To explore and present the history of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture using Los Angeles as a prime example.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM
Founded on June 11, 1994 by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen, and his wife Margie, the Petersen Automotive Museum is owned and operated by the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. Previously located within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the museum is permanently housed in a historic department store originally designed by Welton Becket. The building opened in 1962 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, where artifacts could be displayed without harmful exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of direct sunlight.
In 2015, the museum underwent an extensive $90 million renovation. The building’s façade was redesigned by the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, while designers at The Scenic Route configured interior spaces to accommodate changing exhibits that are intended to encourage repeated visits. The exterior 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. The remodeled museum opened to the public on December 7, 2015.
If there is one thing that we all have in common, especially in Southern California, it’s the automobile. To some the automobile is an appliance, but to us it is a passion. The Petersen Automotive Museum has been celebrating this passion since 1994 on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, the third most travelled intersection in the city of Los Angeles. It anchors one end of the famed “Miracle Mile” created by real estate developer A.W. Ross in 1936. Created in a time before shopping malls, the Miracle Mile centralized shopping in the area and was “The” place to go for high end shopping. Wilshire was also home to various “firsts” including dedicated left-turn lanes and the first timed traffic lights in the United States. Ross also required merchants to provide automobile parking lots behind their stores, all to aid traffic flow.
The Museum’s unforgettable architecture by world renowned architect, Welton Becket was cutting edge when the building was opened in 1962 as Seibu, a Japanese department store. When Seibu left the United States in 1965, Ohrbach’s moved into the building and it became a popular local shopping spot until its closing in 1986. The building stood vacant for approximately 6 years until inspiration struck the late Robert E. Petersen, who was looking for a consolidated headquarters for Petersen Publishing. Upon further investigation, he decided that the near-windowless structure would not be the best choice for an office building, but it would make an excellent museum. To preserve the Museum’s artifacts inside, they need to keep away from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
Seeing the building’s true potential as an automotive-inspired educational institution, Mr. and Mrs. Petersen put forth a large portion of the money necessary to create the Petersen Automotive Museum. The Museum was to be much more than a large room filled with cars parked in rows like an indoor parking lot. From the beginning, the vehicles chosen for exhibition had to be displayed in context to give them real meaning and a better experience for all who would come to visit. The “Streetscape” was full of architectural elements that were period correct for the vehicles that surrounded them, immersing visitors deep into the stories that were told. The second floor featured rotating exhibit areas and the third floor featured the Discovery Center which taught art and science through the automobile to children of all ages.
The Museum was developed in a mere three years and opened on June 11th, 1994.
KOHN PEDERSON FOX
Because the Petersen Automotive Museum is the western gateway to Museum Row in Los Angeles, its second-generation iteration needed to be a beacon. The Petersen is the first project in a revitalization movement that includes the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum directly across the street, a major overhaul of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) a block to the east, and a new subway station next door.
Architect Gene Kohn saw the project as a signature opportunity for his firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). Having designed high-profile buildings throughout the world, the KPF thumbprint was on most major urban areas with one notable exception: Los Angeles. Following a tour of the old museum, Gene Kohn began sending sketches to Petersen Vice Chairman David Sydorick. KPF eventually compiled these in a stunning 78-page book with a hand-engraved cover. Instead of providing budget breakdowns and engineering data, the KPF presentation offered ideas about how an existing building could communicate speed and motion. Then KPF took a leap of faith: The architectural firm created a 3-D model of the daring design. A 120-page “proposal” book of sketches and renderings soon followed. The KPF model and book inspired community leader Peter Mullin to return to the Petersen in January 2013 as Chairman of the Board to steer the museum’s re-birth.
A 21ST CENTURY TRANSFORMATION
After the project was approved, The Petersen’s board took a field trip to view mock-ups of the metal-ribbon façade at the A. Zahner Company in Kansas City. “As we watched the sun go around, the ribbons glowed,” said museum Vice Chairman David Sydorick. “It really was spectacular.” Only minor refinements were made to KPF lead architect Trent Tesch’s original design. On the eastern side of the building, the ribbons were flattened to stay within the property line. City requirements mandated elevating some of the ribbons on the Fairfax side. Also necessary for compliance, lower ribbons on the Wilshire side were “bubbled” around the main entrance. MATT Construction was the obvious choice for realizing KPF’s vision with Zahner’s architectural steel. The builder specializes in museums. Its portfolio includes LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion, the California Science Center’s Space Shuttle display, the Armand Hammer Museum, The Broad Museum, the Skirball Cultural Center, and the Pacific Asia Museum.
