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The Friday Five: Bryan Stevens


Bryan Stevens is Exhibitions Director at Petersen Automotive Museum. Here, Stevens talks about the fantastical vehicles featured in the Museum’s Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit, and explains why they are so compelling.

Describe your role at the Museum.

I am the Exhibitions Director. Along with the curatorial team, I oversee the exhibits presented from conception through production. I started working in design at Petersen Automotive Museum about 13 years ago, and migrated from there.

The Friday Five

Tell us about the upcoming exhibit, Hollywood Dream Machines.

Hollywood Dream Machines features 50 cars from science fiction films, television shows, and video games. We wanted to do something a little different this year as we celebrate the Museum’s 25th anniversary. Hollywood Dream Machines is cross-disciplinary. The exhibit speaks to a broader audience, people who are interested in science fiction and pop culture but not necessarily the history of transportation. We picked the subject matter in part because our founder, Robert E. Petersen, had an interest in the entertainment industry and worked in it for a period of time. We have a unique opportunity, being situated in Los Angeles, as many of the cars featured in Hollywood Dream Machines are stored just blocks away from us. The exhibit includes vehicles from Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, Mad Max, Back to the Future, Batman, Knight Rider, and others. 

The Friday Five

The vehicles in the exhibit are movie characters in their own right. What qualities do they share that make them so compelling?

That’s very true. When you look at cars in the science fiction and fantasy genres, there’s a significant amount of creative thought that goes into their development; similar to what happens in the development of characters. While a movie set in the present day may use a Lexus in a scene, it’s a little forgettable. The creative team involved in a movie that’s set 100 years from now must put significant thought into every detail, including transportation. Does a vehicle fly? What fuel does it use? Does it move through time? Ultimately, it makes those vehicles really stand out and become central to the story. 

The Friday Five

What are some of your favourite vehicles in the exhibit?

While I am a fan of Blade Runner, I’m an even bigger fan of Mad Max and the vehicles in those movies. They are a whole different form of fantasy because they are dystopian and post-apocalyptic. The designers of those vehicles used existing components, parts from vehicles that were left over from the fictional apocalypse, collages of three-dimensional parts. The creativity behind them is astounding; they are fantastical and reflect the characters in the driver’s seat. What stayed with me the most after watching Mad Max: Fury Road was the vehicles, not the storyline or characters.

The Friday Five

What do you hope visitors take away from their time at the exhibit?

More than anything, I hope people are in awe of the creativity that goes into the vehicles and appreciate how special science fiction and fantasy vehicles are in relation to everyday cars. These vehicles are potential visions of the future; it’s fascinating to ponder whether they could really exist at some point. It’s one thing to look at as fantasy but it’s another to ponder their potential.

The Friday Five

Learn more about the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit at Petersen Automotive Museum. 

Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.