SEMA Heritage

Performance Legacy

Performance LegacyMost 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.

Triple-Threat Coupe

Triple Threat CoupeBefore 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.

That’s the Spirit

SEMA HeritageIn 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.

From Small Seeds…

Mickey Thompson and Bill BurkePetersen 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.

The Future in 1955

SEMA HeritageWhile 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.

Farewell to the King

George and Shirley BarrisWhen 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.

Inside the Future

SEMA HeritageConcept 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.

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