PETER W. MULLIN
PETER MULLIN’S REPUTATION as someone who makes things happen is well established. He sits on the boards of several organizations and foundations, including Art Center College of Design, the Guggenheim Foundation, Occidental College, Saint John’s Hospital, and the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees. Peter is also Chairman of the Music Center Foundation, a current member of the Board of Visitors of the John E. Anderson School of Management at UCLA, Chairman of the Mullin Automotive Museum Foundation, and President of the American Bugatti Club. Like many Petersen directors, he has an extensive background with museums. A deep and abiding love of automobiles makes Peter Mullin the ideal Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Petersen Automotive Museum. In this position he is able to use his civic relationships and experience to help steer the Petersen toward a future as one of the world’s great automotive museums.
Peter and Merle Mullin are generally considered the foremost collectors of prewar Art Deco French cars: Bugattis, Delahayes, Delages, Talbot-Lagos, Voisins, Hispano-Suizas, Peugeots, and Citroëns, among others. “For me, the French automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s represent the pinnacle of 20th-century art and design,” he says. The Mullin Collection
also has a number of brass-era Art Nouveau French cars. The collection’s “Mona Lisa” is a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, Jean Bugatti’s masterpiece. Other stunning cars that are often on display at the Mullin Automotive Museum when they aren’t at the Petersen include the “tear drop” 1937 Talbot-Lago Type 150-C-S (“Goutte d’Eau”) and “The Million Franc” 1937 Delahaye Type 145 V12 Grand Prix, driven by René Dreyfus and still arguably France’s most storied racecar. One of the Mullins’ most colorful cars is the “Lady of the Lake,” a 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type 22 Roadster. Formerly owned by the great racer/restauranteur René Dreyfus, the car was “disposed of” in 1937 by Swiss customs agents for non-payment of duties tax. Intending to retrieve the car later, the agents lowered the Bugatti into Lake Maggiore, attached to chains. However, when the chains subsequently broke, the Bugatti sank to a depth of 173 feet. Divers could not exhume the car until 2009, and Peter Mullin bought it at auction in 2010. The preserved car remains in as-recovered condition. He also has an impressive collection of automotive hood mascots made by French glass master René Lalique.
Peter Mullin is committed to functional aesthetics: how aerodynamics shape a raindrop, how surface tension forms a teardrop. A manifestation of this is his major donation to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, the institution’s largest individual gift ever. Automobile magazine named Peter Mullin its 2015 Man of the Year based in part on this gift. Professionally, he is co-founder and Chairman of the Board of M Financial Holdings Incorporated (M Financial), a national reinsurance company and network of independent firms that serve the financial and life insurance needs of Fortune 500 corporations, executives, and affluent individuals. He is also Chairman of Mullin | Barens | Sanford Financial, an independent executive benefits and solutions provider and a member of M Financial Group. Peter has consulted on executive compensation and benefits issues for more than 40 years for public and privately held firms across a variety of industries. Sustainability and environmental stewardship is another area where Peter leads. His buildings are solar-powered and feed excess energy into the grid. Peter is also pioneering biological waste-water treatment technologies and hydroponic gardening. Never content with business as usual, Peter Mullin is the ideal person to lead the Petersen’s transition from a static museum to a futuristic automotive entertainment experience.
David Sydorick has built a reputation as one of the world’s greatest enthusiasts for the works of Carrozzeria Zagato. His knowledge and love for the Milanese coachbuilder is well-documented. What is less well-documented is his longtime commitment to the Petersen Automotive Museum. David Sydorick is the only board member to serve continuously from the museum’s opening in 1994 to the present. During his time on the board, David has served in several positions, including Secretary and Vice Chairman. He was also one of the first ten members of the Checkered Flag 200 group, headed by fellow board member Bruce Meyer. These original Checkered Flag members were instrumental in launching the museum in 1994. One of David’s greatest contributions to the Petersen Automotive Museum has been his zeal for the grand redesign of the building at 6060 Wilshire Blvd. He reached out to several architects, from downtown Los Angeles to Europe, for proposals. Ideas ranged from razing the building to making it a multi-purpose museum/high-rise residential complex. Car-enthusiast architect A. Eugene “Gene” Kohn, Chairman of New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox, was a longtime acquaintance of David. During one of Gene’s visits to Los Angeles, David proposed the idea of doing a wrap on the original Welton Becket-designed structure. This would bring the museum into the 21st century more cost-effectively than knocking the building down and starting over from scratch. David suggested using colors and materials that would speak to automotive enthusiasts. This idea is now evident in the museum’s use of “hot rod” red and brushed steel, assembled with rivet-like fasteners. The overall effect evokes both the feel of early 20th century rivet-bodied coachbuilt cars and stripped-down hot rods and racecars from the 1950s or 1960s. David’s vision has been instrumental in the success of the Petersen’s new aesthetic, but he also has labored tirelessly to attract some of the most capable, influential, and enthusiastic figures in Los Angeles to the Petersen’s Board of Directors. Perhaps most notably, Bruce Meyer and David convinced renowned car-collector, museum visionary, and philanthropist Peter W. Mullin to return to the Petersen after a long hiatus to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
To say that David has been absolutely crucial to the continued success of the Petersen Automotive Museum would be a gross understatement. His generosity, love of automobiles, drive, and determination have been critical to the organization since its inception. A retired Wall Street investment banker, David and his wife, Ginny, have participated in automotive events around the world. Highlights include a 1998 drive across China with Louis Vuitton and competing in seven Mille Miglias (including one with Phil Hill). The Petersen Automotive Museum’s collection has benefitted from David’s philanthropy. He has donated many significant cars to the museum over the years, including Boyd Coddington’s famous Aluma Coupe.
