Virtual car museums for petrolheads missing their fix during lockdown
The current nationwide lockdown has many serious effects on our day to day lives but for petrolheads one of the less important but still painful ones is limiting their enjoyment of all things automotive. With a ban on all but essential travel, it’s hard to get out and enjoy our own cars and bikes or admire other people’s at car shows and meets. We can’t do anything about missing the open road but thanks to the wonders of the internet there are plenty of ways to still get your fix of cars, including virtual museum tours.
Whether you’re into classics, modern sports cars or a particular marque, there’s probably a museum out there for you so we’ve rounded up some of the best, ranging from purpose-made guided tours to simple Google Street View trips.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum’s website is one of the most impressive out there. The museum itself is a staggering nine-storey celebration of the brand’s 134-year history with more than 1,500 exhibits and even though it is closed you can explore every aspect of it via the website. You can choose to visit each gallery individually, with close-up photography and detailed information on hundreds of models or you can take a guided video tour via Instagram.
Another option from Germany is the virtual tour of the Porsche Museum. The Stuttgart site covers every element of the famed marque’s history, from the early life of founder Ferdinand Porsche to the brand’s racing success and the constant evolution of the iconic 911. The 360-degree tour lets you wander among exhibits ranging from early 356 road cars to the iconic 917 Flying Pig racer and, for some reason, even pop into the coffee shop.
Coventry Transport Museum
The Coventry Transport Museum boasts one of the world’s largest collections of British-made road vehicles. There’s everything from early commercial vehicles to classic Jaguars, Triumphs and Rovers as well as more modern vehicles and the spectacular land speed record-holding Thrust SSC. There’s no interactive tour but the museum has put together this video exploring its highlights.
Honda Collection Hall
Honda’s Museum website features a fantastic 360-degree virtual tour that guides you through the Japanese brand’s 71-year history. You can click around the Collection Hall’s three floors, examining everything from early lawn mowers to Formula 1 cars, with plenty of road-going cars and bikes in between. As well as a view round the museum, some exhibits are enhanced with associated video clips of the vehicles in action or 360-degree interior photography.
TheCitroen Origins virtual museum was set up in 2016 to celebrate the French marque’s innovative and influential history. Rather than a bricks and mortar museum, it’s a digital record of the brand’s past, with interactive displays that let you explore 80 classic models inside and out, with information on each car. Since lockdown began the site has also been expanded with videos from the archives from the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel featuring Citroens down the decades.
Mullin Automotive Museum
The Mullin Automotive Museum is a treasure trove of pre-World War Two cars in Oxnard, California. Focusing on the highly decorative art deco inspired French models of the “brass era” up to the late 1930s, it includes elegant early models from the likes of Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza and Delage. As well as interactive panels on its website and a Google Street View tour, the museum is also offering free live tours of its collection on Instagram every week.
Peterson Automotive Museum
The Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is one of the US’s biggest and most famous car museums. Its collection spans every aspect of car culture from pioneering models to crazy hot rods, classic sports cars to movie icons. Thanks to Google Street View you can explore much of the collection but if you want to peek inside the famed vault, the museum is also offering themed web tours for a small fee.
Audi Forum Museum Mobile
Not to be outdone by its German neighbours, Audi has its own massive museum to celebrate its history. Stretching back to its earliest incarnation in 1899, the museum takes visitors through to its merger with Auto Union in 1932 and on to today’s role as the premium arm of the VW Group. The 360-degree tour is limited compared with some others but does allow you to experience sitting inside the Horch 670 in the museum among its highlights.
Ferrari’s museum at Maranello is a celebration of the Prancing Horse’s massive role in both Italian industry and motoring culture. Via this Google Street View tour you can wander around the site, tracing Ferrari’s history from its earliest racers through to legendary names such F40 and Testarossa, as well as exploring its massive motorsport success in both Formula 1 and other series.
More than just a museum, Klassikstadt in Frankfurt is a hub for classic car-related businesses. Around 30 companies involved in everything from engine building to upholstering occupy the former tractor factory in glass-fronted workshops. A 360-degree tour lets you stroll virtually among them as well as examining a huge selection of cars ranging from 1960s Mercedes to race-ready modern Lamborghinis, displayed to show off the craftsmanship of the various businesses.
Here’s another Google Street View tour that lets you meander among some of the most astonishing metal to come out of Italy. The Museo Lamborghini in Santa’Agata Bolognese is much like the Museo Ferrari but with less red everywhere. Via the tour you trace the company’s development from the earliest 350 GTV to the mind-bending Aventador of today and can boggle at the weirdness that is the LM200 off-roader.
Toyota Automobile Museum
Unlike most manufacturers' museums, which showcase one particular brand, the Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya is a celebration of the car in general. As well as more than 100 examples of Toyota's own vehicles the three-storey museum features hundreds of other models stretching right back to the inception of the car and featuring gleaming classics from around the world. Take the Google Street View tour here.