Museums>>an Afternoon At The Petersen Pt. 1

Seeing as Los Angeles is one of the car culture hot beds of the world, it's only natural that the city has large museum celebrating the automobile. Located on Wilshire Boulevard in LA's historic Miracle Mile district you'll find the Petersen Automotive Museum – a large facility which has occupied a former department store building since 1994.

Surprisingly, I'd never actually been to the Petersen, so on Saturday afternoon I grabbed my camera and set out to have a look.

While a lot of so-called "auto museums" are nothing more than a collection of cars, the Petersen is an actual museum.  It follows the history of the automobile, and more specifically the relationship of the car with the development of Southern California. The exhibits start off with displays on turn of the century car builders like Carl Breer.

…and then move on through the early days of motoring in California. The cars may have been new technology, but driving was still very much an adventure during this period.

The early days of motor racing are also presented through cars like this 1915 Stutz racer. It's hard to imagine that densely populated areas like Culver City and Beverly Hills were once home to racing circuits – many of them with wooden racing surfaces.

Next up is the streetcar era, complete with a display of a Model T being sandwiched between two streetcars of the LA Railway. Scenes like this were common in early cinema, and it was through these films that the world got a taste of LA's car culture.

There's even a display showing an early officer of the California Highway Patrol…

With the rise of the automobile came the rise of the roadside gas station. The museum features a replica of a Richfield station.

Of course all the displays are filled with matching automobiles from the same time period.

I really liked this display of a 1939 GM dealership, based on Germond Motor Co. of Hollywood.

Who would have thought the history of the strip-mall and the supermarket could be so interesting?

Here's where things really start to get exciting. The birth of the hot rod movement in Southern California, including a replica of an early speed shop….

…fully stocked with period performance parts.

The entire thing is very well done, and I'd have to say it was my favorite display in the whole museum.

Seeing as the founder of the museum is none other than Hot Rod Magazine pioneer Robert E. Petersen, it's no surprise that rodding gets its fair share of time in the spotlight.

The shop display also includes a '32 Ford work in progress.

Check this old photo of racers gathering for some action in the bed of the LA River. I thought this sort of thing only happened in movies?

Eventually, the exhibits progress into the late '50s – early '60s era.

As always, there are great photos from the vast Petersen archive.

The Drive-In display is rotated with actual custom cars like this pair of Oldsmobiles. These aren't original cars from the period, but modern, traditional-themed builds.

As you can see, the entire museum is very well done, and this isn't even half of it.

I'll be back tomorrow with more from my visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum.

-Mike Garrett



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Ive been going to the Peterson since I was 5 and for anyone who is a true automotive enthusiest its a must see. Almost 6 years ago they had an exibit on the modern (2003) turning scene complete with an R34 and civic drag cars. Can't wait to see the rest Mike.


Man, I haven't been there in a long time, too long actually. Easily the greatest automotive museum I've been in (granted I haven't traveled to Japan or Europe yet), I remember my folks bringing me there when I was younger every year. Despite my bias for Japanese & European cars, this place always tickled my fancy. (where's the smoking bulldog pic? It should have been before the landspeed hot rods of the 50s right?)


^^^HAHA ya the bulldog with the pipe is a classic.


please, wallpaper the last shot of that cadd.


Is that a volvo at the riverbed? close to camera.


great stuff Mike!


OMG! I can wait to see more! I really have to go here some day!!!!!!!!!!


I took my daughter to this museum and she loved it. They had the exhibit on movie cars and low riders. Great place to take the kids!


I went there with my boyfriend and had a blast! I wouldn't mind doing pin up girl style modeling there..I'd love it!! It would be nice to change the environment from car shows and studios to old gorgeous classic cars!


I visited Peterson in October last year befor SEMA great museum, hopefully i'm going back to LA this year also cuz I missed out on cars&coffie + alot of other local shows.


What an amazing museum. My number one reason to visit LA.


Another museum for my bucket list! @Matsnorway, no not a Volvo, a '48 Ford, which Volvo's PV544 was heavily styled after.

@Mike Garrett, I don't think those racers were "gathering for some action" in the LA river. Judging by the presense of several police cars and CHP motorcycles, it looks like they're being busted!