BRUCE MEYER HAS BEEN CALLED “THE CAR GUY’S CAR GUY.” Given his dedication to the hobby and his desire to share and promote it tirelessly, this appellation seems perfectly accurate. The Petersen is fortunate to have such an enthusiastic supporter, one who has honorably served as the “face” of museum for much of its existence. Bruce Meyer is known throughout automotive circles for having one of the most discriminating vehicle collections anywhere. He tends to cherry-pick the very best example of each car he likes; many have storied owners and race-winning provenances. Although his cars are museum-quality, Bruce has driven them all and frequently takes them on rallies, tracks, and to car shows. Bruce’s automotive enthusiasm is infectious and a pillar of the Petersen Automotive Museum. A noted civic leader in Los Angeles, Bruce has been involved with many nonprofits, including the California Highway Patrol 11-99 Foundation and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which has a small collection of vehicles among its various other historical artifacts. As a car guy, Bruce saw the value of having a dedicated automotive museum in Los Angeles, the spiritual home of American car culture.
Bruce was also close friends with the Petersens. He knew that Robert E. Petersen had the perfect combination of attributes to help Los Angeles County launch a stand-alone automotive museum: prior experience at his Motorama Museum, Los Angeles real estate, a burgeoning car collection, and a flourishing legacy. Conceived as a partnership between the Petersens and Los Angeles County, the Petersen Automotive Museum opened in 1994 with Bruce Meyer as its Founding Chairman. Bruce also launched the Checkered Flag 200, the museum’s premium membership level, and continues to serve as its Chairman. A Beverly Hills-based real estate investor and president of Meyer Pacific, he has been the recipient of multiple prestigious awards. These include the Meguiar’s Award for the Car Hobby’s Person of the Year, the Automotive Icon Award from the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Lee Iacocca Award, and the City of Hope Car Collector of the Year.
He also serves on the board of the Nethercutt Collection, the Mullin Automotive Museum, and the LeMay Museum. Bruce’s cachet among the automotive cognoscenti comes from his boundless enthusiasm for the automobile not only as art, something to be appreciated statically, but his willingness to drive some of the world’s best cars on the street. Bruce has cultivated this undeniable charm over the years as his collection has grown. One of the more spectacular examples involved Bruce driving his Le Mans-winning Porsche Kremer 935 across town to a car event. This roaring monster makes no pretense of being a street car. And nobody consistently makes a grander entrance than Bruce Meyer. Bruce’s focus sets him apart from other collectors. Not content to own “one of,” he searches for “the” car. For example, Bruce doesn’t just have an original Shelby Cobra, he has the first production one ever built. Porsche made dozens of 935s, but Bruce owns the only one to ever win Le Mans outright. This approach has allowed Bruce to build arguably one of the finest private collections in the world, one that he generously shares with car lovers: The Petersen has had a Bruce Meyer Gallery since its inception. Cars from Bruce’s personal collection and incredible ones on loan from others consistently make the Meyer Gallery one of the museum’s top attractions.
Richard Varner, a native of Wichita, Kansas, graduated from the University of Nebraska. He received his MBA from the University of Kansas in 1978. Richard’s early career included positions in crude oil logistics, trading, and refining in U.S. and Europe with the Coastal Corporation, Questor Petroleum, and Mitsui & Co. USA. In 1991 he formed Newport Petroleum, building a fleet of ocean-going petroleum barges and tugs. Since the sale of Newport Petroleum in 2003, Richard has actively been involved in the acquisition of LDC and pipeline assets in the natural gas industry through Navitas Utilities and Warrior Petroleum. His passion for collecting and restoring automobiles and motorcycles turned an avocation into a business building complete motorcycles and producing performance parts, and now extends to an ownership in the professional motorcycle road-racing series MotoAmerica. Richard also serves on the board of the CHP 11-99 Foundation.
