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The Camgrinder Wars Part 1

It all started innocently enough with the second issue of Hot Rod (Feb. ’48). For the debut edition a month earlier, Weber Tool Co. was the only camshaft manufacturer that paid (probably up-front) whatever meager amount cofounders Robert E. Petersen and Robert Lindsay asked for advertising space. Once Volume 1, Number 01 was in circulation, competitors saw Weber’s tiny, 1/15-page ad and climbed aboard. Their headlines were simple and non-confrontational: “Winners Use Iskenderian Cams”; “The Fastest V-8 At SCTA Speed Trials For 1947 Season Used A Weber Cam”; “Bob’s Speed Equipment”; “CRA Track Cars 5 and 66 Use Howard Cams.”

Ten years later, two of these same companies were publicly trading insults, challenges, and charges of phony times in the pages of HRM and especially the independent Drag News. By 1958, what began in SoCal as a regional, eight-page biweekly had evolved into a profitable and powerful weekly, distributed throughout North America. Moreover, this 1955 brainchild of editor Dean Brown and ad-guy Dick McMullen was one national publication not subject to the editorial and advertising guidelines—some said censorship—imposed upon Petersen Publishing Co. (PPC) magazines by longtime HRM editor and editorial director Wally Parks. Drag News enjoyed additional advantages of frequency and immediacy, hitting newsstands with comparatively unbiased race coverage and related “hero” ads within three days of Sunday’s final rounds. The same events would not appear in Hot Rod or Car Craft until two months later, if at all, and not without protective filtering from an editorial director moonlighting as NHRA president in Petersen’s building. Forget about coverage of nitro races until 1963, when Parks began dissolving NHRA’s seven-year fuel ban and quit Petersen to run his sanctioning body full-time… read more >

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