In a city with more freeways than most cities have boulevards, this museum—founded by the publisher of “Hot Rod” and “Motor Trend” magazines—is an important stop for a visitor who wants to truly “get” L.A., where a car is less a vehicle than a definition of one’s identity. Steve McQueen’s 1967 Ferrari made a guest appearance here on its way to auction in 2014, briefly sharing digs with his Jaguar in the permanent oollection; could you honestly picture the “Bullitt” star in something like a Chevy? In chronicling how L.A. and the automobile grew up together, the Petersen displays only about half of its more than 300 vehicles at any time. Historic autos and motorcycles on the first-floor “Streetscape” are surrounded by period architecture, while the second floor’s rotating galleries display race cars, concept cars, celebrity cars and auto design and technology; among the themes in 2014 were 50 years of Mustangs, the world’s greatest sports coupes, and early 20th-century town cars. Also on the second floor, a permanent exhibition on alternative power suggests the museum, like the city, is inching away from fossil-fuel addiction. The hands-on Discovery Center on the third floor teaches basic science by explaining how a car works.
- Frommer's Staff