Part 5: One wrecked dream and lots of celebri­ties stand out in 1958.

STARSTRUCK.

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents -

It should come as no sur­prise that pho­to­jour­nal­ists chas­ing in­ter­est­ing peo­ple, places, and things would lead in­ter­est­ing lives, them­selves. Some of their shared ex­pe­ri­ences were doc­u­mented on film that no Petersen staffer ex­pected to ever be seen out­side of the photo lab, recorded for in­ter­nal en­ter­tain­ment only. Six decades fur­ther down the road, how­ever, such out­takes glis­ten like gold amongst fa­mil­iar, pub­lished neg­a­tives. Of­ten, what de­ter­mines whether or not such a nugget is se­lected for these pages is the story be­hind it—or lack thereof. We strive not only to iden­tify who’s in a shot, but also why the cred­ited staff writer or pho­tographer deemed the par­tic­u­lar scene wor­thy of fully 1/12 of that roll of medi­um­for­mat, 12-shot film. Per­haps only that one per­son can say—or would’ve said, had we got­ten to him in time. Those rov­ing re­porters were mostly in their mid-to-late twen­ties or thir­ties, al­ready. Add 60 years, and it’s easy to un­der­stand why a tempt­ing im­age might be re­jected to­day only be­cause its shooter ei­ther can’t re­mem­ber or, more com­monly, took that in­side in­for­ma­tion to his grave. (Much of this in­stall­ment’s photography is the work of the late Eric Rick­man, whom his­to­ri­ans haven’t been able to pester since 2009.)

Luck­ily for HOT ROD Deluxe and y’all, Spence Mur­ray and Bob D’olivo are still around, able, and will­ing to suf­fer dumb ques­tions about ob­scure im­ages that nei­ther had seen since their film was pro­cessed and proofed in 1958. The irony of us­ing mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to dig­i­tize, share, and iden­tify an­cient neg­a­tives that be­lat­edly ap­pear here as black dots on pa­per—same as ever—is not lost on ei­ther nona­ge­nar­ian. Though Rod & Cus­tom’s found­ing edi­tor has been phys­i­cally slowed by strokes that hin­der typ­ing, wife Carolyn ex­pertly trans­mit­ted Spence’s mem­o­ries of build­ing,

driv­ing, tour­ing, and crash­ing the Dream Truck. The same month he crashed into a Kansas ditch, D’olivo bumped into Jill St. John at River­side Race­way. Along with Bob’s four frames of the ac­tress, we no­ticed Mo­tor Trend’s main pho­tographer was shoot­ing some 35mm film, in­stead of the larger for­mats used al­most ex­clu­sively by Robert E. Petersen and his hirelings since the start. Ma­ture read­ers will re­call that the smaller, lighter, sin­gle-lens-re­flex (SLR) de­sign was as nearly as revo­lu­tion­ary in its time as Ap­ple’s cam­era phone be­came. For this is­sue, the long­time Petersen pho­to­graphic di­rec­tor listed the ad­van­tages of 35 mm for race cov­er­age.

An­other thing that this lat­est round of archive re­search un­cov­ered was an un­prece­dented num­ber of en­ter­tain­ers and other celebri­ties not nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with our hobby. State­side in­ter­est in sports-car rac­ing was boom­ing, es­pe­cially now that un­der­dog Corvettes and Thun­der­birds dared to chal­lenge Euro­pean ex­ot­i­cars. En­ter­tain­ment fig­ures had been as­so­ci­ated with hot rod shows since the very first one, in 1948, for which young Robert E. Petersen lined up some B-list beef­cake to lure wives and girl­friends to the Los An­ge­les Ar­mory (while Pete ped­dled the Jan. ’48 HOT ROD out­side). Re­la­tion­ships cre­ated dur­ing and af­ter his post­war stint as a Hol­ly­wood agent would in­creas­ingly bring those worlds to­gether in Petersen-pro­duced mag­a­zines, pro­mo­tions, in­door shows, and spe­cial events. Thus does his in­com­pa­ra­ble photo col­lec­tion con­tain a unique com­bi­na­tion of show-biz and au­to­mo­tive mile­stones, along with mug shots of the em­ploy­ees who doc­u­mented them. Many more ex­am­ples await dis­cov­ery. We can hardly wait to peek be­hind the cur­tain at 1959’s out­takes, next, be­fore blast­ing into the ’60s.

• WORDS: DAVE WAL­LACE • PICS: PETERSEN PUB­LISH­ING CO. ARCHIVE • RE­SEARCH HELP: JIM MILLER, GREG SHARP & THOMAS VOEHRINGER

> Of ap­prox­i­mately 3 mil­lion black-and-white neg­a­tives in the Petersen archive, this one was surely among the most mu­tu­ally painful for an edi­tor and his au­di­ence. Through five years and four cus­tom it­er­a­tions, Rod & Cus­tom read­ers were en­cour­aged to sub­mit sug­ges­tions for modifications that would be per­formed in the mag­a­zine, then seen in per­son at the 47 car shows across Amer­ica that fea­tured the Dream Truck. Its 48th would’ve been Iowa’s 1958 In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Sports Show, had the tow ve­hi­cle’s left-rear tire lasted just 60 more miles. Edi­tor Spencer Mur­ray and helper Jim “Buzzie” Blair es­caped un­in­jured. The new-model Chevy Fleet­side with cus­tom Bar­ris grille and paint also sur­vived. In fact, af­ter a wrecker yanked the shiny side up, Spence drove it the rest of the way to Des Moines at the re­quest of a ner­vous show pro­moter whose pa­trons were ex­pect­ing to meet the edi­tor and see a cus­tom­ized Cal­i­for­nia pickup. (If any of you at­ten­dees took pic­tures of the dam­aged pickup on dis­play, we’d love to share them in HRD.) Mur­ray briefly re­ferred to the Oc­to­ber 21st in­ci­dent in his Jan. and Feb. ’59 edi­tions—the last two in­stall­ments of a se­ries that es­tab­lished the for­mula for longterm mag­a­zine projects. The Dream Truck ap­peared in too many R&CS to list here, start­ing with Sept. ’53. (Also see Mar. ’58 HOT ROD; July & Oct. ’58 Mo­tor Life.) The pre-crash ’58 Fleet­side mild cus­tom got a spread of its own in R&C’S Jan. ’59 truck is­sue.

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