By SEMA Editors
John Dianna (left) accepted recognition from PWA on behalf of Hot Rod magazine for its 50th anniversary in 1997.
John J. Dianna passed away September 28 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from complications associated with cancer. He was 74 years old.
Those who knew him may be surprised that any illness could beat him, as he was ornery, contentious and outspoken to a fault, but he was also a mentor to many in the automotive industry.
Dianna began drag racing back east in the late ’50s and eventually moved to Southern California. One day, Jim McFarland, publisher of Hot Rod magazine, told Dianna he wanted to talk to him. Dianna thought he would be offered a job racing a Summers Brothers car, but McFarland offered him a job at Hot Rod instead.
Over the next several decades, Dianna worked as an editor at Hot Rod, Car Craft and Motor Trend magazines, among others, eventually becoming the president of the Automotive Performance Group, overseeing as many as 72 automotive titles. Dianna oversaw Hot Rod’s 50th-anniversary content and celebration, and helped transition the initial sale of Petersen Publishing to the Chicago investment group, which went on to take the company public, and again when British publisher Emap purchased the company at the end of the ’90s.
In the mid-’90s, Dianna started his own publishing company, Buckaroo Communications, with magazines such as Super Rod and Street Rod Builder. He eventually moved the business to Chattanooga, Tennessee, but the company quietly dissolved in 2009.
There will be no services.