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Petersen Automotive Museum closes, and closes in on fundraising target

Petersen Automotive Museum closes, and closes in on fundraising target
A rendering of a new design proposed for the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The design is part of a plan to remodel the museum and update its exhibits. (Petersen Automotive Museum)

The Petersen Automotive Museum brought the Beach Boys onstage and threw itself a party Saturday night to celebrate its 20th anniversary, mark its one-year closing for remodeling and announce new partnerships and recent fundraising advances.

After a dinner of filet mignon and Stags Leap wines, and before a one-hour set of Beach Boys car-themed tunes such as "Little Deuce Coupe" and "409," Petersen Chairman Peter Mullin said the museum would close Monday but would definitely reopen on time next year.

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"I know you're never supposed to make predictions," Mullin said. "But the museum will open again Dec. 1, 2015."

Mullin also announced that the museum's recent efforts to raise the $125 million to complete the Wilshire Boulevard museum's transformation -- which includes a new exterior wrap and a top-to-bottom interior remodel -- had resulted in an $80-million remodeling fund.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the exterior wrap was being constructed by a company that had a hand in building the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This was inaccurate.

Saturday night was a fundraiser too. The $750-a-plate dinner and show, plus proceeds from an auction of items including guitars signed by the Beach Boys and classic automotive art signed by some of the greatest names in auto racing history, garnered $650,000 for a fund the museum uses to bus schoolchildren to the museum for free tours. That total was double last year's take, the museum said.

The museum also gave a sneak peek into the future, announcing two new Petersen features.

The remodeled museum will feature a Forza Motorsport Experience. Using Microsoft Xbox technology, the 1,500-square-foot Forza exhibit will enable visitors to pick a car from the museum's collection, match it to one of the world's great race tracks, and have a simulated race experience.

Real-world racing is coming too.

The museum will host the first of a planned annual series of races, to be called Petersen Invitational, beginning in February. The races will be held at the new privately-owned, members-only Thermal Club track near Palm Springs.

The races will be limited to a 48-driver field of professionals and will feature competition between vintage race cars from years past.

Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming

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