HRIA Programs Bring Awareness to the Hot-Rod Industry and Hobby

SEMA Member News—March/April 2016

HRIA Programs Bring Awareness to the Hot-Rod Industry and Hobby

  Goolsby Customs
Goolsby Customs unveiled a ’69 Mustang in the HRIA booth at the 2015 SEMA Show. The car also won the Ford Design Award. Along with three vehicles from the HRIA booth, six more hot rods of various genres were displayed at the HRIA Awards Reception.

The Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) aims to provide programs and effective strategies to ensure the prosperity of the hot-rod industry. Two of the council’s programs are proven successes in raising awareness for the builders of the industry. HRIA’s Feature Vehicle Program and Builder’s Challenge highlight up-and-coming talented builders as well as promote HRIA members’ parts. These programs are produced annually at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

Feature Vehicle Program

The Feature Vehicle Program is a long-standing tradition and has showcased more than 200 vehicles to date. The program originated with a magazine sponsorship of the HRIA reception. The sponsorship included choosing cover cars or vehicle debuts to feature during the event. The cars attracted so much attention that the council continued the program when the sponsorship ended. The council’s goal has been to highlight top builders, as well as parts and components that member companies produce.

HRIA Immediate Past Chair Rick Love said that the selection process for the vehicles has become increasingly difficult every year, since the overall quality of the cars and trucks being built these days is nothing short of amazing. The council aims to select a wide array of vehicles that represents the breadth of HRIA’s membership.

The HRIA is made up of manufacturers, retailers and builders whose main focus consists of street rods, custom cars and trucks as well as modified cars and trucks from the ’20s and ’30s right up to late-’90s model years. Builders can submit their program applications in July. Once the applications have been collected, the Feature Vehicle Task Force carefully reviews each vehicle.

When making its selections, the task force aims to represent all facets of the industry, while also keeping in mind vehicles that will aesthetically complement each other in the display areas. Another factor in the selection process is how “fresh” the vehicles are. The council likes to feature vehicles that will be making their debuts at the SEMA Show. Lastly, the council always tries to select one or two vehicles built by a younger-generation member, giving that faction a prominent stage to showcase its talent while encouraging HRIA’s “Futures in Hot Rodding” initiative.

The Feature Vehicle Program has provided a multitude of builders with tangible benefits. Goolsby Customs had a ’69 Mustang unveiled at the HRIA booth at the 2015 SEMA Show. The vehicle was honored with the Ford Design Award and the coveted Mothers Shine Award.

Feature vehicles attract attention to the builders and the shops they represent and often result in connections with future customers.

Builder’s Challenge

The HRIA Builder’s Challenge is a five-year-old program. Its goal is to spotlight the talents of as many hot-rod builders as possible by having them design and build pinewood derby hot rods. As of 2015, more than 35 different top builders have participated in the challenge.

The program gives builders the artistic freedom to design elements that may not be feasible on an actual hot-rod build, thus creating one-of-a-kind pieces of art on a smaller scale. The pinewoods are displayed in the HRIA booth at the SEMA Show and are then auctioned off at the HRIA industry reception, benefitting SEMA Cares charities.

The pinewoods are not just works of art; they are functioning derby cars, and the HRIA holds annual races with them. In 2015, the races were moved from the SEMA Installation Gala to the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, a highly attended national event where the cars, builders, races and the HRIA gained more exposure.

The HRIA finds that the more exposure this program gains, the more eager builders are to participate. The 2016 event is shaping up to be the most successful yet, with an anticipated increase in quantity and quality of pinewoods. A notable goal and enhancement for the 2016 event is a closer interaction with HRIA’s “Futures in Hot Rodding” initiative, which places emphasis on keeping younger generations interested in the hot-rodding industry.

“We feel that our pinewood races play a significant role in grabbing the attention of youngsters attending the show,” said BJ Elmore, HRIA select committee member. “While the builders dedicate hundreds of hours to the cause, the Builder’s Challenge demonstrates the ‘less serious’ side of car building.”

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