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12 Reasons Why You’ve Got to Visit the New Petersen Automotive Museum

Flip through the gallery above for a sneak peek into the new Petersen Automotive Museum and read the captions to discover the 12 reasons why you should pay it a visit (even if you've been before!) 

The Petersen Automotive Museum is open for a special preview day this Sunday, December 6th and will resume normal business hours on Monday, December 7th. Visit for more details.

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1. Artful Elegance

Beginning at the first-floor “Mullin Grand Salon,” Petersen Automotive Museum visitors are ushered into the mindset that automobiles are art. With its floating platforms and ethereal music and projected videos, the car as fine-art is clearly felt. Having so many graceful cars together on the main floor is truly a treat – including numerous Delahayes, Bugattis, with a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn and a 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet, among others, included in the mix.

2. Blending Past with Future

As automotive enthusiasts, we each have our own niche of interest. Many think of car museums as places where old cars go to sit, the new Petersen Automotive Museum proves this has never been more false- from an exhibit showcasing various fuels to this BMW Art Car in the Armand Hammer Gallery these exhibits are alive and looking forward to the future while celebrating the automobiles past.

3. Interactive Displays

A variety of forms of new interactive displays help transform the Petersen Automotive Museum from a relic of the past to something ready for the future. In addition to expected car placards giving information, a large number of touch-display consoles accompany displays – giving the visitor additional information, insights, and historical photos to interact with. 

4. A Museum That Lets You Drive

No… you can’t take Steve McQueen’s old Jaguar XKSS out for a spin, but you can jump in the seat of one of 13 simulators with the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience. Try out tracks from around the world and even compete to get your Top Gear Test Track lap time posted up in true Top Gear style!

5. Significance

The new layout of Petersen Automotive Museum elevates the automobile by placing it in an environment that really feels like a proper world-class museum. Sure, automotive enthusiasts want to look at cars close up – but the new Petersen drives the exploration of the car’s significance much more.

6. Engaging the Next Generation

Kid’s areas of museums can sometimes be a letdown, but the Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute uses multiple points of interaction in ways that can truly engage youngins, get them excited about automobiles, and even teach them a few things! From the “CARSpad” tablets that help kids explore the entire floor of the museum, to digital painting and customization stations, to super exciting mechanical stations which explain the car’s inner workings using lights, movement, and touch screens that will capture a kid’s imagination.

7. Unconventional

Because when have you ever seen a museum car up on a lift? Under-car mirrors just don’t do fully finished show cars justice. Petersen Automotive Museum included two jacked-up cars within their Customization Gallery – this 1964 Impala “Sinful Sin” and the AMBR-winning rod “Possessed” by Scott’s Hot Rods. The fact that the Petersen figured out how to display cars on a lift is just an indication that the Petersen Automotive Museum is thinking forward and unconstrained by conventions.

8. Partnerships that Strengthen

The second floor galleries include an exhibit showing how cars are created – both in design and production – paired with the on-site location of a couple of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design automotive design classrooms. The same floor also includes partnerships with Maserati, Pixar Cars, Xbox Forza, TEN: The Enthusiast Network, Ford Performance, Landi Renzo, Charles Nearburg Family & Lucas Oil, and Rolex.

9. Motorsports is All About Speed

There’s something about looking at race cars in the museum setting that can be underwhelming… they just induce much more feeling when you see them zooming by. One of the museum’s new video displays is a nearly 360-degree racing experience passing through a sunrise-to-sunset race day, all watched within about five minutes. Including footage from all different sorts of motorsports, and even some vintage filming, this video truly brings the racing experience to you while you’re surrounded by the cars that make it happen.

10. Context

Putting the automobile in context adds to not only the relevancy of car culture in Southern California, but also to the automobile and its place in our culture at large. This particular interactive display about Southern California shows not only tidbits of ephemera, but also explores how the car has helped shape Los Angeles and how Los Angeles has shaped car culture via interactive iPads and a projected learning area.

11. Customization Comes Full Circle

While customization was really created by the early hot rodders, the automotive aftermarket certainly didn’t stop there. Seeing Ken Block’s Gymkhana III Ford Fiesta and Bulletproof Automotive’s Scion FR-S “Concept One” next to historic classic customized cars really demonstrates how customization has come full circle.

12. Bold Move

The striking new exterior of Petersen Automotive Museum took a bold move to transport the original 1964 department store façade into something memorable and exciting. Seeking to capture the movement and grace of the automobile and make it relevant to Los Angeles’ car-centric lifestyle, the museum’s new exterior is now a centerpiece for LA’s Wilshire Corridor. 

Petersen Press Release - 12/3/2015

“I am proud to announce that the new Petersen Automotive Museum is open on schedule, on budget and with interior and exterior designs that are even more stunning then the concept renderings – and that is a rare feat in both the architecture and museum worlds,” said Executive Director Terry Karges. “Thanks to the efforts of Kohn Pedersen Fox, Matt Construction, A. Zahner Company, The Scenic Route and our incredible Petersen team, we have transformed a building that was once an old department store into one of the most groundbreaking structures in Los Angeles. What’s inside is just as stunning, including a three-story spiral staircase that transports visitors through 25 galleries representing the history, industry and artistry of the automobile.”

The new Petersen Automotive Museum now has three full floors of content with 95,000 square feet of exhibit space. Guests are invited to enter the museum through either the parking structure off Fairfax or the new entrance on famed Wilshire Boulevard. There they can see several display vehicles in the David and Ginny Sydorick Grand Concourse, purchase tickets, and take an elevator to the third floor, where the experience begins.

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