If you've been in the vicinity of Wilshire and Fairfax in the past several months, there's little chance the new look of the Petersen Automotive Museum has escaped your attention. Covered in stainless steel ribbons meant to represent speed and movement — and, ostensibly, zebras — the museum's new façade makes clear that this isn't the place you remember from school field trips. An ostentatious $125 million makeover has turned the museum into something that's more than just a place where fans of car porn can go to rev their engines. On the first floor, the “Artistry” floor, ambient music pours out of the speakers and the walls are covered with fractal art, blissful art deco beauties. On the second floor is the comprehensive “Industry” section, where you see how a Maserati goes from concept to road. And on the third floor is the popular “History” section, where Los Angeles' love affair with the automobile is put on display. There's also an exhibit for kids inspired by the Cars movies, a high-end competitive driving experience, a slew of vehicles from movies and TV shows, plus the Vault, an add-on attraction of even more shiny things to ogle. Look out, too, for the motorbikes, hood ornaments, old maps and other ephemera of car culture. The mix of interactive education and showstopping hunks of metal here is as hot as the hot rods in the collection. Frankly, it's worth the drive even if you just want to check out the exterior.
Credit: Brian Feinzimer