Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Petersen Automotive Museum Re-Opens Today


After a 14-month-long renovation, the Petersen Automotive Museum re-opens today. The Buzz got a sneak peek at the $125 million re-designed building on Saturday evening, just before a VIP party for museum supports and donors.

The building originally opened in 1962 as the luxury Japanese Seibu department store. Then, after another life as the Orbach’s Department Store, the Petersen debuted in 1994, as a satellite of the LA County Natural History Museum and envisioned as an opportunity to showcase the museum’s extensive car collection and place it in the context of Southern California’s car-centric culture. While the museum’s mission and much of the building footprint remains the same, the interior spaces have now been completely redesigned and opened up, evoking the feeling of an elegant car showroom with lots of interactive displays to engage a digital-savvy audience in telling the story of the region’s rich history of automotive design and innovation.

At the preview, we headed straight to the top to see the view from the roof and get a closer look at the new facade. The stainless steel ribbons that float over the “Hot Rod Red” building are designed to evoke the imagery of speed and the organic curves of a coach-built automobile, according to the museum’s press materials. The design has attracted lots of attention, both positive and negative, but whatever you think about the outside, it’s definitely worth a trip inside and up to the roof to see how it looks from the inside out, and how it frames the nearby skyline.

Docent Art Rosenberg told us everything has changed inside and exuberantly encouraged us to experience all the elements of the new galleries and interactive displays. A few of his favorites include the first car built in Los Angeles, the Bat Mobile and the Ferrari 308 GTS that was driven by Tom Selleck in the Magnum P.I. television series. Both are displayed in front of digital screens running film footage in the “Automobiles in the Movies” display, making a very cool juxtaposition of reality and art. The Petersen will also feature three vehicles from the newest Bond film, “Spectre.”

By re-locating offices from the third floor to the lower level in the re-design, the museum added 12,040 new square feet of gallery space, which will house several changing galleries. We visited with Kate Zankowicz, Education Coordinator, for a tour of the “Cars” Mechanical Institute in the Discovery Center, a partnership between the museum and Disney/Pixar Animation studios and a demonstration of the hands-on interactive area, where kids of all ages can design a car on a iPad and then virtually race it.

If you love cars, and even if you don’t, there are a lot of fabulous visuals at the new Petersen. The following photo gallery, courtesy of Emily Simon, gives you a sense of what you can expect. Our take away message: “Cars are cool.”

Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles 90036
Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students with ID; $7 for children over the age of 3
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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Nice story – and great photos! I think the look is extravagant and fun and will generate more interest and visits to the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax. It could become another iconic photo opp for Angelenos and visitors, similar to LACMA’s “Urban Light” across the street.


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