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The Great California Street Rod Civil War

At the 1973 Street Rod Nationals (or so the story goes), rod builders Andy Brizio and Lil’ John Buttera got into a, shall we say, friendly discussion about which end of the Golden State produced the best street rods. Southern Californian Buttera ribbed Brizio, who was from South San Francisco, about how the Bay Area cars were “average” mechanically but were topped by outstanding paint jobs to make them seem more special. Brizio, in turn, said L.A. turned out trick show cars that couldn’t be driven very far. One thing led to another and (so the story goes) the discussion devolved into a “my new car will be better than your new car” challenge.
SEMA News—July 2014

HERITAGE

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Be Your Own Disc Jockey!

If you think texting while driving is a distraction, imagine changing 45-rpm records while barreling down the highway. “Wherever you go, listen to your favorite sounds by being your own disc jockey,” wrote Bud Lang in this Car Craft magazine how-to from 1963. “At the drags, beach, mountains or while just cruising around with the guys or your favorite chick, you can now play your own 45-rpm platters on an automatic reject record [ARC] changer that is designed for genuine driving pleasure.”

SEMA News—June 2014

SEMA HERITAGE

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

Stu Hilborn

Hilborn was among those who raced on Southern California’s dry lakes in the years prior to World War II. Ironically for a man whose name is now synonymous with fuel injection, Hilborn had little mechanical knowledge when he bought his first hot rod in the ’30s. But he had a neighbor who did—Indy 500 veteran Eddie Miller. Miller helped Hilborn build a flathead-powered Model A that could hit 120 mph on the lakes, and Hilborn proved to be a quick study, in all senses of the word, and he soon wanted to go faster. To do so, he bought a narrow streamliner that had been raced by Bill Warth.
SEMA News—May 2014

HERITAGE

Stu Hilborn

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives

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

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