Henry Gregor Felsen: I never met him but I knew him well

24 Aug

Henry Gregor Felsen. Contributed photo.

Henry Gregor Felsen at work. Contributed photo.

Henry Gregor Felsen doing a tuneup. Contributed photo.

Holly and her husband, Mike. Phil Roberts photo.

Dan and Jini. Phil Roberts photo.


I just finished distributing a news release (it follows below) for an event I am looking forward to attending. It’s a tribute to the late author, Henry Gregor Felsen, whom I credit directly for my interest in reading and indirectly for a fulfilling career I’ve had as a reporter, publicist and freelance writer.

As a youngster in the early 1960s, I bought a few Hardy Boys books at the Ben Franklin store not far from my house in Davenport, Iowa. I enjoyed reading about Frank and Joe Hardy and their buddies and the detective work they did, but I wouldn’t say I was an avid reader. My main interests were cars and stock car racing.

And I sure as heck wasn’t interested in writing, English and grammar.

Then, in about 1964 or ’65 in the Williams Junior High School library, I discovered the automobile- and racing-related books of an author named Henry Gregor Felsen. I devoured his books, one after another.

I was also thrilled to read, somewhere on a book jacket, I think, that Mr. Felsen lived in the Des Moines area.

I never got to meet Henry Gregor Felsen, but I felt like I knew him well. We had, after all, been through a lot (of books) together!

I did track down his son, Dan, however, at his home in Utah many, many years after I had discovered HGF. It was likely in the late 1990s or early 2000s when I did a phone interview with Dan for a newspaper column. We seemed to hit it off during the conversation; we had a lot in common, including the love of cars and racing. We began e-mailing each other regularly after that.

That led to Sherry’s and my meeting Dan and his family when he was back in Iowa on vacation for a few weeks one summer, and taking him with us then and a couple more times in the years to come, to some NASCAR All-Star Series dirt track races at which Sherry and I handled media relations.

I also successfully talked Dan in to writing a racing-related article (I took the photos for it) that later was published in a national magazine.

Since then, Dan and his friend, Jini, have visited us many times at our Iowa home, and we spent the better part of a week with them in 2010 at their Utah home. Though he lives many miles away, Dan is one of my closest friends.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan’s sister, Holly, and her husband, Mike, earlier this summer.

These days Holly and Dan, who have the rights to their dad’s books, have republished “Hot Rod,” the book that started it all. They are hoping to bring Henry Gregor Felsen’s stories to a new generation of young readers.

I am honored to have been asked to be their publicist, resulting in the following news release.

Phil Roberts


West Des Moines, Iowa (Aug. 24, 2011) – If you enjoy cars and motorcycles and once read the automobile-related books of the late author Henry Gregor Felsen, don’t miss a benefit car and bike showcase and more headed to West Des Moines next month.

The Tribute Festival, honoring the spirit and books of the iconic 1950s West Des Moines-based, nationally known author Henry Gregor Felsen, opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Val Air Ballroom, 301 Ashworth Road. It will be followed by Dic Youngs’ Rock n Roll Revival at the Val Air.

Admission to the Tribute Festival portion of the day’s events is free!

Felsen (1916-1995), a prolific writer, was the “Granddaddy of Street Rodding.” His book that started it all, “Hot Rod,” recently was republished by his children, Holly Felsen Welch and Dan Felsen, for a new generation of readers to enjoy. The book can be ordered at

Other Felsen books that were popular with adolescent readers were “Street Rod,” “Rag Top,” “Fever Heat,” “Crash Club” and “Road Rocket.”

Both Holly Felsen Welch and Dan Felsen will be on hand to meet and greet visitors to the Tribute Festival.

In addition to the Sept. 17 Tribute Festival, which offers top-10 awards for the bikes, top-25 awards for cars and trucks and six special tribute picks, organizers have planned bands; a live DJ; great food, including burgers and brats; 50/50 drawings; and a drawing for show entrants.

The Dic Youngs’ Rock n Roll Revival at the Val Air honors the late KIOA rock jock. Doors open at 6 p.m., and music kicks off at 7. The Rivieras and the Windy City Elvis will be performing. Tickets are only $10.

Car and bike showcase registration, both in advance and the day of the show, is $25. All registrants also will receive two free tickets, a $20 value, to Dic Youngs’ Rock n Roll Revival.

But those registering before Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, also will receive a free T-shirt. Registration forms are available online at

On-site registration on Saturday, Sept. 17, the day of the Tribute Festival, is from 9 a.m. to noon. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m.

Proceeds from the Tribute Festival benefit scholarship programs at Drake and DMACC.

For more information, e-mail Holly Felsen Welch at


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Henry Gregor Felsen: I never met him but I knew him well

  1. Dan

    August 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Phil, we are very, very lucky to have you on board. Thanks for everything you do.

  2. frontporchexpressions

    August 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I’m delighted to be part of this tribute.

  3. Paul Gauntt

    August 31, 2014 at 4:32 am

    I, too, was drawn into reading, and all the trappings of the teenage years — most of all cars — by Mr. Henry Gregor Felson. When I was in the 6th grade in Gary Texas – a small community in East Texas, I found “Streetrod” in our school library — checked it out, and couldn’t put it down. I became a “resident” of Dellville, Iowa, and imagined cruising in my vintage Ford along with Ricky Madison, Link, Chubby and a couple of other dudes — making frequent trips into Des Moines. I’ve read the book at least 25 times — and found a paperback on Amazon about 10 years ago. Now, at 66 years old, I desperately want to devour Hot Rod, and all his other car classics. I never met him, but he touched this kids life in such a wonderful and positive way.


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