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Cars, cars and more cars beautifully displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum

Magnificently restored cars on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum
Magnificently restored cars on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum

On the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax in Hollywood is the enormous Petersen Automotive Museum. Even if you are not a car "buff"- the immaculately restored cars and other vehicles from the beginning of the auto industry and throughout the ages are an amazing sight to see, as well as a walk through the past to the present. The guiding principle of the Petersen Automotive Museum is the exploration and presentation of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture with particular emphasis in Los Angeles. One can only imagine being the passenger, driver or viewer of these beautiful cars on the roads of the city.

Robert E. Petersen was a native Californian and became fascinated with automobiles as a very young man. He picked up the mechanic skills of his father, who worked on trucks and equipment. After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Mr. Petersen became a publicist engrossed in the up-and-coming culture of customized autos and was instrumental in creating the first hot-rod show in Los Angeles (1948); launching Hot Rod Magazine to establish it as an ongoing event. Eventually, many more publications were produced, aimed at the specialty automotive audiences and he became a leading publisher of special interest magazines and books with his own company, Petersen Publishing Company. "He understood the thrill that an average person could get from seeing and reading about horsepower as an art form", said Dick Messer (Director of Petersen Automotive Museum). A lifelong dream for Mr. Petersen was to establish an educational museum to pay tribute to the automobile. With major contributions from Mr. Petersen and his wife Margie, they became the founding benefactors of the Petersen Automotive Museum, which opened in 1994 and stands today as the nation's premier automotive museum, named in his honor.

There are a number of themed permanent and rotating exhibits to explore. Start with The Streetscape: The Car and the City in Southern California on the first floor. A windy "road" takes the visitor through time with vignettes of real life-based storefronts, gas stations, billboards, period cars and other vehicles parked along the curbs.

Other current exhibits include What were they thinking? The Misfits of Motordom. This represents innovators and designers attempts to improve the engineering or styles utilizing "out of the box" thinking over the 100+ years of automotive history. In reality, most never got beyond the design phase and those that were produced, were never popular or mass marketed…remember the Ford Edsel (1958)? Other obscure models were the Julian (1925) and the Toyota Toyopet (1958)!

The Hot Wheels® Hall of Fame is sure to be a winner for children and collectors alike. There are interactive displays and a selection of cars, both in miniature and full-scale, on view. Introduced to the market in 1968, Hot Wheels® has a more than a forty year history, and having these popular toys in their own gallery seems very appropriate in the leading automotive museum.

The Petersen Automotive Museum offers a number of special lectures, screenings and tours and is a popular venue for private parties or corporate events. Check the Museum's calendar for the current schedule and dates of new and future exhibitions. Ample parking is available in an adjacent garage and why not enjoy a burger and shake at the new location of Johnny Rockets, attached to the Museum?

Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd (at Fairfax)
Los Angeles CA 90036

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday: 10am to 4pm (but is open on major Monday holidays). Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
Entry: Adults $10; Seniors 62+, Active Military and Students $5; Children 5-12 $3; Children under 5 Free
Parking: $2 per 30 minutes; $8 max with paid admission for up to 4 hours; $12 max for all others

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  • Sara H. 5 years ago

    Great story and slideshow. I love the displays/scenery the cars are exhibited in; e.g. the vintage gas station. What fun, I really want to visit this museum!

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