GM’s Concept Vehicles, Motorama

The Petersen Automotive Museum will celebrate “Dream Cars” from the 1950s with its newest exhibit, “GM’s Marvelous Motorama: Dream Cars From the Joe Bortz Collection,” which will open on March 16. The exhibit will feature six concept cars, together for the first time under one roof, originally displayed at GM Motorama shows in 1953, ‘54 and ‘55.


In a time of unprecedented prosperity in the United States, General Motors, the largest corporation in the world, created a traveling showcase for its varied products called the Motorama. From 1949 to 1961, the Motoramas flaunted not only automobiles, but also auto parts as well as non-automotive goods from GM subsidiaries such as appliance-maker Frigidaire. It was the cars, however, that attracted the crowds.

Legendary GM stylist Harley Earl used the Motoramas to present to the public new ideas in the form of “Dream Cars,” visionary non-production experimental autos that showed off design and technological features that would find their way to production automobiles in the near, and sometimes distant, future. A few models, like the Corvette, even went into production. The Motorama was a spectacle. Held in lavish hotel ballrooms and large auditoriums, the shows featured interactive displays, orchestras, and live song and dance performances.

Once called “General Motors’ top salesman,” the GM Motorama transformed the automobile industry by changing the way novel concepts were introduced to the public. The six cars are from 1953, 1954, and 1955, the peak years of the Motorama. They represent an era of experimentation and optimism when the future of the automobile seemed limitless.

Concepts cars in the spotlight

Located in the Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation Gallery, the exhibit will explore the history of General Motors’ traveling Motorama shows. Legendary GM stylist Harley Earl used the shows to present experimental non-production cars that featured design and technological concepts some of which found their way to production automobiles. A few models, like the Corvette, even went into production.

Six cars will be featured in the exhibit, including three rescued from near destruction at Warhoops Auto and Truck Parts in Sterling Heights, Michigan. After their time in the spotlight, the majority of “Dream Cars” were sent to scrap yards to be cut apart and crushed. Among those preserved were four cars saved by Warhoops employees and squirreled away among junked car bodies. After hearing rumors about the saved “Dream Cars” in the mid-1980s, collector Joe Bortz purchased the four cars from the scrapyard.

Cut-in-half no more!

Museum visitors will see the 1955 LaSalle II Roadster and 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne, which Bortz painstakingly restored after both were cut in half in preparation for the crusher, as well as a 1955 LaSalle Sedan in its “junkyard fresh” condition. Additional cars featured in the exhibit are the 1953 Pontiac Parisienne, 1953 Buick Wildcat and a completely original and unrestored 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special.

Owner’s remarks

“These cars are the Picassos and Rembrandts of this automotive generation,” said Bortz. “To see six of them together, all from the ‘50s, and all the real deal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Joe Bortz has an incredibly unique collection of historic cars, the likes of which have never been displayed at the museum,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “The Motoramas were an important part of automotive history, and we are excited to share these ‘Dream Cars’ with enthusiasts from around the world.”


“GM’s Marvelous Motorama: Dream Cars From the Joe Bortz Collection” will be on display through March 2026. To purchase tickets or for more information about the Petersen Automotive Museum, please visit


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