SEMA Heritage

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The Kiss

You could say that much of Anthony “Andy” Granatelli’s life had been leading up to this day, this moment. The man known as “Mr. 500” seemed irresistibly drawn to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1946, he and his brothers Vince and Joe sponsored a car in the first Indy 500 after World War II but watched it sputter to a stop, out of fuel, before completing the race. Two years later Andy tried driving at Indy but crashed hard in practice. Grancor, the speed shop and warehouse-distribution business the brothers formed in Chicago, sponsored Indy roadsters in the ’50s, and the Granatellis brought Novi roadsters back to run the Brickyard for several years in the early and mid ’60s.
SEMA News—April 2014

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Dawn of an Era

Actually, the photo you see here represents the dawn of several eras. The picture was taken at the very first SEMA Show, which was known in 1967 as the High Performance & Custom Trade Show and was held in January of that year at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The car in the booth is a Camaro, Chevrolet’s answer to Ford’s wildly popular Mustang. After letting Ford own the personal sporty-car market for more than two years, Chevrolet finally introduced its entry into the pony-car segment just a few months prior to the trade show. For musclecar enthusiasts, the booth represents a watershed moment—the very first Chevrolet dealer, Nickey Chicago, to offer a big-block conversion for the Camaro, developed by Nickey and race car builder Bill Thomas.

SEMA News—March 2014

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

New Craze

HERITAGENot everything on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in the ’60s was, well, a hot rod. In fact, the editors seemed to be looking for “the next big thing” during a period in 1966, as several issues in a row featured vehicles not usually found in “Everybody’s Automotive Magazine.” There was a painting of customizer George Barris and some of his most famous TV cars on the cover of the June issue; a Super Modified oval-track racer all crossed up in the dirt on the July issue; and a hot-rodded ski boat on the September cover.

SEMA News—February 2014

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Putten der Growl in der Beetle

At first glance, it would seem that hot-rodding magazines in the ‘60s were all about high-horsepower, big-cubic-inch stuff—drag racing, Bonneville, Indy and the explosion of a new-car segment that we now know as musclecars. But every once in a while, the magazines would branch out into foreign territory (pun intended) and check in with what was happening on the VW tuning front. After a rocky start in the United States—probably too soon after World War II—Volkswagen sales had really taken off by the mid-’60s, with millions of the little Bugs on the road. There was a growing aftermarket for the cars by then as owners looked for ways to get more performance out of their wheezing, flat-four motors.

SEMA News—January 2014

HERITAGE

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Contemporary Cab-Over

Even if you’ve never seen the actual Deora show vehicle, chances are good that if you’re of a certain age, you built one as a plastic model kit or had a die-cast version in your Hot Wheels collection when you were young. But the Deora was a real, fullsize, running vehicle—one that captured the prestigious Ridler Award at the 1967 Detroit Autorama. The architects of the Deora—seen here during its construction—were Mike and Larry Alexander. The Detroit-based Alexander Brothers (also known as the A Brothers) started customizing cars in their father’s one-car garage in the mid-’50s.

SEMA News—December 2013

HERITAGE

Contemporary Cab-Over

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Crane’s First SEMA Show

The dapper man in the bow tie is Harvey Crane. He’s talking about his camshafts and valvetrain components to dealers in the Crane Engineering Company booth at the very first SEMA Show (though it wasn’t called that at the time).In January 1967, some 100 aftermarket companies set up booths in the concrete aisles of Dodger Stadium’s Club Level for what was then called just “the trade show.” Crane, one of SEMA’s earliest members, brought his wares from his company’s headquarters in Hallandale, Florida, and demonstrated them using a “hand-operated engine simulator,” according to a story in Petersen Publishing Company’s Hot Rod Industry News.

SEMA News—November 2013

HERITAGE

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Bonneville Giants

On October 2, 1964, Walt Arfons’ Wingfoot Express, with Tom Green at the wheel, earned a place in land-speed racing history by setting a new record of 413.20 mph, besting the previous 407.45 mark set the previous year by Craig Breedlove.Turned out Walt’s record would be short-lived. His half-brother, Art Arfons, set a 434.02-mph mark just three days later in his Green Monster. Breedlove eclipsed that mark with a 526.28-mph average before famously running his Spirit of America into a water-filled ditch, only to have Art come back and top that, running the Monster to a 536.71-mph average.

SEMA News—October 2013

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Number One Favorite

In the early ’60s, Motor Trend magazine sponsored a 500-mile Stock Car race on the twisting Southern California road course at Riverside, drawing top racing talent from a number of sanctioning bodies, including NASCAR, USAC and the SCCA. That’s why Robert E. Petersen (left), the publishing company’s founder, is handing Dan Gurney a check for winning the second annual MT 500, held in January 1964. The young lady sharing the photo op is 21-year-old TV actress Linda Evans. Motor Trend’s coverage of the race kicked off by proclaiming, “Stock Car road racing shows every promise of becoming the Number One favorite of American racing fans. Considering the importance of passenger cars in everyday American life, this is the way it should be.” Unlike racing on oval tracks, where “brute horsepower is the deciding factor,” a road course “is much more demanding, because it puts equal emphasis on all the various systems of the automobile. Also, driver skill and nerve are important factors.”

SEMA News—September 2013

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Hey Hey

Dean Jeffries, custom car painter, striper and builder, died in his sleep in early May. He was 80 years old. Jeffries was among the most talented of the men who shaped car culture in the ’50s and ’60s, though his profile was somewhat lower than that of George Barris, Ed Roth or Ken “Von Dutch” Howard. He may not have been as well known, but he was versatile and skilled enough that his handiwork could be found everywhere, from Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis to Hollywood movie and TV sets. Arguably his best-known TV cars are the two GTO convertibles he modified for “The Monkees” TV show in 1966. We dug through the Petersen vault and came up with these shots, taken in June 1966 after a grueling 10-day build of the first GTO.

SEMA News—August 2013

Hey Hey

HERITAGE
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

America’s First Driving Shoe

In its December 1965 issue, Car Craft magazine featured an extensive review of the ‘66 Pontiac GTO. But not just any GTO. This particular car was the GeeTO Tiger, a hot hard-top owned by Hurst Performance and used as a test mule for various engine, suspension and tire-and-wheel modifications. Adding to the GTO’s pedigree, it was tuned by Milt Schornack of Royal Pontiac, the Detroit-area dealer that had developed the famous “Royal Bobcat” tune-up packages for GTOs and other performance Pontiacs. The article went into great detail about the modifications performed on the Tiger, from Air Lift bags in the suspension to Schornack’s careful cylinder-head work. The author, Roger Huntington, also advised Car Craft readers to not buy a GTO “without having a careful look at the list of options. The dealer might sell you one off his back lot for a little less money. But for maybe another $100 or so, you might be able to get a combination that would suit you a lot better.” A combination, in other words, ready to hit the dragstrip.

SEMA News—July 2013

HERITAGE

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archive

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