The Petersen Museum: A More Perfect Automotive Education

Let’s say you met a time traveler. Someone who had been instantly transported from a time long ago to 2016. This person would have zero concept of modern technology, and transportation, and would inevitably be very curious about, well, everything.

Being a car enthusiast, you’d get right to the point and begin by offering the time traveler an automotive education. How would you do this? You’d take your new friend directly to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

The kind ticket salesman will suggest you begin on the top floor of three and work your way down. With vast variation from the first horseless buggies to the “retro” new generation Ford Thunderbird, a lot can be learned here. Wend your way through a star-studded row of movie cars including Walter White’s Pontiac Aztek, and soak in a Ghia-bodied Plymouth. Down the staircase you find slightly more modern metal. A chopped Jaguar F-Type shows off its aluminum underpinnings in a life-size cross section. Turn a corner and say hello to the clay sculpted face of a new Ford GT concept. Hello.

Another bend to the right puts you and your time traveler head to head with a somewhat pedestrian-looking hydrogen-powered Honda FCX. The background is filled with glistening chrome hot rods — all lifted, so as to appreciate the equally shining chrome underbody of these greaser deights. Pass through a doorway into a white room filled with silver cars, and even the time traveler’s jaw drops to the floor. Wipe up the drool, both from the present and past, and soak in the swooping raked metal body of the 1959 Chevy Corvette XP-87 Stingray. Follow the bulbous blisters of the aero-optimized 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 R Streamliner to its rounded edges — beauty in metal and rubber, in any era.

Descend the final staircase into a darkened cavern rife with Delahayes, Delages, and Bugattis that would be at home in an F. Scott Fitzgerald book. Placards reading “1/1” — the first produced, and only one of its kind ever produced — are common in this room of coachbuilt masterpieces. In the final exhibit, a selection of BMW Art Cars caps the tour handily. The 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL painted by Alexander Calder, steals almost as much of your attention as the previous two floors combined.

Education complete, time to hit the gift shop to furnish the home and office with little die-cast models of all the beautiful wheeled works of art we’ll dream about driving for years to come. And you can only imagine how your time traveling pal will describe to family and friends that Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse to his friends and family.

More photos HERE


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