Automotive museums are repositories of history and caretakers of dream cars. They’re places every hot rodder and gearhead should visit occasionally to remind themselves of how far the hobby has come in such a short time, and how all the different genres of the hobby are really just bits of fabric in the same cloth. Plus, they’re just plain fun to wander through.
Beyond that, they’re the perfect way to introduce the next generation to the hobby and teach them why cars are an important part of our culture—even beyond the enclave of car culture itself. Find one near you and make plans to visit soon!
The Petersen Automotive Museum
Affectionately known as the “The Pete” after founder Pete Petersen, who practically birthed the whole automotive enthusiast magazine concept, the Petersen houses the incredible collection he and his wife, Margie, put together over the years. All four floors offer hours of entertainment, but it’s the second floor that is infamous for its five rotating galleries with race cars, classics, vintage motorcycles, concept cars, celebrity and movie cars, and auto design and technology.
The Pete is constantly changing its exhibitions by either dipping into its own extensive collection or through loans from private individuals. Recent favorites of ours are NHRA: 60 Years of Thunder, Cars and Guitars, Muscle Cars: Power to the People, Tribute to Trans-Am Racing, and Steve McQueen: The Legend and The Cars. Currently, it’s Supercars and Scooters. Tell us that doesn’t sound fun to check out. Take the kids to the hands-on May Family Discovery Center on the third floor; it’s designed to spark interest in science by teaching basic scientific principles through the fundamental functions of a car.
The Petersen Automotive Museum
Antique Automobile Club of America Museum
The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) is all about preserving history and educating the public on the history of the American automobile. The concept of an automotive museum actually evolved as a complement to the AACA’s Research Center and Library. They’re really doing outreach PR for all car guys; most of the exhibitions are supported by educational programs for school and community and the AACA sponsors workshops and activities designed to raise public awareness. It hasn’t gone unnoticed either; the AACA Museum was recognized by the Smithsonian as an Affiliate Museum, which is an extremely rare honor.
The AACA is unique because virtually all the cars on display have been loaned or donated by AACA members. You’ll take a trip back through time since most are arranged in settings appropriate to their eras so visitors can see how cars shaped life and vice versa. If you find a particular favorite car, you can even participate in the AACA’s Adopt-a-Car Program that lets enthusiasts help the museum care for individual cars. A list of adoptable cars is on the museum’s website.
Antique Automobile Club of America museum
This is mecca for lovers of America’s sports car. The 115,000-square-foot National Corvette Museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Corvettes ever assembled and includes a library and archive for those wanting to brush up on their Vette history. The enormous Skydome also houses the Corvette Hall of Fame, where the rarest of the rare are on hand. The museum puts on a ton of events throughout the year, and is even working on creating its own motorsports park: a reconfigurable 2.94-mile road course.
For one thing, they have the only ’83 Corvette in existence. The museum has an ever evolving collection that often includes cars from private individuals and rarely seen concepts and race cars. Don’t forget to check out the “nursery” where brand-new Corvettes await their new owners who chose the museum delivery option.