Obit Robert Petersen  070323  (80 years)

Oilstick Home


Gone Racin'
Bulletin Board


Illness & Obit

Old index

Racer Mall

Richard Parks

Want Ads

BLOB or POBB (this is updated daily - read the ideas and add yours.)

March 23, 2007
 Robert E. Petersen, Founder of Hot Rod, Motor Trend Magazines and
 Benefactor of the Petersen Automotive Museum Passes On at 80
 Robert E. Petersen, an entrepreneur who single-handedly created the
 largest special-interest publishing company in America, was instrumental
 in the evolution of the hot-rodding culture, and who, with his wife
 Margie, realized his dream of establishing an educational museum to pay
 tribute to the automobile, died on Friday, March 23, at St. John’s
 Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. after a short but valiant battle with
 neuroendocrine cancer. He was 80.
 “Mr. Petersen helped create and feed the American obsession with the
 automobile, delivering gasoline-powered dreams to the mailboxes of
 millions,” said Dick Messer, Director of the Petersen Automotive
 Museum in Los Angeles. “He understood the thrill that an average
 person could get from seeing and reading about horsepower as an art
 A native of Southern California, Mr. Petersen’s mother passed away
 when he was 10, leaving him with his Danish-immigrant father, who worked
 as a truck and equipment mechanic. As a young man he picked up his
 father’s skills, learning to weld, de-coke engines, and hone his
 fascination with cars.
 After graduating from Barstow High School in the mid-1940s, he moved to
 Los Angeles, working at MGM studios as a messenger boy. Following service
 in the Army Air Corps toward the end of Word War II, Mr. Petersen, now an
 independent publicist immersed in the burgeoning customized auto culture
 of California, was instrumental in creating the first hot-rod show at the
 Los Angeles Armory. To help establish the event, in January 1948 he
 launched Hot Rod Magazine, and hawked the magazine at local speedways for
 25 cents a copy. Motor Trend, a more upscale publication for production
 car enthusiasts, and dozens of other titles aimed at specialty automotive
 segments soon followed.
 Mr. Petersen spent decades as Chairman of the Board of Petersen Publishing
 Company, which was at one time America’s leading publisher of
 special-interest consumer magazines and books before its sale to private
 investors in August 1996. Among its other diverse successful titles are
 Teen, Sport, Rod & Custom, and Guns & Ammo. He also headed a wide variety
 of other businesses including ammunition manufacturing, real estate
 development and aviation services that each reflected another passion he
 Firmly established as an American success story, Mr. Petersen had one
 lasting vision: an educational museum to pay tribute to the automobile. On
 June 11, 1994, the lifelong dream of Robert E. Petersen was fulfilled with
 the opening of a 300,000-square-foot automotive museum named in his honor,
 made possible by his $30 million endowment.
 Today the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles stands as the
 nation’s premiere automotive museum, serving thousands of visitors
 each year. Its mission remains to educate and excite generations of auto
 enthusiasts with the fascinating stories, vehicles and people that have
 influenced the American love affair with the automobile – a mission
 that has been a resounding success thanks to the generosity of its main
 In addition to his noted auto collection, Mr. Petersen also developed a
 keen interest in sport shooting. He served as Shooting Sports Commissioner
 for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, where he was responsible for
 building that venue from an old dairy farm within six months.
 Mr. Petersen served as president and chairman of the board of the
 Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Hollywood, and was a member of the
 National Board of Directors for the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of
 America. He was active in support of numerous children’s charities
 and also served as a member for the Los Angeles City Library Commission.
 Both he and his wife have been major contributors to the Music Center of
 Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Additionally, he was
 a founding member of the Thalians social society, which raises money for
 the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His ongoing
 contributions to the community earned him numerous special citations from
 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council.
 Mr. Petersen was to be honored with both the ‘Automotive Icon’
 and ‘Visionary’ awards at the Petersen museum’s annual
 gala on May 10. The ceremony will now be held as a tribute to Mr. Petersen
 and his contributions to the institution and community.
 “What made him so special was that he gave every ounce of his energy
 and abilities to his dreams. He was a quiet man who truly became an
 American icon,” the Petersen museum’s Messer said. “He
 made his living doing things he loved and he found success at every turn.
 The way he lived his life, always looking for ways to give back in return
 for the success he enjoyed, made you proud to count him as a friend. The
 museum is now his legacy.”
 He is survived by his wife, Margie. In lieu of flowers, the family asks
 donations be made to the Petersen Automotive Museum or the charity of the
 person’s choice in his honor. Funeral mass will be held Thursday,
 March 29, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.
 For Immediate Release
 Contact: Joe Molina
 JMPR Public Relations, Inc.
 (818) 606-0922 (cell)
 (818) 992-4353 ext. 11