Robert E. Petersen, publisher was 80 *

PetersenPetersen was a giant figure in Southern California car culture and created a large magazine and book empire, Petersen Publishing. He grew up around his dad's garage and in 1947, after working for L.A. promotions legend Mad Man Muntz, Petersen founded Hot Rod Magazine and sold it for a quarter at local speedways. The more upscale Motor Trend followed. Petersen Publishing's list of titles grew to include Teen, Sport, Rod & Custom and Guns & Ammo, among others. He sold the company in 1996. Two years earlier, the Petersen Automotive Museum opened on Wilshire Boulevard with a $30 million endowment from Petersen. He was to be honored May 10 at the museum's annual gala, which now is slated to become a tribute. Petersen died yesterday in Santa Monica after a short battle with neuroendocrine cancer. Interview at Motor Trend and news release at

* Added: Steve Parker tells some Petersen stories at The Car Nut blog.

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