By Della Domingo
Joel Ayres, Jim Bingham and Dennis Gage will receive the industry's highest honor and be inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. The new members will be recognized as part of the festivities during the SEMA Installation Gala, Friday, July 24, 2015, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. They represent an accomplished group of professionals who have shaped and inspired the $33-billion automotive specialty-equipment market.
Joel Ayres: The automotive specialty-equipment industry is said to be one filled with passion. Ayres takes it a step further and is compassionate. While his contributions to the industry are evident through his involvement with the truck industry and the role he played in merging the Truck Cap Industry Association (now known as the Light Truck & Accessory Alliance [TORA]) with SEMA, Ayres is committed to giving back to those in need.
Ayres helped found SEMA Cares nearly 10 years ago. The nonprofit group unites the SEMA industry’s fundraising efforts and provides businesses with an easy way to give to those in need. Through activities, such as vehicle builds that are auctioned off to raise money and pinewood races where underprivileged and chronically ill kids join in the fun, SEMA Cares has raised more than $1 million to support a variety of charities.
Most recently, Ayres was named as the first-ever executive director for the Aftermarket Foundation, where he plays a key role in helping the foundation assist automotive aftermarket individuals who, because of catastrophic illness or terrible accidents, have fallen on hard times.
Jim Bingham: Bingham began his career in 1968 at Lang Auto Parts. As a farm boy just breaking into business, Bingham was the youngest counter guy at the store and knew nothing about high-performance parts. However, he learned quickly and was instantly hooked. After just two years, Bingham founded Winner’s Circle Speed and Custom Inc. The company has grown to include three retail store locations, wholesale distribution under the name 1st Performance Warehouse and two major trade events. Throughout his career, he has taken an active role in helping the industry grow. In addition to serving on the SEMA Board of Directors, Bingham has held roles as a board member for the Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) and is an original owner of Route 66 Raceway.
In 2009, Bingham was honored with the SEMA Chairman’s Award for his role with the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow—a program that attracts the important youth demographic to the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He helped grow Hot Rodders of Tomorrow’s Engine Challenge in 2008 with 35 students from five high schools, to include more than 110 teams with 770 students competing in 2014.
Dennis Gage: While Gage had an early interest in cars and purchased his first ’59 T-Bird at age 15, he didn’t immediately begin a career in the industry. After graduating from college with degrees in physics and chemistry, Gage started a country rock band and toured for two years. He returned to graduate school, and later joined Proctor & Gamble, where he helped develop the Pringles potato chip before joining Bristol-Myers Squibb. There, Gage led the development of Boost nutritional energy drinks and went on a 20-city media tour to promote the drink. His unique look and signature mustache captured consumer attention, and in the mid-’90s, the pilot for “My Classic Car“ hosted by Dennis Gage premiered. The program is now in its 20th season and has reached nearly 90 million households.
Despite his fame, Gage remains humble and actively volunteers his time to the automotive industry that he loves. He’s served on several SEMA committees and groups, including three terms on the SEMA Board of Directors and the Select Committee of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO).
The SEMA Hall of Fame's three newest members join the elite group of industry icons and innovators who have already been enshrined in the SEMA Hall of Fame. To partake in the celebration where the inductees will be honored and recognized, visit www.sema.org/gala or contact Jamie Eriksen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-978-6737. For more information about the SEMA Hall of Fame, visit www.sema.org/hof.