As I awkwardly jogged around the darkened basement of The Petersen Automotive Museum, arms outstretched, gripping a very homemade LED strip apparatus, battery pack slung across my chest, doing laps around priceless metal in 25-second shutter intervals, while a handful of technicians and museum personnel looked on, I thought to myself, “this had better turn out cool.”

I had warned them that it was going to get weird, and that promise was fulfilled in short order.

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I had done this technique after hours at an Auto Show a few months ago, only this time the setting was darker (which is optimal), I had more time, more help, and the cars were an order of magnitude better. Make that ten orders of magnitude.

We started with the EB110 (I’ve always wanted to be able to causally say that!). The first results on the camera display were imperfect but kind of shocking, and I always prefer to aim for the latter rather than the former. I made a couple adjustments, captured a couple different angles and was ready for the next car. Assistant Curator Blake Z. Rong was ‘curating’ his choices for what cars we would shoot next, while intermittently doing a voice that could have been either Mickey Mouse or Jay Leno, no one was sure.

1994 Bugatti EB110

Like you, I hadn’t given the EB110 much thought or much credit in the past 20 years, but it really looks surprisingly modern and thoroughly compact in the flesh these days. Usually on 90’s supercars, there are blocky, parts-bin turn indicators or reflectors that give away the game and junk up the sleek fascias. Those are absent here. If you told me this car and the ten-years-newer Lamborghini Murcielago debuted at the same time, I would believe it.

1982 Ferrari 308 GTSi

I’ve been drawn to the timeless shape of the Ferrari 308 since I was kid. In all likelihood, that was due to this 308, the one that Tom Selleck drove on Magnum P.I.

1959 Ol’ Yaller Mark III

This Los Angeles-built V8 racer is one of the museum’s most beloved cars.

1967 Ford GT40 Mark III

This is was the car I looked forward to most. It’s at the intersection of automotive history, racing significance and the wedge-y, mid-engined exotica that I grew up obsessing over. Also, reading Go Like Hell recently helps.

1948 “CadZZilla”

When Billy Gibbon’s custom Cadillac graced the cover of Hod Rod in 1988, it was the best-selling issue. CadZZilla was considered the first new kind of custom since the ‘50s when Boyd Coddington built it.

1947 Cisitalia 202 Coupe

The 202 was styled by Pinin Farina, and among the first cars universally considered beautiful. Just four years after its debut, in 1951, it was featured in the MoMA in an automobile exhibit.

1948 Tucker 48

The Tucker is such a fascinating story, and it’s amazing to be in the presence of one of these special cars. It’s becoming increasingly likely that I’ll ever own one, but I’m increasingly realizing that my Instagram handle “capturing the machine” is about the feeling of taking a tiny stake of ‘ownership’ (for lack of a better word) of the cars that I see and shoot.

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(SHAMELESS PLUG)

It was the perfect car with which to end the night.