The clue is actually in the name itself

Hugh Hefner’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world. That’s not an understatement, is it? I think it’s a fair assessment given how many people Hefner kept “entertained” with Playboy. Not many people know this, but the magazine that launched thousands upon thousands of imaginations actually has roots that tie up to the auto industry, specifically to a short-lived automaker that featured the used the same name.

For this, we have to go back to 1947 when the Playboy Automobile Company was founded in Buffalo, New York. As much promise as it had when it first came around, the automaker lasted only four years before going belly-up, producing only 97 cars in its short lifespan, including the 40-horsepower Continental that was uninspiring at best. Fast forward to 1953, and a former employee of the Playboy Automobile Company decided to start his own magazine. You can guess by now that the employee was none other than Hugh Hefner himself and the magazine that launched him to immortality was Playboy Magazine. , most recently awarding 2016 Playmate of the Year Eugena Washington a Fiat 124 Spider. The Playboy Automobile Company may not have had the lasting impact on the auto industry the way its founders had hoped, but who would’ve thought that the name itself would end up being transcendent in its own way.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

The history of cars and Playmates of the Year

Playboy's 2016 Playmate of the Year Receives New Fiat 124 Spider
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Playboy may have been founded in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1964 when the first Playmate of the Year to actually receive a car for winning the title. That woman was Donna Michelle, who took home a pink 1964.5 Ford Mustang. The pink color also played a prominent role in the winning cars awarded to Playmates of the Year in the 60’s. In fact, in the first 12 years that cars were awarded to the Playmates of the Year, all but two of them were dressed in various shades of pink, including, believe it or not, a Dodge Charger (1966), Plymouth Barracuda (1967), De Tomaso Pantera (1972), Porsche 911 (1975). The only two times the winning cars weren’t pink happened in 1974 when Cyndi Wood won a white Mercedes-Benz 450 SL and a few years earlier in 1971 when Sharon Clark won a boat. Yep. A Spectra speedboat.

Since its inception, Playboy has also kept true to its automotive roots by handing out vehicles to its Playmates of the Year

As weird as it was for Playboy to give out an actual boat, ditching cars in favor of giving something else wasn’t a one-time thing either. Motorcycles were also handed out a handful of times to Playmates of the Year. The first to win one was Carmella DeCesare in 2004, who took home a Mazda RX-8 and a Harley-Davidson for her efforts. Other POTY bike winners include Hope Dworaczyk, who won a BMW S1000R in 2010, Claire Sinclaire (Harley-Davidson - 2011), and Jaclyn Svedberg (Harley-Davidson - 2012).

Playboy bunnies and Harley-Davidson bikes go perfectly well together
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2009 Harley-Davidson and Playboy

Speaking of going against the grain, kit cars were also given to a few winners, most notably in 1988 when India Allen thought she had won a Lamborghini Countach Roadster, only to find out that what she won was actually a kit car.

In the first 12 years that cars were awarded to the Playmates of the Year, all but two of them were dressed in various shades of pink

The four most recent Playmates of the Year have won some pretty good rides though. 2013 POTY Raquel Pomplon took home a Jaguar F-Type Roadster while 2014 POTY Kennedy Summers received the keys to a MINI Roadster. 2015 winner Dani Mathers also took home a MINI, specifically a MINI Cooper S Convertible while last year’s winner, Eugena Washington, won a Fiat 124 Spider.

It goes without saying that winning Playboy’s Playmate of the Year award has become an honor in its own right. The fact that winners also get cars is a nice cherry on top of the sundae, though, with Hefner’s passing, it’s going to be interesting how the magazine he shot to immortality will move on from his death.


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Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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