Remembering automotive historian and publisher David Fetherston

We bid a fond farewell to Street Machine’s long-time US correspondent


THE world of custom cars lost one of its most important chronologists with the passing of expat Aussie David Fetherston on Saturday.

Raised in Canberra, Dave overcame dyslexia to build an incredible career in journalism, photography, marketing and publishing.

His involvement with the world of car mags began with Eddy Ford’s Custom Rodder in 1982, after which Geoff Paradise snaffled him up to work on a new magazine called Street Machine.

Dave moved to California in 1984 and continued to ply his trade. When Phil Scott took over the reins at SM the next year, he gave Fethers his own column – Cruisn’ California – that ran from 1985 through to 2002.

Dave also supplied SM for decades with event coverage and feature cars, including builds by Troy Trepanier, Tim Strange, John D’Agostino and many more. He documented the Pro Street era at its peak and did the same for Pro Touring and high-end customs.

SM was just a small part of Dave’s incredible creative output. He contributed to countless other mags across the globe and branched out to build his own publishing empire.

One of David’s great achievements was his work documenting the lives of our sport’s original legends, including Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Dean Moon and Vic Edelbrock. This wasn’t a fashionable activity in the 1980s, but Dave pursued it with relish, bringing the achievements of these heroes to new audiences in countless magazine articles and his 1992 book, Heroes of Hot Rodding.

Notable amongst the flurry of titles Dave published over the last three decades include Moon Equipped: Sixty Years of Hot Rod Photo Memories; The Big Book of Barris; American Woodys and Barris Cars of the Stars. He also collaborated with legendary hot rodder Vern Tardel on Hot Rod Your Model A.

One book of which Dave was most proud of was his collaboration with land speed racer Ron Main, Bonneville: A Century of Speed. Sales of the book raised a stack of funds for the Save Our Salt campaign.

Dave was also heavily involved in marketing, including a stint as director of marketing at Flowmaster Mufflers. He won numerous awards for journalism, was a dab hand behind the wheel, and successfully undertook the Herculean task of restoring a 1977 Maserati Khamsin.

While Dave suffered health issues in his later years, he remained a creative powerhouse, branching out into the world of podcasting in 2019 and publishing a series of children’s books in 2020.

He is survived by his wife Nanette and children Kate and Ben.

On a personal note, David was exceptionally kind to me on my first visits to the US for Street Machine, first at the SEMA Show and later Bonneville Speed Week. He remained an engaging pen pal right to the end and a more positive and encouraging friend and mentor than I could have ever hoped to meet.