April Fast Talk With Jeff Smith – Industry Awards And Recognition

Every year in this industry, as in every industry,  there are plenty of trophies and awards handed out. Unless you know the recipients, it is easy to become a bit jaded at their significance. For me, the beginning of the year has been especially fun as far as seeing friends recognized. This April will mark a significant milestone in my personal life, as it begins my 40th year as an automotive journalist. Yes, that makes me a geezer too but that’s okay. Those years have taught me much and I’ve made some really great friends.

Even better than the friendships themselves, is watching those friends acknowledged for their accomplishments. Earlier this year my good friend Steve Brulé received the prestigious (at least for performance automotive journalists) Robert E. Petersen Award that acknowledges the past year’s most influential and supportive journalist. The award was presented at an evening reception during the Motorsports Parts Manufacturer’s Council (MPMC) media trade conference in Santa Ana, California.

The MPMC council selects five finalists every year for the award, which began in 2004. This year’s finalists were nearly all friends of mine with the exception of Wes Buck, who I clearly need to meet and get to know. Mike Finnegan and I worked together for a time at Source Interlink and he has a knack for putting a fun spin on anything he is involved with. In an interesting twist, I originally hired Douglas Glad to work for me during my short tenure as editor of Chevy High Performance magazine. Eventually, I ended up working for him when he became the editor of Car Craft and I was the tech editor. Glad now runs a big part of the show overseeing the Hot Rod family of magazines at the Motor Trend Group (MTG).

This is Steve Brulé accepting his award at the 2019 MPMC Media Trade Conference. He is the 15th recipient of the Robert E. Petersen Award.

Richard Holdener, who also does a lot of work for a lot of titles, was the other finalist. He has to be among the hardest working automotive journalist on the planet. There are times when I will cruise out to Westech’s shop early in the morning. Steve Brulé has just turned on the light in the shop and Richard is already in the dyno cell, cranking on one of his dyno victims. Richard is nothing less than a machine and I often reference his work to support stories that I am working on. He’s also a great friend.

Holdener brought confetti cannons to the MPMC meeting that night and when Brulé’s name was called, the confetti hit the air. I’m sure the clean-up crew was less than thrilled. Steve’s short speech mentioned that he doesn’t really consider himself a media person but rather just the guy who runs the dyno. But from my perspective, many of my stories and many more of my contemporaries’ work would not be nearly as good as they are without Steve. He helps everybody do their job better and as a result, the stories are more accurate and on target.

I’ve actually known Pete Santini for longer than I care to admit. When I was a brand new cub staffer for Car Craft magazine way back in 1979, one of my first assignments was to photograph Pete’s bright green ’70½ Firebird for a promo piece we were doing for the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals. Even more impressive than the paint itself, is that Santini painted that car in his mom’s garage. The following year, Pete painted my high school ’66 SS396 Chevelle just in time for me to leave for Iowa to get married. Ironically, the car is now back at Santini Paint and Body in Westminster, California for its latest resurrection.

This is Pete Santini, his wife Janette and son Nick after being inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame.

So literally a couple of days after Brulé’ was given the Media award, I learned that Santini was inducted into the Grand National Show Hall of Fame. The list goes back to 1961 and includes some very famous car builders and customizers, so Pete’s induction is truly a high honor and worthy of acknowledgement. Pete has called me 10-WA because I’m from Iowa and I call him OH-10 because he’s from Ohio. He also has kidded me for nearly 40 years about a white steering wheel I used to have on my Chevelle. I used it only because the previous wooden wheel had a steel inner rim that would almost melt my hands from the Southern California sun and the white one was free, ugly, and available. Pete made me remove it before he would paint the Chevelle.

I’ve kept that wheel all these years and it is now truly destitute. I’ve been looking for a reason to build a little trophy for Pete and this is the perfect opportunity. The Grand National Hall of Fame just gave him a plaque; I’m going to give him a real trophy. So Pete is going to get the official OH-10 Painter of the Century white steering wheel trophy and he better put it right alongside that Grand National plaque.

In all sincerity, Pete you’ve earned much more than my silly trophy and I’m truly honored to call you my friend. To both my friends Steve Brulé and Pete Santini – your honors are well deserved.

This will be the truly ugly centerpiece of the OH-10 Painter of the Century Award.

About the author

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, a 35-year veteran of automotive journalism, comes to Power Automedia after serving as the senior technical editor at Car Craft magazine. An Iowa native, Smith served a variety of roles at Car Craft before moving to the senior editor role at Hot Rod and Chevy High Performance, and ultimately returning to Car Craft. An accomplished engine builder and technical expert, he will focus on the tech-heavy content that is the foundation of EngineLabs.
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