Founded on June 11, 1994 by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen and his wife. Petersen Automotive Museum is owned and operated by the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation.
The museum was originally located within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and later moved to a historic department store designed by Welton Becket. Opened in 1962, the building first served as a short-lived U.S. branch of Seibu Department Stores, before operating as an Ohrbach’s department store from 1965 to 1986. Six years after Ohrbach’s closed, Robert Petersen selected the largely windowless site as an ideal space for a museum—allowing artifacts to be displayed without harmful exposure to direct sunlight. In 2015, the museum underwent an extensive renovation.
The museum has over 100 vehicles on display in its 25 galleries. The remaining half is kept in a vault on the building’s basement level.