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AMA Hall of Fame: Preston Petty Passes at 81 Years Young

A view of Preston Petty tearing up the track as a young racer

The Thinking-Man Racer

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Preston Petty, owner of Preston Plastics and a motocross and off-roading legend in his own right. 

The report from RoadRacing World states that the man passed away on January 16th, at the ripe age of 81 – and what a legacy he left behind.

From a young age, Preston was bent for bikes. Preston was initially encouraged away from the motorcycle industry, given his strict family upbringing – but that didn’t stop him from becoming “one of the top scrambles and off-road racers in Southern California by the time he was 16.”

A view of Preston Petty tearing up the track as a young racer

Source: Motocross Action Magazine

From there, Preston’s skill sets as a ‘thinking-man racer’ put him to clear advantage to succeed in the racing industry. We’re told that the man was “uniquely skilled at reading terrain and knowing how to get the most out of his bikes,” and that “he earned a solid reputation for winning a lot of races on smaller-displacement machines, against the more popular big bikes of the day.”

A view of Preston Petty in a profile picture

Source: Motocross Action Magazine

His know-how blasted him through novice and amateur flat track events, where he won numerous races at Ascot Park. This took him to the International Six-Day Enduro (ISDE/ISDT) Competition, where he raced for the American team for the years 1969, 1970 and 1971.

International Mechanical problems on the ISDT American team led him to invent plastic fenders, which were purported by British custom motocross builder Eric Cheney to be extremely durable and useful to the industry. 

In this way, Petty began his journey as a businessman, receiving endorsement from Cheney and selling the fenders in both Western and Central Hemispheres.  

Source: Preston Petty Products

“The idea for the fender came after a ride where the aluminum front fender of Petty’s Maico racer broke off and he drew inspiration from a five-gallon bucket of paint,” comments the report. 

“Utilizing his programming skills in computer machining to fashion a mold, he eventually came up with the optimal plastic formula for fenders.”

A view of the plastic fenders that were created at Petty Plastics

Source: Racer X

Years 1972 through to 1980 saw the iconic racer and businessman growing his company and scaling his product, until “the sale of his company on a long-term payout basis flopped when the group that purchased the rights to Petty Plastics went bankrupt in 1980.”

Despite this, Petty continued to influence the motorcycle community proper, and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, where he will always have a seat – both on the stand and in our hearts. 

A view of Preston Petty next to one of his plastic fenders, created by his company, "Petty Plastics"

Source: Motocross Action Magazine

Our thoughts are with the Petty family at this time; please drop a comment, and as ever – stay safe on the twisties.

*Title Media sourced by Cycle News*