Art Chrisman, a drag racer who could do it all — design, build, prepare and drive record-breaking racecars — has been chosen as the 2015 recipient of the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award, presented at this week’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Following the end of World War II, Chrisman began working in his family’s auto shop in Compton, California, and in 1955 became one of the first men to run 140mph in the quarter-mile, driving his famed “25” car (above) at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. He subsequently built the “Hustler,” which cracked the 180mph barrier and was the first car to utilize a parachute for braking
Chrisman was also one of five charter members of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club, a feat he accomplished in 1952 driving Chet Herbert’s “Beast” to an official speed of 235.910 mph. After ending his own racing career, Art went to work for Autolite, becoming the company’s spark plug guru. After many years in that position, however, he eventually returned to building cars in his shop in Santa Ana, California.
“When I got into racing on the dry lakes, I never could have imagined that it would change my life like it did,” Chrisman reflected. “This is beyond my wildest dreams. I did it because I wanted to do it, not to make money or be a hero. I feel so fortunate to have had the success that I did and to still be here today to appreciate what the younger guys are doing.”
Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry Karges added, “Art Chrisman has been instrumental in shaping a sport that we all know and love. He was one of Robert E. Petersen’s personal heroes. Art’s contributions to racing and the automotive aftermarket are immeasurable, and the Petersen Automotive Museum is proud to honor Art Chrisman with the 2015 Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Previous winners of the Petersen Award include Carroll Shelby, George Barris, Andy Granatelli, The Ford Family, Vic Edelbrock, Jack Roush, Ed “Isky” Iskenderian, Bill “Speedy” Smith, Alex Xydias, Wally Parks and Ed Pink. For more information about the Petersen Automotive Museum, please visit www.Petersen.org or call (323) 930-CARS.