Most of us would probably consider ourselves fortunate to be remembered for doing one thing really well. As we look back on the life and achievements of performance pioneer Louis Senter, who passed away in May at age 95, the circumstance is different. Senter did so many things so well that it’s difficult to single out one accomplishment as the cornerstone of his legacy.
Before he became the first man to set land-speed records above 500 and 600 mph in the mid ’60s, Craig Breedlove was a hot rodder, like many other young Southern Californians in the ’50s and early ’60s. He raced at dragstrips, on the dry lakes and at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where he would later make history in the Spirit of America and Sonic I jet cars. Photos of him with various cars showed up in Hot Rod magazines of the era, including a three-page feature on this “triple-threat” ’34 Ford coupe that was photographed by Petersen lensman Eric Rickman for the magazine’s September 1960 issue.
In January 1965, Petersen Publishing photographer Pat Brollier set up his camera to get as much depth of field as possible to capture the goings-on at the Winternationals Custom Auto Fair in the cavernous Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. That small aperture resulted in a long exposure, blurring many of the visitors as they passed by what had to be one of the most dramatic exhibits in the show.
Dot-O-Wols were considered “the latest in tire glamorizing” when Al Paloczy photographed them in the September 1959 issue of Car Craft magazine.
We recently came upon a fascinating article in the September 1966 issue of Hot Rod Industry News, Petersen Publishing Company’s aftermarket trade magazine. In it, Bob McVay questioned several “leaders in the field of high performance and custom equipment” about what lay ahead in the aftermarket.
“What will the future hold?” That was the question Bob McVay put to several “leaders in the field of high-performance and custom equipment” for an article he wrote in the September 1966 issue of Hot Rod Industry News, Petersen Publishing Company’s aftermarket trade magazine.
Petersen Publishing Company photographer Pat Brollier captured two hot-rodding legends hard at work on this day in May 1961. On the left is Mickey Thompson, who a year earlier became the first American to go faster than 400 mph in his four-engine Challenger streamliner on the Bonneville Salt Flats. On the right is Bill Burke, who set a personal milestone of his own at Bonneville in 1960.
While in the Petersen Archive researching last month’s tribute to George Barris, we ran across this photo of the ’55 Lincoln Futura show car. The man under the canopy is Benson Ford, son of Edsel and grandson of Henry Ford, who was taking the sharp-edged show car for a publicity spin around Manhattan.
When George Barris, the “King of the Kustomizers,” passed away in November at the age of 89, the stories and obituaries in the mainstream media focused on his television and movie cars—especially the original Batmobile, which he built for the campy ’60s TV show in just 15 days by modifying Ford’s ’55 Lincoln Futura concept car. Lost in much of the reportage was the reason Barris wore that crown in the first place.
Concept cars and styling exercises—especially those from the ’50s and ’60s—were often just that: exercises to showcase a designer’s wild ideas about the future of automotive design. Sometimes they previewed a production model to come, but more often they were the result of a fertile imagination coupled with whatever styling trend was current at the time.