The Petersen Automotive Museum

March 28, 2012 — 1 Comment

Take a journey through one of mankind’s greatest achievements… The Automobile

The Petersen Automotive Museum is dedicated to the exploration and presentation of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture using Los Angeles as the prime example. Encompassing more than 300,000 square feet, its exhibits and lifelike dioramas feature more than 150 rare and classic cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Covering four floors, the facility features permanent exhibits on the first floor that trace the history of the automobile. You can walk through exhibits and dioramas and experience settings of early Los Angeles where the world’s first shopping district was designed. The second floor presents five rotating galleries with state-of-the-art displays of racecars, classic cars, vintage motorcycles, concept cars, celebrity and movie cars, and auto design and technology.

The May Family Discovery Center is located on the third floor. Designed to spark your interest in science by way of the automobile, the 6,500 square-foot, interactive “hands-on” learning center teaches you basic scientific principles by explaining the fundamental functions of a car. A spectacular all-glass penthouse conference center, Founder’s Lounge and kitchen, comprise the fourth floor, which is available for special events and functions.

Current Exhibits:

From the grand classics of the 1930s to modern supercars of today, Italian designers have influenced the look of automobiles on a global scale. The Sculpture In Motion: Masterpieces Of Italian Design Exhibit explores the many ways in which Italian coachbuilders and manufacturers have contributed to the evolution of the automobile from a collection of disorganized parts to a single, visually appealing unit. Already well aware of the Italian contribution in the look of clothing, art, and architecture, you will be fascinated to learn that the country that gave the world Michelangelo and Botticelli also gave it the designers responsible for the exotic and inspired automobiles we have now come to expect from Italy.

Scooters have captured the attention of motorists throughout the world and the Scooters: Size Doesn’t Always Matter Exhibit displays this era. In addition to their quirky and often endearing styling, the diminutive two-wheelers are affordable, maneuverable, extremely economical to operate, simple to park or store, and often easier to license and register than cars or motorcycles. Thanks to their mechanical simplicity and wide availability, scooters have long played a vital role in the pursuit of personal mobility throughout the world. Not surprisingly, they outsell automobiles in many areas and are even a preferred means of family transportation in places like India, Pakistan, China, and elsewhere. In the United States scooters are becoming increasingly popular as gas prices continue to rise and the motoring public seeks a new way to proclaim their individuality and personal style on a budget.

Permanent Exhibits:

The Streetscape Exhibit features historical displays that chronicle the evolution of the automobile and car culture in the 20th century. The lifelike dioramas were designed based on real places and people that existed throughout Southern California. The Streetscape begins with a blacksmith shop in 1901 where 17-year-old Carl Breer built a car powered by a 2-cylinder steam engine. The winding journey continues with 30 detailed displays that bring back the sights, sounds, and even smells of old Los Angeles and help you understand the automobile’s vital role in sculpting our modern automotive landscape.

The capital of both car consumption and movie production, Los Angeles has witnessed the potent relationship between these two forms of expression. Both cars and movies combine art, technology, and image making. Both revolutionized how people spent their leisure time. And both represented a mixture of glamour and mechanical convenience to the American public. The Hollywood Gallery Exhibit presents an array of vehicles that illustrate how cars were used on-screen, how they played an essential part in the opulent Hollywood lifestyle, and how they helped put the “motion” in motion pictures.

A little more than one hundred years ago, any conveyance not propelled by a horse or mule was considered an alternative power vehicle. The thought of being taken from place to place in any kind of mechanically-powered contraption was considered ridiculous by the large majority. But by the turn of the twentieth century, vehicles powered by steam, electricity, and petroleum had captured the imagination of the buying public and were being sold in ever increasing numbers. As oil became more available, gasoline-fueled vehicles came to dominate the market and all but a tiny number of their steam and electric-powered counterparts were consigned to history, the definition of an automobile propulsion system came to be extremely narrow. By 1910, the typical vehicle was any car, truck, or motorcycle powered by a gasoline powered, piston driven, internal-combustion engine. As the piston engine gained a reputation for power and reliability, more and more capital resources were channeled to perfecting it and a complicated fuel refining and distributing infrastructure was developed to support it. The Alternative Power Exhibit show cases this important era in car manufacturing.

In 2003, Mattel marked the 35th anniversary of the Hot Wheels brand by unveiling the first-ever long-term Hot Wheels Exhibit with full-size and die-cast cars. The Hot Wheels Hall of Fame hosts a selection of Hot Wheels cars, both miniature and full-scale, which embody the brands’ signature speed, power, performance and attitude.

Explore the evolution of the Automobile and its impact on our culture. Experience the last 100 years of automotive history at the museum, there is always something new to discover for the whole family.

WHAT: The Petersen Automotive Museum  
WHEN:  Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm | Closed on Mondays
WHERE: 6060 Wilshire Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90036  

CONTACT INFO: (323) 964-6331


  • Ticket prices: Adults $10, Seniors $8 (62 and over), Students with I.D. $5, Active Military with I.D. $5, Children $3 (5 – 12 years old), Children under 5 free
  • Museum parking: $2 per 30 minutes, $8 maximum with paid admission for up to four hours, $12 maximum all others

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