Skip to main content

The Petersen Automotive Museum pays tribute to the car

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is a stunning automotive history museum, dedicated to showcasing the automobile and its impact on American life and culture. On multiple floors the Museum houses some of the most fascinating vehicles you will ever see.

Exhibitions feature classic cars, supercars, hot rods, race cars, celebrities cars, and famous TV & movie cars. Motorcycles and scooters are also on display. If you are a lover of anything with wheels, this is a place you need to visit.

The first floor covers the history of the automobile from its beginnings with over 30 different exhibits. It brings the sights and sounds of early motoring Los Angeles to life and illustrates the crucial role the automobile played in shaping the history of LA and America. The first exhibit displays an early blacksmith's shop in 1901. Where one of the first automobiles in LA was built. If you turn around you are taken into the hills of Malibu in a 1911 American Underslung. Unfortunately it is stuck in the mud. There is a display showing the evolution of gas pumps and a 1920s service station. See a 1930s Chevy dealership. Explore the first strip mall ever built. Check out some of the cool cars on display like the 1917 Detroit Electric, the longest running electric car ever in production (1906-1939.) This was also the first production car to use curved glass and was mainly marketed and bought by women due to its quiet and clean operation. See a custom hot-rod shop with a half-finished 1950 Hudson and a 1940s speed shop. Also see an early car design studio compared to a modern studio.

The second floor features a wide range of special rotating exhibits and galleries. This keeps the Museum's exhibits fresh for visitors who will surely want to come back again and again. Currently on display is “Scooters: Size Doesn't Always Matter” showcasing scooters of all different shapes, models, sizes, and design. The most interesting scooter on display is a 1915 Autoped. This is considered by most to be the first true scooter. It was a simple design with a 1.5hp 1-cylinder motor and the handlebars could be folded down for easier carrying. However, the Autoped weighs about 80 pounds. The display which will excite most visitors is “Supercars: When Too Much Is Almost Enough.” There are many exciting supercars on display such as the Bugatti Veyron, Ford GT, Ferrari F40, Ferrari F50, Maserati MC12 Jaguar XJ220, Lamborhini Countach, and many more. An art wall showcases works by members of the Automotive Fine Arts Society. One of the most exciting areas of the museum is the Hollywood Gallery, full of famous movie, TV, and celebrity cars. By far people's most favorite car on display is the Batmobile.

There are many vehicles without an internal combustion engine in the Alternative Power gallery. On display is the Ford Focus Electric used on “The Jay Leno Show” for the Green Car Challenge segment. The much famed EV1 is also displayed, well-known from the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” chronicling the demise of the EV1 program by GM.

The third floor comprises the the May Family Discovery Center. This learning center is for children and families to come and enjoy specially designed interactive and informative exhibits. You can dress up in motoring attire and step into a 1910 Model T for a great picture. A large mechanism in the hallway shows giant rotating gears to educate how force is transferred. Step into the Vrooom Room, so your kids can learn how sound travels. Get on a police motorcycle and see how a radar gun works! Be a spark plug in a giant combustion chamber. There are even cars on display that were designed by children.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is truly an amazing place that melds automotive history, art, design, and technology. It is not just a place for “car people” but a place for anyone whose lives have been affected by some mode of transportation. This essentially means it's for everyone!

The Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Please contact Adam Yamada-Hanff at – [email protected] – for comments, questions, or topics. You can also follow him on Twitter @AdamsAutoAdvice