SEMA Heritage

History on the Auction Block

HeritageThe December 2018 RM Sotheby’s auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum made headlines for the $22 million paid for a ’56 Ferrari 290 MM—a race car with provenance that included such notable pilots as Juan Manual Fangio, Phil Hill and Stirling Moss. Parked just a few feet away from that historic prancing horse during the auction’s preview was another ’50s icon: a ’32 Ford known as the Lloyd Bakan coupe.

Old Master

HeritageIn this rare color photograph from the Petersen Publishing Company photo archive, Connie Swingle pulls the front wheels in Ed Pink’s Old Master Top Fuel dragster at the 1966 NHRA Winternationals.

SEMA Show 1968

HeritageAfter its humble beginnings in Dodger Stadium, the High Performance and Custom Trade Show changed venues for its second edition, moving to the spacious Anaheim Convention Center in January 1968. The exhibitor count grew from 100 or so the year before to nearly 150, their 200-plus tables taking up half of the convention center’s 100,000-sq.-ft. floor space.

The $25,000 Custom Car

HeritageIt was such an outrageous sum to pay for a customized car in 1955 that Motor Trend used the $25,000 price tag as the main blurb for its May issue. Inside, a story called “Gold in the Streets” featured comments from “a group of people” who were shown photos of the custom car and asked for their opinions. About half the group “admired the car in general while the other half varied down the line toward outright dislike,” said the story’s author, Al Kidd. “Must have been built for Ava Gardner,” said one admirer, while a less generous soul said the car was built “for show and blow rather than utility.”

The Mongoose Legacy

MongoosePetersen Publishing Company photographer Eric Rickman was in the pits at Riverside International Raceway in June 1966 to catch this shot of Lou Baney, owner of the Brand Motors Special Top Fueler, buckling in Tom “Mongoose” McEwen before a pass at the Hot Rod Championships.

Six Seconds Hot!

HeritageSix seconds. In the early ’60s, that’s the amount of time safety equipment pioneer Jim Deist figured his protective clothing needed to shield a dragster pilot from fire. The reason? In those six seconds, a rail with its chute deployed could slow enough for the driver to jump out safely.

Top Eliminator, Pocatello, Idaho 1955

HeritageIn 1954, Wally Parks—who at the time was in charge of both the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and Hot Rod—dispatched a small crew of men to cross the country. Their goal: Promote the relatively new sport of organized drag racing—the safe, NHRA way—by working with local car clubs to put on races. They towed a small travel trailer full of everything they’d need for the event, from timing equipment and a P.A. system to trophies.


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