A Tour of the Petersen Automotive Museum
Riding through history in automotive legends.
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Driving along the canyon roads, the Pacific Coast Highway, Mulholland Drive, or into Downtown LA not only exposes you to great scenery and fun driving, it opens a world of car-spotting rarely available anywhere else. Los Angeles is also home to one of the most amazing automotive museums in the country, if not the world — the Petersen Automotive Museum. To the uninitiated, the museum is just a place that houses cool cars, but to car lovers, it's a place to see some of the most iconic automobiles in history. To put it simply, art aficionados have the Louvre, autophiles have the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Located in the Miracle Mile, on Wilshire Boulevard, the museum's edifice will impress anyone who appreciates unique architecture with it's Gehry-esque design. The exterior's stainless steel ribbons and inner red wall exterior are reminiscent of the flames painted on the sides of hotrods. Approaching the building, you get a sense of just how massive the structure is. Amazingly, once you step inside, it feels even bigger than the outside led to believe. The museum's collection spans three floors and a basement vault.
The third floor investigates the history of the automobile. Many of the cars on this floor were seen by millions in movies and TV shows. Examples abound: Herbie from the Love Bug, the Batmobile from Batman and Batman Returns, James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, the Aston Martin DB10 from Spectre, and the 1965 Lincoln Continental from Entourage to name a few. One of the most stunning cars is Steve McQueen's 1956 Jaguar XKSS in the ever enigmatic and beautiful British racing green.
The second floor is home to the galleries dedicated to Design, Performance, and Production among other categories. Seeing cars which previously competed at Le Mans up close and personal is a fantastic experience. This floor houses a Porsche racing fan's dream collection: a 1986 Porsche 962 in Rothmans Racing livery, a 1980 Porsche 936 in Martini livery, and a 1968 Porsche 917 in the unforgettable Gulf livery. Some of the coolest motorcycles in history are also housed on this floor as well as a host of fantastic dream cars. Some of the highlights include a 1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa, a gorgeous 1959 Chevrolet Stingray Racer, a 1995 McLaren F1, a 1967 Ford GT Mark III, and the 2017 Ford GT. The aura, mystique, and tough Americana beauty of the Mark III are exceedingly impressive; and pun slightly intended, it dwarfs some of the grand designs of the new GT, fifty years its junior.
The first floor has some of the most luxurious classic cars ever to grace the earth. It's like a meticulous Concours d'Elegance. The amount of history on that floor, not to mention the total investment, is staggering. These cars belonged to kings, princes, and dignitaries. Walking around on this floor, you feel as if the year is 1930 and you're at a gala. When you turn to look at more cars, you half expect to pick up a flute of champagne. You're not disappointed when you realize you're day dreaming, you're still in awe. It's not all historic cars and horseless carriages. There's a BMW section which houses another Batmobile, the 1975 3.0 CSL. Also on this floor: a 2015 McLaren P1, a 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza GT Concept, and a 1967 Toyota 2000GT.
There's something for everyone and it's wonderful that such a well-versed museum exists. It's not only a collection of extraordinary cars for enthusiasts, rather it is a narrative of historically and culturally significant masterpieces. The Petersen shares galleries of living history which will no doubt inform future generations on facets of the automotive industry such as engineering, progress of aerodynamics, evolution of materials, and instrument design. Lastly, one of the most wonderful gifts the Petersen delivers is the auto enthusiast culture. With such a diverse, pristine, and immaculate collection, they are able to effectively communicate, preserve, and share the love of cars — the fleeting, esoteric, and intangible passion for automobiles. Every true car buff owes it to themselves to make the pilgrimage to the Petersen Automotive Museum. If you haven't gone, take in the experience soon, and if you have visited, I'm sure you're anxious to return.
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