SEMA eNews Vol. 14, No. 39, September 29, 2011

HRIA Builder's Challenge Participants John Martin, Mike Spitzer and Mike Cooper Discuss Their Builds

The vehicles featured in the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Builder's Challenge during July's SEMA Pinewood Drag Races will soon be made available for auction through eBay. Proceeds raised through the auction will benefit Childhelp and the Victory Junction Camp. But before these carefully crafted masters of the metal dragstrip find new homes, SEMA eNews talked to builders to uncover their motivation for making these pinewood cars special.

All of the vehicles featured in the Builder's Challenge will be on display in the HRIA booth at the 2011 SEMA Show. New builders and their vehicles will be included each week in SEMA eNews. Featured this week are John Martin of Johnny's Auto Trim & Rod Shop, Mike Spitzer of Spitzer Enterprises and Mike Cooper of Spanky's.

  johnnys
  John Martin from Johnny's Auto Trim & Rod Shop had this rendering in mind for the past 14 years.

John Martin, Johnny's Auto Trim & Rod Shop

SEMA eNews: Why did you decide to get involved and become a HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge participant? 



John Martin: My reason for participating started with a conversation with John Menzler who told me about the cause, which I thought was great; anything to help kids. I feel that getting kids into cars is one of the very best things for them.

SEMA eNews: Did you race Pinewood when you were younger? 



John Martin: I did not get to race as a kid. My father was also sick with MS, so my brothers and I worked to support the family. I understand the tough times of having a sick family member, so I love to see kids having fun.

SEMA eNews: What was the inspiration for your build?



John Martin: I've had this rendering for about 14 years and wanted to build the real car for myself or a customer someday. I thought it would be cool to use it as the pinewood car.

SEMA eNews: What was the major challenge in completing the build?



John Martin: The biggest challenge was getting it proportioned.

SEMA eNews: What are the details of the build that you would like potential bidders to know? 



John Martin: The bidders can start by buying the pinewood, then we could build them the real car. Wouldn't that be cool?

  spitzer
  Spitzer's build includes custom aluminum wheels and a carbon-fiber carrying case.

Mike Spitzer, Spitzer Concepts

SEMA eNews: Why did you decide to get involved and become a HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge participant? 



Mike Spitzer: Just for the fun of doing the project and to know that the proceeds benefit Childhelp and Victory Junction Camp.

SEMA eNews: Did you race Pinewood when you were younger? 



Mike Spitzer: I helped my son when he was in Pinewood Derby.

SEMA eNews: What was the inspiration for your build? 



Mike Spitzer: I have always loved Bonneville and the Lakesters and Streamliners.

SEMA eNews: What was the major challenge in completing the build? 



Mike Spitzer: The build time; with so many customer projects in the shop, everyone here wanted to be part of the HRIA build as well.

SEMA eNews: What are the details of the build that you would like potential bidders to know?

Mike Spitzer: The build includes custom aluminum wheels and a carbon-fiber carrying case. I also want them to know that their bids will help kids at Childhelp and Victory Junction.

  spankys
  The Pinewood build from Spanky's is made of 100% steel.

Mike Cooper, Spanky's Hot Rods

SEMA eNews: Why did you decide to get involved and become a HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge participant?

Mike Cooper: Eric Saltrick gave me information about the race and called me a few weeks later and asked if our shop would like to participate. I said "you bet," and the rest is history.

SEMA eNews: Did you race Pinewood when you were younger?

Mike Cooper: Yes, as a Cub Scout I did race Pinewood derby. I always loved that time of year when it came around. I made it through Scouts and reached the rank of Eagle Scout. When my son got into Scouts, he raced Pinewood derby and also reached the rank of Eagle Scout. That is a great program for young kids.

SEMA eNews: What was the inspiration for your build?

Mike Cooper: The building of the car triggered lots of great memories for me. I wanted to build a car that looked like something you would see roll out of our shop, but at the same time, look like a race car. I didn't build it thinking it would win the race, but win the heart of someone with deep pockets who would help the kids. I felt like I had already won when I was asked to build a car.

SEMA eNews: What was the major challenge in completing the build?

Mike Cooper: The major challenge in completing the car was picking a car to build. I called Brent Gill of Brent Gill Designs in Tampa, Florida, and told him of this fullsize car that was stuck in my head for many years now. I gave him the details and our shop colors and asked if he would put the info on paper. In a few weeks he sent me the rendering drawing and I started the build. I knew I had to build the car from steel and use what I had in my shop. No mail order or store-bought parts; keep it simple and cool. The car is all steel with a wooden firewall. It was hard to stop working on it. I set a date to stop and ship the car and stuck to it. 



SEMA eNews: What are the details of the build that you would like potential bidders to know?

Mike Cooper: The car is 100% steel and the body was shaped with the same tools in the shop that I use to build fullsize cars. The frame was built first, then the body was built around the frame. It's all handmade, no CNC parts. The frame and body unbolt from each other just as the fullsize version does. The vehicle includes handmade aluminum racing seats cut from the same sheet as our fullsize seats. The car was painted with the same PPG paint in our paint booth with the same spray guns we use on our fullsize builds. I would say I have 40 to 60 hours in the car and box. I also have a framed rendering of the car from Brent Gill that goes with it at auction.

All of the HRIA Builder's Challenge vehicles will be on display in HRIA's council booth at the 2011 SEMA Show. More details on the auction will be available in upcoming issues of SEMA eNews. For more information, contact Zane Clark at zanec@sema.org.

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