Inside the New Petersen Automotive Museum
The newly designed Petersen Automotive Museum opens to the public on Monday, December 7, 2015, but we got a sneak peak inside
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles opened in 1994 to great fanfare, but that was over 20 years ago, and even though the rolling displays never disappointed and it was still a fantastic museum, a facelift was in order. After a 14-month transformation that totally changed the outside of the building into a piece of sculpture and redid the interior from a clean sheet of paper, the Petersen is finally going to be open to the public on Monday, December 7, 2015. Today, Thursday the 3rd, was the “media day” where we could check the place out before the general public, and we’re here to tell you it’s definitely worth your time to see it. While there isn’t much of a presence of Mustangs, if you call yourself, even passingly, a car fan, you need to visit the Petersen
Executive Director Terry Karges said, “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. 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.”
There are three floors of exhibit space, and the right way to see it all is to start at the top, on The History Floor (3). It has displays that show concept cars of the ‘50s, movie and TV cars (like the Magnum PI Ferrari, the hideous Pontiac Aztec from the show “Breaking Bad,” and a cool display of how Southern California affected car culture nationwide. On the second floor are display showing how cars are designed, including new studios/classrooms that are used by the Art Center College of Design in nearby Pasadena, California—perhaps the preeminent automotive design studio in the country, if not the world.
On the second floor is a gallery that bears the name of the brand that got Robert E. Petersen his start—the Hot Rod Gallery, presented by TEN, The Enthusiast Network (Mustang Monthly’s parent company). This exhibit celebrates Hot Rod Magazine, Petersen’s first publication, along with the cars featured in the magazine over the years, artifacts from Petersen’s life and a selection of wildly customized cars – from iconic customs (the Hirohata Merc and Billy Gibbons’ “CadZZilla”) to lowriders, roadsters and race cars.
Then there’s the Precious Metal exhibit in the Bruce Meyer Family Gallery, presented by Rolex. All the cars are silver, and include the Aston Martin DB5 from the Bond movie Goldfinger (complete with ejection seat and fender-cutting wheel center caps) and more historic cars than you’ve seen in one place—all silver. On the same floor is the Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute, from the folks at Disney’s Pixar. There’s a life-size Lightning McQueen can and displays that show how a car functions, all voiced by Larry the Cable Guy’s character Tow Mater if you pick up the available Carspad tablets.
Ford fans will dig the High Performance Road Cars exhibit presented by Ford Motor Company, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic win at LeMans with the museum’s GT40 MkIII alongside the all-new Ford GT supercar. From there fans can step into the winner’s circle in the Motorsports exhibit in the Charles Nearburg Family Gallery presented by Lucas Oil Products, featuring some of the fastest and most famous race cars of all time, backed by a 134-foot, 180-degree projection wall immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of these incredible cars on the track. Directly behind the Motorsports exhibit is the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, where you can drive a variety of vehicles (including the new Ford GT at LeMans) on the most famous race tracks around the world.
There’s a lot more to see in the new Petersen beyond what we’ve said here, so make plans to visit the Petersen Automotive Museum in the very near future. The exhibits change often, so you shouldn’t see the same museum twice, so every time you visit will be a new experience. It’s really cool, and we highly recommend it. As mentioned, the museum opens to the public on Monday, December 7th, is open seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm, and admission prices are as follows: adults - $15, seniors and students - $12, children - $7, active duty military and educators – free, Children under 3 – free. To learn more about The Petersen, its latest exhibits, rotating galleries and special events, please visit www.Petersen.org.