Our Company Cars Were Pretty Great
When the company truck wasn’t hauling magazines, photographic equipment, or speed parts around Los Angeles in the 1950s, our first rolling billboard flew the HOT ROD and Car Craft flags nationwide at races and shows. Robert E. Petersen’s acquisition of the 1949 or 1950 Ford panel actually predated the entity Petersen Publishing Company. When these photos were shot by staff photographers Bob D’Olivo in soggy Great Bend, Kansas (1955 NHRA Nationals), and Eric Rickman in San Gabriel, California (1956 NHRA West Coast Regional Championships), the Hollywood firm that “Pete” and ex-partner Robert Lindsay founded in late1947 to launch HRM was still called Trend, Inc.
The red-on-white scheme is thought to be the second custom job sprayed by George Barris and striped by Dean Jeffries. This total repaint—along with considerable panel beating and Bondo—became necessary after Rickman rolled the truck onto its passenger side coming down California’s notorious Grapevine. He and Bud Coons were towing NHRA’s travel trailer to the National Roadster Show.
“Coonsey’s got a girlfriend along with us,” Rick recalled in the caption accompanying a photo of the overturned panel (July 2008 HRM). “She flies up into the rearview mirror and cuts her ear. She’s bleeding like a stuck pig, and Coonsey’s pinned down underneath her, with blood dripping onto him. It was a mess and a half.”
Nevertheless, Rickman hitchhiked to a gas station, hired a tow rig to right the truck, replaced one bent wheel with their spare, reattached the trailer—which had remained upright—and continued north to Oakland, arriving in time to set up NHRA’s show booth.
Bob D’Olivo and Eric Rickman/Petersen Publishing Co. Archive