SEMA Heritage

The $25,000 Custom Car

HeritageIt was such an outrageous sum to pay for a customized car in 1955 that Motor Trend used the $25,000 price tag as the main blurb for its May issue. Inside, a story called “Gold in the Streets” featured comments from “a group of people” who were shown photos of the custom car and asked for their opinions. About half the group “admired the car in general while the other half varied down the line toward outright dislike,” said the story’s author, Al Kidd. “Must have been built for Ava Gardner,” said one admirer, while a less generous soul said the car was built “for show and blow rather than utility.”

The Mongoose Legacy

MongoosePetersen Publishing Company photographer Eric Rickman was in the pits at Riverside International Raceway in June 1966 to catch this shot of Lou Baney, owner of the Brand Motors Special Top Fueler, buckling in Tom “Mongoose” McEwen before a pass at the Hot Rod Championships.

Six Seconds Hot!

HeritageSix seconds. In the early ’60s, that’s the amount of time safety equipment pioneer Jim Deist figured his protective clothing needed to shield a dragster pilot from fire. The reason? In those six seconds, a rail with its chute deployed could slow enough for the driver to jump out safely.

Top Eliminator, Pocatello, Idaho 1955

HeritageIn 1954, Wally Parks—who at the time was in charge of both the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and Hot Rod—dispatched a small crew of men to cross the country. Their goal: Promote the relatively new sport of organized drag racing—the safe, NHRA way—by working with local car clubs to put on races. They towed a small travel trailer full of everything they’d need for the event, from timing equipment and a P.A. system to trophies.

TV Tommy and the Twin

HeritageIt’s May 1960, and “TV” Tommy Ivo is about to leave his Burbank home for a months-long national match-race tour, taking with him his new twin-engine dragster and, as crew, a teenaged fellow Road Kings car club member named Don Prudhomme.

Gurney 500

GurneyThe entry list for the 1966 running of the Motor Trend 500 NASCAR race at Riverside International Raceway read like a who’s who of iconic stock-car stars, as well as talented wheelmen from other racing disciplines: Richard Petty, A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Mario Andretti, David Pearson, Tiny Lund, Bobby Allison, Dick Guldstrand and many, many more.

Fancy Footwork

Fancy FootworkThe 1967 NASCAR season was dominated by Richard Petty and his Hemi-powered Plymouth Satellite—a potent combination that won 27 races and notched 35 top-five finishes in 48 starts that year. NASCAR’s 1966 champion, David Pearson, found himself struggling in 1967. He ran just a partial season and left Cotton Owens’ Dodge team after 10 races to drive Fords for Holman Moody.

Sharp-Dressed Man

Gaspar RondaGaspar “Gas” Ronda, best known for drag racing a series of Mustangs during the early evolution of the Funny Car, passed away at the age of 91 in October. He didn’t start drag racing in Fords; in the 1950s, while living in Northern California and working as a dance instructor, he raced Hudsons, Buicks and Corvettes. (Yes, dance instructor. Ronda had polio as a child, and he discovered dance as a way to strengthen his legs.)

Supercharging Can Be Practical

SuperchargingIt’s August 1958, and Hot Rod Technical Editor Ray Brock (center) is being shown the finer points of supercharger design by Paxton Chief Engineer John Thompson (left) and Andy Granatelli. Brock’s visit and comprehensive research led to an in-depth story with the “…Can Be Practical” headline in the magazine’s October 1958 issue.


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