SEMA Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

 SEMA 50th anniversary
SEMA is celebrating the Association's 50th anniversary in 2013.

By Amanda Gubbins

This year marks SEMA’s 50th birthday—a remarkable milestone for our association. Let's take a walk down memory lane as we celebrate a half century of our industry.

Many trace the specialty-equipment market’s official beginning to 1928 when George Wight opened his Bell Auto Parts speed shop, but the roots go much deeper. People have been looking for ways to travel faster and in more style and comfort since the invention of the automobile.

When the Model T hit the market, individuals immediately started looking for ways to customize their vehicles and increase their speed.

As time passed and the racing industry developed, it became clear that a partnership was needed for manufacturers. The industry faced many issues—competitors knew some regulations were necessary in order to keep moving forward, but they needed to organize. Discussions began on how to create specifications and legitimize the products being developed and, on March 26, 1963, charter members Roy Richter, Ed Iskenderian, Willie Garner, Bob Hedman, Robert Wyman, John Bartlett, Phil Weiand Jr., Al Segal, Dean Moon and Vic Edelbrock Jr. formed the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA).

In the beginning, SEMA served suppliers of performance equipment for hot rods, and the association accomplished its purpose of uniting the industry. Members helped develop standards for racing competitions and the Association continued growing steadily, putting the industry firmly on the map. Mediating government legislation also became a focus for SEMA. By the late ’60s, members saw a need for an annual convention. The first SEMA Show was held beneath the bleachers at Dodger Stadium in 1967 with 100 exhibitors.

In 50 years, many changes have taken place. One of the biggest differences is that SEMA now includes other aspects of the specialty-equipment market. Along with that transition came a modified name: the Specialty Equipment Market Association. We now have more than 6,500 members worldwide in all niches of the aftermarket—an industry with annual revenue of $31 billion.

As we celebrate our 50th birthday this year, we take pride in where we have come from and look forward to how we will continue to grow. Though our industry is constantly changing, the same mission still guides us: “To help our members’ businesses succeed and prosper.” Our goal will always be to provide unparalleled support and value for our members.

During the month of June, more than 50% of our members are up for renewal. This means many of you are contemplating the value of your SEMA membership. While you think about renewing, please know that we are here to answer any questions that you might have. If you are wondering about the resources available to you or how to get the most from your membership, contact us at or 909-610-2030. Mostly though, we want to thank you for your passion and support of the industry we all love.

If you are not yet a SEMA member and would like to join, visit or call us for more information.

“I am just a little guy in the industry and was blown away by the whole team at SEMA during the enrollment process. I wasn’t treated like a little guy; everyone was so helpful and went way out of their way to answer my questions and help me through the process. You guys have been a class act! I am so proud to be a member of such a fine organization and cannot thank you enough!”

–Brad Desatnik, owner, Route 66 Diesel LLC