He is a Trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation and serves on the advisory board of the University of Nebraska School of Business. Richard is a member and former Chairman of the Southern California Chapter of the World Presidents Organization and Young Presidents Organization. He has three children and two grandchildren. Other activities include involvement in the family cattle and horse ranch in Kansas and as a member of the Varner family office.
Charlie Nearburg founded his oil and gas exploration company in 1979. Now a leading independent producer in the Permian Basin with offices in Dallas and Midland, Texas, and Artesia, New Mexico, Nearburg Producing Company has received two environmental awards from the Bureau of Land Management. Charlie has also preserved and restored significant trout fishery habitats in New Mexico and Colorado. He devotes substantial time and resources in support of Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer research, and was instrumental in founding the Rett Nearburg International Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Symposia, of which five have now been held.
Charlie’s beloved son, Rett, age 21, lost an 11-year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma on January 14, 2005 (www.rett.org). A lifelong car racer, his career includes driving a 333SP Ferrari at LeMans, and finishing 4th and 10th overall at the Sebring 12-Hours. Charlie also drove the late Walter Payton’s Indy car in the 1997 CART/FedEx Championship. In recent years, he has focused on setting records at the Bonneville Salt Flats with the “Spirit of Rett” streamliner. In September 2010, Charlie set a 414-MPH FIA record, breaking the 45-year-old record of the Summers Brothers’ “Goldenrod,” and making the “Spirit of Rett” the fastest normally aspirated car in history, as well as the 3rd fastest internal combustion engine car in history. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Charlie received AB, BE, and ME degrees at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, where he has been an Overseer for 24 years. He is also a Trustee of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Foundation, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Art Center College of Design, and he is a Life Trustee of the St. Mark’s School of Texas.
Board-certified in oncology and internal medicine, Dr. Lawrence D. Piro is recognized worldwide for his advances in new cancer medicines, most notably Rituxan. Known as the “Doctor Without a Lab Coat,” Dr. Piro is a frequent guest on television shows. He has served as head of the Division of Hematology and Oncology, the director of the Ida M. and Cecil H. Green Cancer Center and Executive Vice President at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. Dr. Piro is also Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California and serves on the USC Board of Counselors.
WILLIAM H. AHMANSON
William Ahmanson has a background in the financial sector. He currently serves as the President of The Ahmanson Foundation, which serves Los Angeles County by funding projects in the arts and humanities, education at all levels, healthcare, programs related to homelessness and underserved populations, as well as a wide range of human services. Ahmanson is also a Trustee and Chairman of the Board at the Center Theatre Group, Trustee and Audit Committee Chair at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and serves on a number of university and civic boards. Bill’s automotive focus is primarily on “Full ClassicCars” of the 1930s and 1940s. He has been seen in other cars, including Ford Model Ts and Model As, and in a few from the 1960s and 1970s.
Greg Penske is the owner and Chairman/CEO of Penske Motor Group, LLC, an automotive group based in California that includes Longo Toyota, the No. 1 automotive retail dealership in the world, as well as the Lexus, Scion, and Mercedes-Benz brands. He is the former President and CEO of the publicly traded company Penske Motorsports, which operated racetracks across the country. Greg currently serves on the board of directors for Penske Corporation, Penske Automotive Group, Los Angeles Sports Council, Friends of Golf, and is an Advisor to Nucleus Scientific Inc. He is a member of the Toyota President’s Cabinet, Toyota Board of Governors, the Lexus League of Elite Dealers, and Mercedes-Benz Best of the Best Dealers. Greg is also a former member of the board of directors of the Alltel Corporation, Ares Capital Corporation, and International Speedway Corporation. He holds a BS in Business from Cornell University and resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Patricia, two daughters, and son.
MICHAEL ARMAND HAMMER
Michael Hammer is a businessman, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is Chairman and CEO of The Armand Hammer Foundation and the Hammer International Foundation. Michael is Chairman and President of 8-31 Holdings, Inc., and owner of Hammer Galleries in New York City. He serves as a member of The Board at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He is a member of the Investment Committee for Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and also serves as a member of the Board of Reference for ORU. Michael also is a member of The Board of Directors of the Dream Center in Los Angeles and the Board of STOP CANCER. He is a founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Michael is a former Director of The Armand Hammer United World College of the American West in Montezuma, Mexico. The university, a principle charity of England’s Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, provides cost free
scholarships for students from around the world, training them to be heads of state, ambassadors, and workers for peace in their respective countries. He is a founder of Grace Christian Academy, a non-denominational Christian Elementary School in the Cayman Islands, and he is a Founder and Director of Christian Communications Association, a not-for-profit, non-denominational Christian radio station, also located in the Cayman Islands.
