses a world-class automobile restoration shop. Along with the cars, the museum also has a large collection of musical instruments, antique furniture, and two steam locomotives.
Cars from the 1920s and 1930s are the main attraction, and the museum is home to a 1931 Bugatti Type 51, 1932 Maybach Zeppelin DS/8, 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and a 1923 Hispano-Suiza H6B. The Nethercutt Museum is constantly adding vehicles to their collection, and displays rotate to showcase newly restored vehicles. The museum is also active in events around the country.
The Louwman Museum in The Hague, Netherlands, is home to over 250 vehicles that have been collected by several generations of the Louwman family since 1934. Fans of early automobiles will want to make the Louwman Museum a priority as its home to the largest collection of pre-1910 automobiles in the world. Many of which can't be seen anywhere else. Amazingly the collection started with a 1914 Dodge Brothers touring car, which is still on display.
The significance of the collection cannot be overstated and some of the more spectacular cars include a Mercedes-Benz SSK (all original), Aston Martin DB3 race car, Toyota 2000 GT and a Talbot-Lago teardrop coupe.
Haynes International Motor Museum
The Haynes International Motor Museum is the largest automotive museum in the UK and located in Somerset, England. The museum has over 400 cars and motorcycles on display from the 1800s through the present. Due to the sheer size and breadth of the collection, the museum is divided into 15 sections to organize the cars and motorcycles by theme, nationality or type. One of the more interesting areas of the museum in the "Red Room" which features only red-colored vehicles.
The museum houses vintage, classic and exotic cars as well as racing cars and a sizebale collection of vintage motorcycles. Famous cars include an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, 1960 Ferrari 250 GT, and a 1995 Jaguar XJ220.
British Motor Museum
If British cars are your thing, then the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire, England is the place to be. The museum houses 300 cars, all of which are British, making it the single largest collection of British automotive history in the world.
You'll find everything from British-Leyland vehicles to Jaguars and Land Rovers, along with a wide variety of specialty and niche vehicles from some of the countries most famous manufacturers, like McLaren. In the collection is the Monte-Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper, a 1950 Jaguar XK120 and the 1988 Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJR-9.
Larz Anderson Auto Museum
The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts, is home to the oldest car collection in the United States. It all started in 1899 when Larz and Isabel Anderson purchased a Winton Motor Carriage. Over the next few decades, they purchased over 30 automobiles and established the basis for the collection as it stands today.
Fourteen of the original cars bought by the Andersons are still in the collection along with a 1959 Rolls-Royce Shooting Brake and a 1929 Packard Model 640 Roadster, among others.
Volo Auto Museum
The Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois is Americana to the core. Both a museum and classic car dealership, the Volo is home to 33 separate exhibits and features celebrity-owned cars, TV and movie replica cars, including a room dedicated to the many Batmobiles, vintage cars, hot rods, and anything that moves with an engine.
The museum was founded in 1960 and sits on 25-acres that also contains military vehicles and aircraft. Some of the more famous movie and TV cars include the Ghostbuster's Ecto-1, KITT from Knight Rider, the Bluesmobile from Blues Brothers and Herbie from Herbie: Fully Loaded.
The Brooklands racing circuit in Weybridge, Surrey, England is the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation. The motor racing circuit first opened in 1907 and was the very first permanent auto racing circuit in the world. The museum at the historic track is home to the history of the early days of British motor racing and aviation. Astonishingly, the museum houses cars, motorcycles, bicycles and military weapons.
The car collection contains a very early 1923 Aston Martin racing car AND a complete Concorde passenger jet. Where else on earth can you find those two together? The Brooklands Museum is also famous for the events it holds featuring historic racing and aviation gatherings.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a special place for motorsport fans. It's next door and a part of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Founded by accomplished racer and collector George Barber, the museum holds the largest collection of Lotus cars in the world along with over 1,400 road and racing motorcycles.
The collection contains over 50 Lotus race cars including the Lotus 21, the first Formula 1 race-winning car from the company. Also in the collection is the 1964 Ferrari F-158 in which Formula 1 legend John Surtees drove to the Formula 1 World Championship that year.
