Automobiles as Art

LA's renovated Petersen Auto Museum dazzles car enthusiasts

BYMelissa Hirschl
Enveloped in bold, curving ribbons of stainless steel, the four-story Petersen Automotive Museum makes a striking statement, anchoring the west end of Museum Row on Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard. This 300,000-square-foot behemoth of a museum recently underwent a $90 million renovation. It encompasses 25 galleries showcasing more than 300 vehicles famous for beauty, style, and historical significance. Visitors can marvel at hot rods, roadsters, motorcycles, collector cars, specialty sports cars, championship-winning racers, touring coupes, and futuristic dream machines. For car aficionados, history buffs, and families with car-obsessed kids, this is the stuff dreams are made of.
The museum’s most buzzed about experience is a 90-minute tour of the “Vault” — an underground garage that houses about half of the museum’s celebrity-owned cars and other iconic vehicles. The Vault’s sweeping collection comprises cars owned by Rita Hayworth, Elvis, and John Wayne, among other celebrities. Cars used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Saddam Hussein, and Dwight D. Eisenhower are part of the assortment of vehicles that once transported various heads of state, and you’ll even spot a “Popemobile.” TV and movie cars also play a starring role here, like the Hudson Wasp originally owned by Steve McQueen. The 24-karat gold-plated DeLorean doesn’t function as a time machine, but it will bring back memories of Back to the Future.
Other must-see exhibits include the Interactive Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, The Art of the Automobile, Made in Italy, and Automobiles from the Movies. To see exotic cars adorned with a shimmery sheen of silver, including the 1934 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan that debuted at the 1933 World’s Fair, head to the popular Precious Metals exhibit. Also don’t miss the Mullin Grand Salon, a collection of sleek, stylized cars with an Art Deco flair.
Even if you’ve never aspired to acquire a one-of-a-kind 1934 “Round Door” Rolls-Royce for your garage, the Petersen is certain to send your car collection dreams into overdrive.
MELISSA HIRSCHL, a Gilbert resident, has been bringing stories of people and places to life for 30 years.
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