A visit to the Petersen automotive museum: What a place!

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As a bit of a card nerd, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Petersen Automotive Museum on my first trip to LA ever.

I didn’t know what can I realistically expect from the place. I’ve heard a lot of good things, sure. However, all the times I kept my hopes up too much ended in a relative disappointment.

So I decided to just go with the flow, skirting around the majestic building of the museum with its reddish curves and cool shape. Straight from the parking lot I met this fella, courtesy of another visitor of the museum:

Parked car Classic

A good retro start to what turned out to be one of the best cultural/historical experiences I’ve had. The Petersen museum rotates its exhibitions once in a while, but the one held during my stay in LA was the perfect blend of past, present, and future.

I was stoked about seeing a few specific cars. One of them was Jesse Valadez’s Gypsy Rose. The museum itself has vouched for it as being a custom vehicle of legendary proportions, one of the most influential cars ever. It’s a Chevy Impala from 1964 and trust me, seeing it live is breathtaking:

Gypsy Rose

I’ll admit that I’m neither into roses, nor into lowriders that much. However, there is something about Valadez’s work on this Impala. I spent a few minutes just marveling at that custom beauty.

The other modded vehicle I wanted to see is the classic Hirohata Mercury. As its page on the Petersen museum points out, this is the first Mercury ever customized. Buick, Lincoln and Chevrolet all blend together among the mods to achieve a majestic sight to behold.

It’s the teal one behind, because there was another black beauty in front I felt mesmerized by:

Hirohata Merc

The next custom vehicle that made an impression on me was the Strip Star by Gene Winfield. Asymmetry is what this car is all about, with the passenger side reminiscing me of those old school motorcycles you’d see on some classic movies. This whole thing is built on a modded 1946 Ford chassis:

Passenger Seat

Speaking of Ford, what museum tracing automotive history would skip through the one and only, Model T? I was pretty happy to see that Petersen kept this absolute beauty of a 1910 Ford Model T Roadster. Beauty in scarlet, if I’ve ever seen one!

Ford Model T

Other American classics weren’t forgotten either, of course. Neither was the immense role pickups played in the progress of American society and culture. This GMC might seem tame and rather small compared to what we currently have, but you can easily imagine all those loads it carried decades ago:

GMC Truck Classic

Jumping to more modern times, there was plenty to see too. First, we had a dedicated Nascar section with several especially valued cars. That 2010 Chevy Impala looked terrific. All of the Nascar beasts were, honestly:

Nascar Models

It was also cool to see the sponsor logos of companies I’ve reviewed on this site – like the carburetor legend Edelbrock, or the always versatile Moog.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of vehicles based on pop culture, mainly movies. Some of them were replicas, true, but you could find so many original cars too.

For example, there was a special corner dedicated to Mad Max: Fury Road. Post-apocalyptic, adrenaline-pumping desert chases came to life in the secluded corner of the Petersen museum:

MadMax Model Petersen Museum

It wasn’t only about cars, motorcycles were brought to life too. I might not like Tron that much as a movie, but the futurism of its design is a beauty to behold. There’s something almost erotic about the symbiosis between human<->motorcycle here:

Tron Petersen Museum

Speaking of the future, there was a pretty big section dedicated to electric vehicles too. Aside from your general suspect – Tesla, visitors could also see some interesting Volkswagen examples too. Less of a luxury, true, but fascinating nevertheless:

Electric Vehicle Prototype

Half of the floor was actually inspired by current EV trends. There’s been serious progress in all aspects of how we interact with vehicles. From that sedan above, to race cars, offroad monsters or SUVs.

There was also this little guy – who might seem ridiculous, but I can get behind the idea of a mini solo car:

Solo Car

Is this how the future will look like?

I have no idea. All I know is I enjoyed all the prototypes, all the concept art of EV or normal cars I saw on the first floor. That’s the beauty of the auto industry, and that’s why cars will also be nothing less than pieces of art.

Trends come and go, but history is there to remind us of all the genius minds and artists who helped shape the industry throughout all of its shapes.

Like the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero I could see too. The epitome of the “Wedge Era” from the late 60s that gave birth to all those sharp lines and retro-futuristic vibes a lot of people today cherish:

Lancia Stratos HF Zero

Here’s the HF Zero in real motion. Yeah, it does look uncomfortable to be in – there’s a reason why it’s a concept car. However, it’s nothing less than pure art to me.


I could easily write thrice as much about my 4-hour visit to the Petersen museum. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, though. All I want to say is – if you ever swing by LA, don’t miss out on this place.

It’s 100%, unfiltered joy for any car nerd. In fact, even if you’re not that geeky about cars, you’ll still enjoy it. No doubt about that.

You can check for current exhibitions or general information on the Petersen Museum official site.