Pixar is unlocking exactly how Lightning McQueen runs in a new museum exhibit.

Petersen Automotive Museum, LA.

Petersen Automotive Museum, LA. Image by Klaus Nahr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The animation studio is showing off what is underneath the Cars character’s metal at the newly-overhauled Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibit features a life-size version of Lightning McQueen, original art by Cars production designer Bob Pauley and several displays with real-world renditions of the character’s engine, suspension and other running parts.

Pixar teamed up with the Petersen to create its first museum exhibit to teach families about the interworking of cars. How will children feel about seeing a dissected rendition of the beloved animated race car voiced by Owen Wilson? “It was tricky,” said Jay Ward, creative director of the Cars franchise. “We were very careful about not showing a cut-away of McQueen. For all the parts, we’re only showing vignettes. We didn’t want the character’s head open or anything like that. It is a living character who happens to be a car, but when you watch the films and these characters fly through the air, all that stuff is under there.”

Lightning McQueen

Lightning McQueen Image by Edward Russell / CC BY 2.0

Mr Ward said the creators at Pixar wanted to plot an exhibit that was both educational and fun but did not feel like a rehash of the Cars-themed land at Disney’s California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, California. “I didn’t want this space to feel like a pre-school,” he said. “I didn’t want it to feel like a place where you would just drop your kids off. I wanted it to be place where the whole family can engage. We came up with something where you can hopefully walk away from it and feel like you learned how your car runs.”

The exhibit also includes an augmented reality experience voiced by Cars actors that drives visitors through the second floor of the museum, which features exhibits on motorcycles, hot rods and alternative power. Besides the Cars injection, the Petersen underwent a 90 million-dollar (£60m) makeover that added a new floor of exhibition space, steel ribbon exterior and an upmarket restaurant, as well as several Forza MotorSport 6 driving simulator stations and vehicles featured in films and TV shows, such as rides from Batman, Spectre and Magnum PI.

The updated Petersen Automotive Museum reopens to the public on 7 December.

(Press Association)