There are 2 new jaw-dropping museums that celebrate Southern California car culture

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- If you think you've seen all the good car museums in Southern California, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

The Segerstrom Shelby Event Center in Irvine just opened. The amazing collection isn't new, but the public display space is.

"We collected these, and we thought this was the best way of giving to the community and sharing our car collection," said Ted Segerstrom, co-founder of the museum along with his wife Rae.

There are other Shelby-specific museums in places like Las Vegas and Colorado, but this one's closer to where the legacy of Shelby's cars began. And it's available to rent for events, hence the name. The Segerstroms send all proceeds to Shriners charities.

"Have that long overdue family reunion. Or your wedding, or reception. Whatever you want to do. Make your own memories, that's what the bottom line really is," said Segerstrom.

While Carroll Shelby was building cars in Venice in the mid-1960s, other gearheads were racing them about 20 miles down the 405 Freeway at Lions Drag Strip near Wilmington. The facility closed in 1972, but it has been recreated, in a way, very close to where it once stood.

"When I was a teenager I started going to Lions Drag Strip and kind of fell in love with drag racing," said Rick Lorenzen, founder of the Lions Automobilia Foundation.

The fairly new museum is nestled in an industrial park, a sort of hidden treasure not far from the 91 and 710 freeways. It started out as a private collection, but now it's got a mission.

"To preserve these cars and teach people, and kids, educate them on cars," Lorenzen said.

Of course, the Lions collection is a car museum, but it's not just a big building filled with cars. They've managed to put a lot of these cars into what would have been their original settings back in the day. It's kind of like walking into a gigantic movie set.

The old Lions Drag Strip has been painstakingly recreated right down to the last detail.

The center of the museum features an old-style business district, reminiscent of Disneyland's Main Street, but with classic cars parked all around. Talented artists created lifelike storefronts and scenic backdrops.

Each section of the museum takes you to a different place. For example, the streets of Long Beach where the Grand Prix takes place every year, and a replica of the vintage Texaco gas station Lorenzen's father owned in nearby Wilmington.

Not to be outdone, at the Segerstrom Shelby museum, there's a diorama depicting a Hertz car rental location circa 1966. Parked in front of it are examples of the Shelby GT350H models that certain Hertz customers could rent back in the day. The collection includes one Hertz Shelby in each color they were painted, all with signature gold stripes.

Both of these museums are now open to the public. So bring your camera, and of course, your curiosity to learn about bygone days of Southern California car history.

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