Richard Roeder is a Managing Partner of investment firm Vance Street Capital, LLC. A Porsche collector and active participant in concours events, Richard brings a wealth of board experience to the Petersen Automotive Museum. He is past President of the board of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and currently serves on the board of The Music Center of Los Angeles County, Cambridge in America and the Berkeley Center on Law, Business and Economy. Richard is also a co-chairman of the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute.
1. Are you open on holidays?
Yes, the only holiday the Petersen Automotive Museum is closed is on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th. The Museum will close early at 4PM on New Years Day.
2. When is the Museum open to the public?
The Petersen Automotive Museum is now officially open to the public.
3. Where is the Museum located?
6060 Wilshire Blvd. at Fairfax in Los Angeles, California 90036. The entrance to the parking lot is located on Fairfax, south of Wilshire Blvd.
4. What is the cost of parking in the Museum parking structure?
Free for the first 30 minutes $12 flat rate after first 30 minutes. One hour validation with purchase of $100 or more in the Museum Store in the museum lobby.
5. Is there a place to eat at the Museum?
The Petersen Automotive Museum will have a featured restaurant in spring of 2016.
6. Is there a retail shop in the Museum?
Yes, it is located on the 1st floor as you enter the Museum. If you cannot visit the museum you can visit our E-store.
7. Are there any cars in which you can sit?
The 3rd floor contains one vehicle in which visitors can sit: a Ford Model T.
8. Is the Museum wheelchair accessible?
Yes, there is a ramp to enter the museum and elevators inside the Museum for your comfort and convenience.
9. Are wheelchairs available?
Yes, we have wheelchairs at the Museum. All you need to do is leave your ID with us and you may use the wheelchair for the duration of your visit.
10. Are there baby changing stations?
Yes, there are baby changing stations in the restrooms located on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors.
11. Is photography permitted in the Museum?
Yes, video and still photography is permitted in the Museum, but monopods and tripods are not allowed for the safety of our other patrons. Cameras are not allowed during the vault tours.
12. Why isn’t my favorite car on display?
There are many automotive stories to tell, and we change exhibits and vehicles on display regularly. Search for a vehicle in our collection (if you don’t find the vehicle you are looking for, check back soon, as this is a growing project). Each vehicle in our database will say if it is currently on display.
13. How often do exhibits change?
Major exhibits change approximately every three to twelve months, but individual vehicles and smaller exhibits change frequently.
14. Are your vehicles for sale?
15. Do you own all of the cars on display?
Some vehicles are here on temporary loan. Vehicles on display in the museum list this info on their label text.
16. Can I hold an event at the Petersen?
Call our Special Events Department at (323) 964-6355 or click here to get more info on holding your private event.
17. How do I donate a vehicle, money, or automotive ephemera?
We appreciate all donations. Go to our donation page for details.
18. Can I store my vehicle at the museum?
Vehicle storage is available for a fee. Call (323) 964-6326 for more info.
19. Can I volunteer at the museum?
Click here to find out how to become a volunteer or call (323) 964-6426.
20. Are you affiliated or owned by Petersen Publishing?
21. Do Mr. and Mrs. Petersen own the museum and all of the cars?
No, however a number of vehicles in our collection were donated by the Petersen family.
22. Who is Robert E. Petersen?
Robert E. (Pete) Petersen was the Founder of Petersen Publishing, starting with Hot Rod Magazine in January of 1948. His publishing empire quickly grew to include Rod & Custom and Motor Trend, along with numerous non-automotive publications like Teen, Guns and Ammo, Modern Bride and others. He and his wife, Margie were very active philanthropists and supported their namesake museum as well as many health and education related charities.
General Information & Inquiries (323)964-6300
Media Requests (818)881-5246
Education and Public Programs (323)964-6300
Departments & Offices Contact Information:
- Administration 323.964.6356
- Admissions 323.964.6300
- Curatorial 323.964.6396
- Discovery Center 323.964.6358
- Education 323.964.6317
- Exhibits 323.964.6350
- Finance 323.964.6364
- Group Tours 323.964.6320
- Marketing 323.964.6359
- Membership 323.964.6366
- Museum Store 323.964.6324
- Private Events 323.964.6355
- School Tours 323.964.6317
- Security 323.964.6315
- Volunteer Opportunities 323.964.6426