Los Angeles auto museum is among the world’s best

Following a multi-million dollar, interior and exterior, total renovation that lasted over a year, the Petersen Automotive Museum – at the gateway of Los Angeles’ famed Museum Row – has reopened.

Time exposure of the museum at night. Note that the red is the background color. Bands of metal ‘float’ above.

Its exterior architecture is draped in sweeping, free-form, twisting and turning bands of stainless steel that extend beyond the former perimeter of the existing building, interspersed with broad, bold swaths of color. The effect of this is particularly dramatic at night, resembling a dynamic, time exposure photograph of vehicular traffic on a busy city street, with streaks of color from the headlights and taillights.

The museum’s 25 galleries are arrayed over three floors, each with a different and distinct category: History, Industry and Artistry. I recommend that you start by taking the elevator to the third floor. From there you can work your way back down via a magnificent, modern, circular staircase that is open on both sides, providing a preview of what is on each floor.

On the History floor, enjoy cars from film and television in the Hollywood Gallery, experience the Ford Model T photo op and learn about this region’s rich automotive history in words, historical photos and artifacts presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California – the largest single component of the 55 million member AAA which, in turn, is the largest motoring organization in the world. As noted by club historian Matt Roth: “The auto club grew up with the region. Its development and its growth were very much based on the population growth, the spread of settlement and the style of living in Southern California. The automobile threads throughout those stories.”

Descend the staircase to the second floor – themed “Industry” – where you will find the awe-inspiring Bruce Meyer Family Gallery and its collection of several of the world’s most rare and exotic cars, each one finished in silver.

Visit actual, working studios of the Art Center College of Design.

(Please click on the photo to view the full image.)

In the Discovery Center, children and adults will learn how automobiles work through Cars-themed, interactive, actual working exhibits at the Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute. Borrow a CARSpad – a special, customized tablet – and let Cars characters guide you through a unique augmented reality experience. It’s high tech and fun.

At the Xbox One Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, race a brand new Ford GT and other high performance cars in one of several racing simulators. Be forewarned – if you compete with others to see who can do the quickest lap time, you might find it difficult to leave.

According to Ford’s John Clinard, this is the only place in the world where the new Ford GT will be on display for a year. For comparison, there is also a vintage GT40 Mk III.

Visit the winners’ circle in the Charles Nearburg Family Gallery, where historic racecars are displayed in front of a 134-foot, 180-degree video wall playing racing footage, as dramatic lighting continually changes.View gallery image

In the rooms of the Production Gallery you will see how a Maserati Quattroporte is built on a production line, via displays that feature actual major components and cutaways of the automobile.

(Click on the photo to view all three stunning automobiles.)

Conclude your visit to the Petersen on the first floor, where you will find some of the finest coachbuilt cars of the bygone art deco era in the Mullin Grand Salon. These breathtakingly beautiful automobiles include an ultra-rare and gorgeous 1936 Type 57sc Bugatti Atlantic and a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS Figoni et Falaschi Teardrop. They are accompanied by soothing music, and ever-changing colors and graphics displayed on a 166-foot panoramic wall.

A Drago Brothers truffle at the grand re-opening for the Press.

In a few months you will also be able to dine in a restaurant at the Petersen. At the Press preview we sampled some of the Drago brothers gourmet cuisine, including truffles.

This is one of the very best automotive museums in the world. It is bold, large and colorful, like the best European automotive museums. Its collection of rare, priceless automobiles is stunning. There is ample space between each to enjoy and photograph the vehicles individually. Dramatic lighting, graphic backgrounds, projections of moving light and videos, and music combine to create varied moods appropriate to the displayed automobiles. Numerous interactive video screens inform and entertain visitors. The exterior design of what used to be a multi-storey department store is breathtaking and unique. In short, the Petersen Automotive Museum has been totally transformed. For more information, go to

Jan in a ‘selfie’ in one of those large, convex mirrors in the museum’s parking structure.

Copyright © 2015, 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #414r2

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Jan Wagner

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