Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum

Automotive museum in California, United States

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.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Collections
  • 3 Finances
  • 4 Museum in popular culture
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


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] An Interpretive Master Plan, performed by ObjectIDEA and Brent Johnson Design, re-envisioned the exhibition program and re-organized the collection as three museum experiences under one roof: “The History, Industry, and Artistry of the Automobile.” 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]

  • Museum prior to its 2015 renovation

  • Porsche Carrera GT concept at the museum

  • Classic Boss Ampm Monster Truck hanging off the wall, at museum display, before renovation


Precious Metal exhibit, 2015

The museum has over 100 vehicles on display in its 25 galleries. The remaining half of the collection is kept in a vault, located on the basement level of the building.[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 cars, automotive memorabilia, and exhibits include:

  • An extensive Porsche exhibit (until January 2019), including the rare 1939 Porsche 64, one of only two in existence.
  • A unique 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 NASCAR Herbie used during filming of Herbie: Fully Loaded.
  • Lightning McQueen from Disney Pixar Cars and Cars 2
  • 1967 Ford MKIII GT40
  • 1956 Jaguar XKSS formerly owned by Steve McQueen
  • 2011 Ford Fiesta from Ken Block’s Gymkhana 3
  • 1992 Batmobile from Batman Returns
  • Ferrari 308 GTS Targa used by Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I. In order for the 6’4” Tom Selleck to fit comfortably in the Ferrari, they had to lower the driver seat.
  • De Tomaso Pantera which belonged to Elvis Presley
  • The DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future
  • Plymouth XNR built by Gotham Garage on Car Masters: Rust to Riches[8]


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.[9]

Museum in popular culture[edit]

On March 9, 1997, after a party at the museum, The Notorious B.I.G. got into an SUV with his entourage and drove fifty yards to a red light where he was murdered by an unknown assailant.

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

The museum is destroyed 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 The Adam Carolla Show, a podcast at the museum.


  • ^ Allen, Chester (October 2012). “Inside Line”. Sports Car Market. 24 (10): cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  • ^ “The Petersen Automotive Museum Reopens After $125-Million Renovation”. Discover Los Angeles. Discover Los Angeles. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  • ^ Vaughn, Mark (January 4, 2016). “Anatomy of a Makeover”. Autoweek: 4.
  • ^ Hawthorne, Christopher (3 December 2015). “Petersen Automotive Museum’s new look conveys a happily tasteless exterior”. Los Angeles Times.
  • ^ Gillogly, Brandan (7 December 2015). “We Crashed a Lamborghini at the Petersen Museum”. Hot Rod. ISSN 0018-6031.
  • ^ Fleming, Charles (3 December 2015). “Petersen Automotive Museum reopens with dramatic architecture, interactive exhibits”. Los Angeles Times.
  • ^ “The Vault”. Petersen Automotive Museum. Archived from the original on 2013-03-17. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  • ^
  • ^ Vaughn, Mark (April 26, 2011). “Petersen museum gets $100 million gift from founders”. AutoWeek.
  • External links[edit]

    • Official website
    • 1897 Anthony Electric Runabout