Late last night I saw some posts on social media of what looked to be phony or hoax type celebrity death posts, but when I woke up this morning the reality of them not being a hoax set in.
Hugh Hefner, the once sheltered and reserved Playboy Media tycoon had passed away at the young age of 91 years. It seemed surreal that he was 1) That old and 2) That he was just recently starred in a well funded Amazon documentary series about his rise to fame, his change in personality and his love of everything panache.
While many will say they will miss the idea of going to a Playboy mansion party or meeting the man who defined the idea of sex marketing or any other number of quirky bucket list type things. I will always latch on to the annual “Playmate of the Year” award and the prizes that went along with that award to the recipient, mostly the the prizes…. no… just the prizes.
See Hughs first issue of Playboy caught the worlds attention with some uncovered pictures of what was likely the most famous woman at the time, Marilyn Monroe. After that first issue Hugh had to find a way to keep the readers attention without shelling out HUGE money for pictures of famous women. His solution was making a special feature section of the magazine known as the “Playboy Playmate of the Month”, these girls weren’t anymore special than that girl in highschool that ended up going into the adult industry. But because of Hugh’s brilliant marketing he was able to turn these same pretty but average girls into HUGE stars, names like Jenny McCarthy, Shannon Tweed, Betty Page, Pamela Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe. After Playboy started in 1953 it took them a short while to figure that they could make even more money by not just having a Playmate of the month feature but have a annual issue that would feature the Playmate of the Year, a contest chosen from the monthly features.
in 1959 the first Playmate of the year was chosen.
While the First POTY (Playmate of the Year) was chosen in 1959, it wasn’t until 1964 that the winner got anything more than notoriety and fame.
In 1964 ALOT of cool and different things were happening, style was in and showing off your style was even more in, Pontiac had released their GTO, Muscle was in and people, young people wanted to get some wheels, go to their drive in and sex was on the map.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? We may never know just like we may not know weather the idea for the 1964.5 Mustang to be the first prize to the POTY was marketing on Ford Motor Company’s end or if Playboy wanted the prize to be the new Mustang. None the less there it was, New, young, sporty, and PINK! Donna Michelle was the first of many to recieve a Pink Mustang, although she may be the only Playmate to get a first generation mustang Ford offered about 200 examples a year, until 1969.
Donnas car was a Playmate Pink, C code (289 v8) convertible complete with pink and white interior.
IT WAS A HIT!
Ford saw the opportunity to make the mustang an icon and took it. The mustang was seen everywhere, in magazines, on tv, radio, and sold 2 million units in its first generation.(at the time the most of any model ever sold by any manufacturer).
Ford wasnt going to let this chance go and through the 60s Ford and Ford powered cars were awarded frequently to the Playmate of the Year. Other companies saw the power in sex marketing and ran with it.
In 1965 the prize was awarded to Jo Collins and was a little more exotic and in todays values a very valuable car. It was a Sunbeam Tiger, built in england, designed by Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, both HUGE racing names at the time and fitted with Ford 260 V8s, the car was a rocket. Being a British car fitted with a American V8 built in the 60s, painted Playmate Pink, it must have been the epitome of chique design and fitting for the prize to the winner of the Playmate of the Year.
During the next few years the Playboy cars were a few Mopars, a Barracuda and a Charger, both in pink. But this is where the Ford relationship gets interesting, while ford hadnt been the Playboy car since 1964 they continued to market a niche buyer who wanted a replica of the 1964 POTY car, while its unknown how much the “secret” package was they made 200 a year in various body styles, coupes, fastbacks and convertibles.
In 1969 Connie Kreski received arguably the coolest prize yet, a 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500 complete with 428 Super Cobra Jet, and done in a special pink.
Was this the beginning of the relationship with Shelby American? or Was this just the sexiest American car they could find? Who knows… but wow!
In 1970 Playboy awarded this Mercury Capri (a mustang in sheep’s clothes).
Im not sure what engine was in it, but sadly they set the bar too high in 1969.
In 1972 Liv Lindeland may have well as hit the jackpot. Winning this BEAUTIFUL and equally valuable 1972 DeTomoso Pantera. Painted in pink, this Pantera like all Panteras was packing a punch! courtesy of a 351 Cleveland Ford v8 and a 5 speed manual transaxel. These cars had a body hand made in Italy by Carrozzeria Vignale and featured cool things like the push button doors and angled exhaust. A exotic and Classic even by todays standards I’m sure pedestrians didn’t know which to admire more the car or the driver!
After 1972 most of the prizes were from overseas as America was in a style and fuel efficiency/power crunch.
It wasnt until 1998 that American cars, sports cars atleast were back in style! and more importantly back at Playboy. While the Pink ended in 1975 that didnt stop playboy from awarding the new Shelby American Series 1 to Karen McDougal. It was a full ground up build at Shelby, with a carbon fiber body, corvette c5 door handles, a supercharged 32v DOHC Oldsmobile Aurora Northstar V8, and full coilover suspension sat on a tubular tig welded frame.
In 1999 Shelby did it again, but this time with a Shelby American CSX continuation car.
while i cant find any good pictures or info on the build im sure it was fitting for the Playmate Heather Kozar.
Thank You Mr. Hefner for putting good looking girls in even better looking cars.
May you forever rest in peace.
President Bill Clinton in the saddle of a Playboy Pink Mustang
Who knows, perhaps he inspired a new generation of young female enthusiasts.
Molly Saleen with her “MollyPop Pink” S281 Mustang