PART 7: 1960


Part 7: Petersen Pub­lish­ing grows as the 1960s be­gin.


With so much ac­tion oc­cur­ring si­mul­ta­ne­ously in so many re­gional hot­beds this year, no sin­gle mag­a­zine staff could hope to be in all places at all times. Robert E. Petersen’s unique ad­van­tage was own­ing mul­ti­ple ti­tles, each em­ploy­ing spe­cial­ists who over­lapped into the print equiv­a­lent of an au­to­mo­tive in­ter­net. More­over, “Pete” could test the po­ten­tial of any emerg­ing mar­ket quickly and rel­a­tively cheaply by uti­liz­ing in-house ed­i­to­rial and pro­duc­tion peo­ple to ei­ther start a pub­li­ca­tion from scratch or spin one off from an es­tab­lished Petersen ti­tle, then heav­ily pro­mote the new project in the oth­ers.

This year, go-kart-crazy Car Craft launched an off­shoot called Kart, packed with ads. Sim­i­larly, Mo­tor Trend soon spawned the com­pe­ti­tion-ori­ented Sports Car Graphic. Im­me­di­ate, wide­spread dis­tri­bu­tion of any­thing new was as­sured by a North Amer­i­can dealer network al­ready prof­it­ing from Pete’s es­tab­lished month­lies, plus a steady bar­rage of thicker, higher-priced, “spe­cial edi­tion” Petersen an­nu­als, how-to books, racing com­pi­la­tions, and other re­cy­clings of pre­vi­ously pub­lished ar­ti­cles and pho­tog­ra­phy.

We’re shar­ing this an­cient his­tory to il­lus­trate how the vast Petersen Pub­lish­ing Com­pany photo ar­chive came to ac­quire an in­com­pa­ra­ble range of sub­jects. This year’s ve­hic­u­lar va­ri­ety fore­told the un­prece­dented strange­ness of the decade to come.

Among other odd­i­ties, Pete’s road war­riors doc­u­mented beat­niks and bub­ble­tops, a fighter-jet engine on wheels, four V8s on wheels, and a show-win­ning cus­tom “car” with no engine and no wheels. They cov­ered the first 400-mph Amer­i­can car and driver, tested a new wave of “medium com­pacts” from all three of the Big Three, and chron­i­cled sleepy Pon­tiac’s seem­ingly sud­den emer­gence atop auto racing (the GM di­vi­sion’s re­ward for three years of dis­creetly cir­cum­vent­ing Detroit’s 1957 agree­ment to stop spon­sor­ing, sup­port­ing, or even pro­mot­ing high per­for­mance).

While those lucky guys en­joyed vir­tu­ally un­re­stricted ac­cess wher­ever they flashed a Petersen busi­ness card, only a tiny frac­tion of their pho­tos were pub­lished at the time. Whereas any­thing in print had passed scru­tiny from the ed­i­tors, ad­ver­tiser-con­scious pub­lish­ers, and all-pow­er­ful ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor Wally Parks, the rest of the story of­ten went un­seen and un­told due to po­lit­i­cal, busi­ness, personal, or space con­sid­er­a­tions. It’s these un­pub­lished out­takes that de­liver deeper, truer in­sight into scenes un­fold­ing right in front of staffers’ lenses—but sub­se­quently kept be­hind the cur­tain separat­ing us mere mor­tals, the read­ers.

Some of the artists’ faces ap­pear here, frozen in time by mis­chievous col­leagues al­ways armed with cam­eras. Al­most all of them are gone now, nearly six decades af­ter so much of their best 1960 work was de­vel­oped, dried, sleeved, la­beled, filed, and for­got­ten, for­ever—or so it must have seemed to our frus­trated ed­i­to­rial an­ces­tors. It’s our plea­sure to prove them wrong here in the next cen­tury.

