Hot Rod Empire details Robert E. Petersen’s creation of Hot Rod Magazine in the 1940s and the Petersen Publishing empire that grew to the mainstream juggernaut we know today.
The end of World War II marked the release of pent-up war-years energy and the desire to live. For many this meant indulging in long-denied purchases, like a new car. For another group, including young vets, it meant a return to car building and racing. Money, exciting new cars, and speed parts all flowed freely in post-war America.
Robert Petersen, a young SoCal-based photographer and Army Air Corps vet, noted the rapidly growing hot rod scene in and around Los Angeles. His first move was to organize the Los Angeles Hot Rod Exhibition in 1948. His second, and brilliant, move was to launch at the same event the first edition of Hot Rod magazine. From this launch pad, Petersen Publishing Company would grow to become the most influential enthusiast publisher in America.
Petersen’s magazines were rallying points for all aspects of the car, truck, and motorcycle hobbies, well as nurturing and promoting all aspects from car building to racing to show events. Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Car Craft, Motorcyclist, Off-Road and Four Wheel Drive and some 75 other enthusiast titles dominated magazine racks and provided substantial influence over transportation and numerous other hobbies.
Hot Rod Empire celebrates the birth and explosive growth of the transportation hobby under Petersen’s watch.