Erika Ehmsen

Formerly housed behind a dull facade that Angelenos would roll by without noticing, the Petersen now commands car-design fans to hit the brakes. (Petersen Automotive Museum)

With stainless steel undulations wrapping around a bold red building, the newly redesigned Petersen Automotive Museum has a Hot Wheels flair that dares drivers to keep their eyes on the road. And when it reopens on December 7—with a pricey preview the day before—after a 13-month overhaul, the Petersen will pole-position itself as the new jewel of L.A.'s Museum Row, stealing the spotlight from fellow Wilshire Boulevard heavyweight LACMA.

Originally opened in 1994, the Petersen's massive collection of cars includes a wood-paneled 1931 Ford Model A station wagon, a 1933 Deusenberg coupe, a Deco-futuristic 1939 Bugatti, the 1946 Ford "Grease Lightning" hot-rod convertible from Grease, a 1961 "Herbie" VW Beetle, and Magnum, P.I.'s 1982 Ferrari.

In total, twenty-five galleries are spread throughout the museum's nearly 95,000 square feet. The Automobiles in the Movies opening exhibit shows off three James Bond cars from Spectre—even the classic 007 Aston Martin—but only through December 15.

Beyond the candy store of sleek speedsters that can be drooled over but not touched, the museum's Discovery Center offers interactive technology and physics lessons led by Lightning McQueen and other characters from the Disney/Pixar Cars franchise.

$15, $7/child; 10–6 daily; petersen.org.

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