Petersen Automotive Museum

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Petersen Automotive Museum
Petersen Automotive Museum Logo.png
Petersen Automotive Museum.jpg
Northwestern elevation, 2015
EstablishedJune 11, 1994; 28 years ago (1994-06-11)
Location6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California
United States
Coordinates34°03′45″N 118°21′40″W / 34.062472°N 118.361034°W / 34.062472; -118.361034Coordinates: 34°03′45″N 118°21′40″W / 34.062472°N 118.361034°W / 34.062472; -118.361034
TypeAutomotive museum
DirectorTerry L. Karges[1]
CuratorLeslie Kendall

The Petersen Automotive Museum is located on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles. One of the world's largest automotive museums, the Petersen Automotive Museum is a nonprofit organization specializing in automobile history and related educational programs.


Founded on June 11, 1994, by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie, the $40-million Petersen Automotive Museum is owned and operated by the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. The museum was originally located within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and later moved to a historic department store designed by Welton Becket. Opened in 1962, the building first served as a short-lived U.S. branch of Seibu Department Stores, before operating as an Ohrbach's department store from 1965 to 1986. Six years after Ohrbach's closed, Robert Petersen selected the largely windowless site as an ideal space for a museum—allowing artifacts to be displayed without harmful exposure to direct sunlight.

In 2015, the museum underwent an extensive $125 million renovation.[2] The building's façade was redesigned by the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, and features a stainless-steel ribbon assembly made of 100 tons of 14-gauge type 304 steel in 308 sections, 25 supports and 140,000 custom stainless-steel screws.[3] Designers at The Scenic Route configured interior spaces to accommodate changing exhibits.[4] The remodeled museum opened to the public on December 7, 2015.[5]

Exhibits and Collection[edit]

Precious Metal exhibit, 2015

The museum has over 100 vehicles on display in its 25 galleries. The remaining half is kept in a vault on the building's basement level.[6] Age restrictions and an admission premium are in effect to view the vault collection.[7] The ground floor focuses on automotive artistry, showcasing an array of extravagant automobiles. The second floor is principally concerned with industrial engineering—including design, performance, and a collection of interactive teaching exhibits. Special displays on the industry floor cover racing, motorcycles, hot rods and customs. The third floor chronicles the history of the automobile, with an emphasis on the car culture of Southern California.


Some of the museums exhibits have included:

  • An extensive Porsche exhibit (until January 2019), including one of only two 1939 Porsche 64s in existence.
  • An exhibit on the history of the Japanese automotive industry, with many cars on view from Japanese collections
  • An exhibit on powered children's racecars


The museum's collection of vehicles includes:


The museum received a $100-million gift from Margie Petersen and the Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation in April 2011, which includes cash and the property the museum was leasing, as well as many of the vehicles belonging to the Petersens.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Ohrbach's department store is featured in a lengthy sequence in the 1988 film Miracle Mile.

The museum is destroyed by a lava flow in the 1997 film Volcano.

In a scene from Who Killed the Electric Car?, a previous General Motors EV1 owner visits their car in the museum.

On March 10, 2019, Adam Carolla held his 10th Anniversary Celebration for his podcast The Adam Carolla Show at the museum.


  1. ^ Allen, Chester (October 2012). "Inside Line". Sports Car Market. 24 (10): 16.
  2. ^ "The Petersen Automotive Museum Reopens After $125-Million Renovation". Discover Los Angeles. Discover Los Angeles. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  3. ^ Vaughn, Mark (January 4, 2016). "Anatomy of a Makeover". Autoweek: 4.
  4. ^ Hawthorne, Christopher (3 December 2015). "Petersen Automotive Museum's new look conveys a happily tasteless exterior". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ Gillogly, Brandan (7 December 2015). "We Crashed a Lamborghini at the Petersen Museum". Hot Rod. ISSN 0018-6031.
  6. ^ Fleming, Charles (3 December 2015). "Petersen Automotive Museum reopens with dramatic architecture, interactive exhibits". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "The Vault". Petersen Automotive Museum. Archived from the original on 2013-03-17. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  8. ^ "Jesse Valadez Jr., owner of most famous lowrider in LA history, dead at 45". ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved 2023-01-27.
  9. ^ "Gotham Garage "Car Masters: Rust to Riches"". Petersen Automotive Museum.
  10. ^ Golfen, Bob (2 March 2021). "Corwin prototype displayed at Petersen is notable piece of Black history". The Journal.
  11. ^ Vaughn, Mark (April 26, 2011). "Petersen museum gets $100 million gift from founders". AutoWeek.

External links[edit]