By SEMA Editors
The Petersen Automotive Museum honored Art Chrisman with the 2015 Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual SEMA Awards Breakfast in Las Vegas. Barry Meguiar, president of Meguiar’s Car Care Products and host of the popular, long-running “Car Crazy” show on the Velocity Network, announced the award with Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. Chrisman accepted the award from Meguiar via a video that was shown to the capacity crowd of thousands in Las Vegas.
Chrisman got his start just after World War II in his family’s garage in Compton, California. He followed the examples set by his uncle Jack Chrisman and his brother Lloyd Chrisman, who had been building cars and racing them on the dry lakes of Southern California. In 1955, Chrisman became one of the first men to do 140 mph on a dragstrip while driving his famous “25” car at Famosa Raceway in Bakersfield. After that, he built what would be one of his most famous cars, “Hustler,” which broke the 180-mph barrier and was the first car to run a parachute.
Chrisman was also one of the original five charter members of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club—a feat he accomplished in 1952 while driving Chet Herbert’s “Beast” at an official speed of 235.910 mph. After his racing career, he took a position with Autolite and became renowned as the guru of reading spark plugs. He continued to support the industry in this capacity for some time, eventually returning to building cars in his shop in Santa Ana, California.
Reflecting on his career, Chrisman said, “When I got into racing on the dry lakes, I never could have imagined that it would change my life like it did. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I did it because I wanted to do it, not to make money or be a hero. I feel so fortunate to have had the success that I did and to still be here today to appreciate what the younger guys are doing.”
Karges added, “Art Chrisman has been instrumental in shaping a sport that we all know and love. He was one of Robert E. Petersen’s personal heroes. Art’s contributions to racing and the automotive aftermarket are immeasurable, and the Petersen Automotive Museum is proud to honor Art Chrisman with the 2015 Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Previous winners of the Petersen Award include Carroll Shelby, George Barris, Andy Granatelli, The Ford Family, Vic Edelbrock, Jack Roush, Ed “Isky” Iskenderian, Bill “Speedy” Smith, Alex Xydias, Wally Parks and Ed Pink.