Mo­tor Trend mag­a­zine’s Aug. 1960 Indy 500 cov­er­age be­moaned rain de­lays dur­ing both qual­i­fy­ing week­ends that re­duced at­tempts by 66 en­tries. Soggy fans were ef­fec­tively re­pur­pos­ing hand­out copies of an In­di­anapo­lis daily when Petersen Pub­lish­ing Co. (PPC) photo chief Bob D’olivo hap­pened by. (Kid­dies, don’t try this with your smart­phones or tablets.)

As the go-kart craze took off, drag and lakes racer Charles Scott’s muf­fler and dyno shop di­ver­si­fied into man­u­fac­tur­ing pint­sized per­for­mance parts. Sons Ge­orge (left) and Billy Scott re­spec­tively demon­strated the dif­fer­ences be­tween a con­ven­tional quar­ter­midget road­ster and a re­bod­ied, dual-pur­pose kart. “Billy the Kid” ad­vanced to fuel and gas drag­sters as a young teen and, ul­ti­mately, to champ cars, fin­ish­ing 23rd in the 1976 Indy 500.

Be­low: Norm Grabowski con­tin­ued liv­ing ev­ery young male’s dream life, driv­ing hot rods and act­ing in B-movies and tele­vi­sion shows along­side Hol­ly­wood’s hottest hon­eys. Mamie Van Doren posed for HRM’S Eric Rick­man in Norm’s ’25 T to pro­mote a for­get­table film with an un­for­get­table ti­tle, Sex Kit­tens Go to Col­lege. Still pow­ered by a flat­head here, the red tour­ing soon ac­quired a hot Chevy V8, landed its own TV se­ries ( My Mother the Car), and found a new owner, stu­dio-pho­tog­ra­pher Kaye Trapp. Socal drag fans watched it push-start both the Zeuschel, Fuller & Moody Aa/fu­eler and the Magicar that Trapp cam­paigned in part­ner­ship with Ron Winkel. (See Aug. 1960 HRM.)

It’s hard to be­lieve that such great ac­tion and from such a rare an­gle wasn’t pub­lished at the time, some­where, but what we can­not find in our in­com­plete col­lec­tion of PPC mag­a­zines qual­i­fies for Back­stage Past con­sid­er­a­tion. The sur­pris­ingly stock Burkhardt, Bram­mer & Wilson ’29 on ’32 rails is boil­ing the big­gest balonies like a drag­ster at River­side be­cause it ran like one, and then some. NHRA Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Greg Sharp cited 1958 ev­i­dence that then­driver Howard Eichen­hof­fer’s 212.264 mph in the dirt was the best by any dry-lakes car, in­clud­ing stream­lin­ers and lakesters. Mike Burns and Don Rack­e­mann also spent time in the seat. A Sept. 1959 HRM fea­ture called it the world’s swiftest drag road­ster at 9.81/156.79. Its front-blown, nitro-burn­ing, 341ci De­soto was backed by a ’39 Lin­coln tranny us­ing high gear only.

Many of the neg­a­tives se­lected for this se­ries were both com­posed and pro­cessed by the same PPC em­ployee: Pat Brol­lier. Equally skilled as a pho­tog­ra­pher and lab tech­ni­cian, Pat en­joyed a long ca­reer on pho­to­graphic di­rec­tor Bob D’olivo’s team.

Tech­ni­cal ed­i­tor Bar­ney Navarro helped make Mo­tor Life a re­spected monthly both be­fore and af­ter par­ent Quinn Pub­li­ca­tions was ac­quired by ri­val pub­lisher Robert E. Petersen. Navarro broke the story of GMC’S ground­break­ing V6 in the May 1960 is­sue and of­fered a pre­scient pre­dic­tion: “Granted, the new pow­er­plant can be found at this time time only in a pickup truck, but such a unit cer­tainly has pos­si­bil­i­ties for fu­ture pas­sen­ger-car power.” The same ar­ti­cle teased read­ers with a small fac­tory photo of the 12- cylin­der, 610- cu­bic-inch pro­to­type that GM en­gi­neers cre­ated by align­ing two of these en­gines in­side of a sin­gle crank­case and oil pan.

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