Travel: The Petersen Automotive Museum Has Reopened, And It’s Spectacular

The Petersen Automotive Museum Has Reopened, And It’s Spectacular

By Benjamin Shahrabani
December 4, 2015

Photography by Ted Gushue

Previous visitors are not going to recognize a thing. The first big giveaway that something is different is the Petersen Museum’s exterior. The once plain and boxy concrete exterior is gone, giving way to a Hot Rod Red modernist structure adorned with flowing metal ribbons meant to evoke movement and speed.

First opened to the public in 1994 by publishing magnate Robert E. Petersen, the Petersen Automotive Museum at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax Boulevards in Los Angeles has recently emerged from an almost $100-million dollar top to bottom renovation, both inside and out. Petersen board of directors chairman Peter Mullin, a car collector himself, believes that the effort was well worth it. During his keynote address he said that although “might be biased,” he now believed that the Petersen has been elevated to one of the top automotive museums in the world. We believe it.

The almost fourteen month project has both rejuvenated and expanded the twenty-year old museum. It now has almost 95,000 square-feet of exhibit space dedicated to the history, industry, and perhaps above all, the art of the automobile.

While architecture pundits might debate the controversial exterior, inside is where you’ll want to be anyhow. Spread over three floors, the several galleries feature over 130 vehicles, and motorcycles from all eras, and will be rotated frequently along with an ever-changing series of special events, and programs. The museum curators want you to come back, and experience something new on your next visit.

The ground floor is named The Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry Floor. Dedicated to the artistry of the automobile, the centerpiece is the Mullin curated “Rolling Sculpture” collection, an amazing menagerie of French Art Deco automobiles, the centerpiece of which is a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.

The second floor has an “industry” theme. Here you will find a satellite outpost of the Art Center College of Design Studios where on some days you will be able to find students designing the cars of tomorrow. There is also the Microsoft Xbox Forza Racing simulator room where you can show off your driving prowess on a virtual track, and there is the Cars/Pixar exhibit aimed at young children where they can interact with the displays and learn about automobile design and engineering.

The Charles Nearburg Family Gallery collection is also housed here, and contains race cars from many eras. A “Precious Metal” exhibit in Bruce Meyer Family Gallery features an estimated $120 million worth of silver-hued American and European cars including a McLaren F1, one of the Aston Martin DB5 cars used in the James Bond Films, and a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe named Best of Show at the 2014 annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Last, but not least, the third floor houses “history”. Here you’ll learn why California and the automobile are a match made in industrial heaven. You’ll also find a Hollywood-themed exhibit with cars like the 1989 Batmobile, the Aston Martin DB10, its Jaguar nemesis from the most recent James Bond movie Spectre, and Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308.

The museum opens to the general public on Monday, December 7th, 2015. The vault located in the basement will reopen for guided tours in January, 2016.

For more information, visit or call 323-930-2277


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