Studebaker National Museum
The city of South Bend, Indiana is the home of the Studebaker National Museum. The Studebaker Company was originally founded in 1852 and produced horse-drawn carriages, buggies, and wagons. The first Studebaker automobile was electric and built in 1902 with their first gasoline-powered vehicle coming in 1904.
The museum is home to a large collection of original horse-drawn carriages, automobiles and military vehicles all built by the Studebaker Company. One of the main exhibits features carriages used by U.S. Presidents and includes the carriage used by Abraham Lincoln.
Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile
The Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile was founded in 1960 in Turin, Italy. It contains over 200 cars including some of the very first Italian cars made, such as the 1896 Bernardi and the 1899 Fiat. The museum is dedicated to preserving automotive history in Italy and around the world with a collection of vehicles and historic documents from the earliest days of the automobile.
Not limited to just early automobiles, the collection contains a wide variety of cars from around the world and from every era of the car. Historic Ferrari Formula 1 cars, vintage Rolls-Royces and the spectacular Mercedes-Benz 500K Roadster all contribute to make the museum a world-class center for automotive history.
ZeitHaus Museum at The Autostadt
The ZeitHaus Museum is part of the Volkswagen's massive Autostadt Complex in Wolfsburg, Germany. Home to some of the most iconic, desirable and valuable cars ever made, the ZeitHaus is not a museum of Volkswagen's history, that's located on the other side of the sprawling complex.
The ZeitHaus is a museum that celebrates design, innovation and technological advancement in the automobile. Some of the cars which are featured include the exceptionally rare and stunning Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, a 1937 Cord 812 S/C and an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen.
Muscle Car City
If big horsepower and burnouts get your engine running then Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida is a must-see. Founder Rick Treworgy has amassed one of the largest collections of GM muscle cars in the country and the entire collection contains over 200 cars from the 1920s to the present.
The museum primarily consists of GM and Chevrolet muscle cars, but other makes are peppered in for good measure. The museum also has one of the most extensive collections of Corvettes in the country with an example from each year of production from 1954 to 2016.
Gilmore Car Museum
The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan is likely the largest auto museum in the country. The museum sits on 90-acres with over 190,000 square feet of exhibit space. The collection itself contains over 500 cars, of which 400 or so are on display at any given time.
It's impossible to adequately describe a collection that large but some of the cars on display are a 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom 1, 1905 Packard Model N, 1948 Tucker '48, Delorean DMC 12, 1959 Cadillac Limousine and a 1910 Ford Model T race car.
Museum of American Speed
The Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska is a unique place with the mission to preserve and present the history of American auto racing, racing engine technology, and automotive history.
Inside the museum, you'll find land speed record cars, drag racers, dirt oval race cars, Indy cars, and even a Cadillac Le Mans prototype racer. The museum also has a display of significant racing engines that include the legendary Offenhauser engines, Cosworth DFX Indy Car engines, and a 1930 Cadillac V16 engine.
General Motors Heritage Center
The GM Heritage Museum in Detroit, Michigan is the forbidden fruit of automobile museums. The museum and Heritage Center is not open to the public and requires either a group tour or a visit by appointment only. Getting an appointment can take months to years of advanced planning, but once you've secured your slot, you'll be rewarded with one of the greatest automotive collections ever assembled.
The entire collection contains approximately 600 vehicles, but only a small fraction are on display at any given time. Exhibits include experimental prototypes like the Aerovette, an electric Corvair from 1966 and historically significant vehicles like 1915 V8 Cadillac and the 1966 Toronado.
NHRA Motorsports Museum
If you live your life a quarter-mile at a time, then the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California is the place you need to be. The museum's collection includes drag racers, land speed record holders, race cars, hot rods, and custom cars that make up the long history of American hot rodding.
Some notable cars include A.J. Foyt's Coyote Indy Cars and Kenny Bernstein's Top Fuel Dragster, which was the first drag car to hit 300 mph in the quarter-mile. The museum is located down the road from Auto Club Dragway, just in case you get the itch to burn some rubber.