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A Look Inside the All-New Petersen Automotive Museum

A mecca for car fans.

The life of Robert E. Petersen was a classic rags-to-riches story. Born into simple surroundings and raised in the small California city of Barstow, Petersen dreamt of creating a successful car magazine. So he did. His first effort was Hot Rod. He followed that up with Motor Trend and many others, eventually building a media empire. They are now part of The Enthusiast Network, as is AUTOMOBILE.

"Pete" as we called him, also made real estate one of his pastimes. When he died in 2007 he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Along the way, Pete also endowed a car museum in Los Angeles, the Petersen Automotive Museum, which opened in 1994. It soon became a mecca for car fans, but in recent years it had become clear that it was in need of a major upgrade. So a group of deep-pocketed L.A. car enthusiasts got involved to help oversee a renovation.

After some 14 months of work, the Petersen, which is on "museum row" in L.A., is now spectacular. The exterior has been covered by an amazing display of large flowing metal strips over a red building. It's a controversial look, praised by some for it audacity, criticized by others for its flamboyance. Whatever your take on the Petersen's new look, it's now impossible to miss.

Inside, the three floors of the Petersen Automotive Museum have been completely transformed.

One area features classic French cars with flowing shapes developed by coach building legends such as Figoni et Falaschi and the hand of Jean Bugatti. Arguably the most spectacular room has nothing but cars painted silver, including the original Corvette Sting Ray, a "Twenty Grand" Duesenberg, a McLaren F1, one of the aero Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix cars, and a 3.0-liter Ferrari Testa Rossa.

The race cars of collector Charlie Nearburg are in a curved room with a video display that sweeps some 300 degrees around you. Nearburg's cars include everything from a vintage Miller race car to a Porsche 917K to a Lancia D24.

Given that it is so close to Hollywood, the new Petersen wouldn't be complete without several TV and movie cars. Naturally that had to include the Batmobile, originally designed by the late, great George Barris, another world famous Los Angeles car guy. Also on display is the Jaguar C-X75 from the latest James Bond movie "Spectre."

The new Petersen Automotive Museum has reclaimed its place as one of the great car museums in the U.S., if not the world. If you're ever headed to Los Angeles, be sure to put it on your to do list. In the meantime, you can see much more about the museum at petersen.org.