A four-story ode to the auto, the Petersen Automotive Museum is a treat even for those who can’t tell a piston from a carburetor. A headlights-to-brake-lights futuristic makeover (by Kohn Pederson Fox) in late 2015 left it fairly gleaming from the outside; the exterior is undulating bands of stainless steel on a hot-rod-red background. The once-dowdy inside is now equally gripping, with floors themed for the history, industry and artistry of motorized transportation.
Start by on the history floor (3rd floor) brimming with a regularly changing selection of classic and concept cars. In the Cars of Film and Television gallery you might see the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the convertible from Thelma & Louise and a Batmobile. The 2nd (industry) floor shows how it's done, including in a kids' section inspired by the movie Cars; there's a custom-built Lightning McQueen. The ground floor focuses on the art of the automobile, mostly in special exhibits.
What's the 4th floor? The basement vault of 100-plus rare and special cars, which can be visited by tour ($20 surcharge, age 10 and over only). On our visit, we saw a Model T Ford, Pope John Paul II's Popemobile, limos for US presidents and Saddam Hussein, and Fred Astaire's Rolls-Royce, complete with Louis Vuitton luggage.
The museum's design won the prestigious American Architecture Award for significant new buildings.
Parking is $12.