SEMA News—December 2013
By Chad Simon
Constructing Automotive Works of Art
Builder’s Challenge Features Increasingly Complex Pinewood Hot Rods Designed for Charity
An incredible class of hot-rod builders participated in the HRIA Builder’s Challenge, but Derek White of Street Vizions successfully defended his title in the end, winning the race series for the fourth consecutive year. His car this year was a John Menzler tribute—a “Menzler Racing” hi-boy-style coupe. Keith Kaucher of Kaucher Kustoms was the runner-up, followed by the Mickey Thompson Challenger I replica built by Doug Dwyer of Essential Marketing Services.
“We like doing the SEMA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge because it benefits SEMA Cares charities, and it’s also fun to compete against everybody,” said Brigit White of Street Vizions. “This car was special because it was made for my friend John Menzler. If it weren’t for him, we would not be competing.”
Dwyer added, “The Pinewood Drag Races just happened to be compatible with my interest in model building. The first car I built was the Chrisman Coupe, because Art Chrisman is from my home town of Compton, and I have been friends with him for many years. Art gave me some of the actual paint from the real car. He signed it for the auction, which raised several hundred dollars. This year’s car was Mickey Thompson’s Challenger I, and his son Danny Thompson signed it for the auction.
During the HRIA reception at the SEMA Show, the Best Engineered (Johnson Hot Rods), Best in Show (B Rod or Custom) and the race winner (Street Vizions) were auctioned live, and a silent auction was slated for the rest of the Pinewood Builder’s cars. Proceeds will benefit the SEMA Cares charities.
“Many of us can admire the amazing creations from some of the industry’s best custom-car and hot-rod builders from afar,” said Eric Saltrick of Steele Rubber Products and one of the event’s founders.
“But the HRIA Pinewood Builders Challenge auction allows all of us to own a one-of-a-kind custom car from these builders. They are the ones we see on television and in magazines winning national awards and recognition for their large-scale works of automotive art.”
In addition to supporting the charities, the builders showcase their creations throughout the year to children interested in cars, providing an opportunity to expose the hot-rod hobby and custom-car industry to the next generation of car builders.
“The cars in the Builder’s Race are true, one-of-a-kind pieces of art that reflect the passion, creativity and ingenuity of the builders,” said Dave Williams of Rampage Products, who served as the race organizer and trackside umpire.
“These qualities resonate with people when they see the cars.”
The race came to fruition at the 2009 SEMA Show when former HRIA Chairman Rick Love of Vintage Air and HRIA members Saltrick and Menzler (from Comp Cams) decided to walk the Show floor and ask every well-known hot-rod builder to participate.
The idea behind the first Challenge was simply to see what top-notch hot-rod builders could do with a block of wood, and they have pushed the boundaries of the rules every year.
The rules are simple and subject to interpretation. Each pinewood builder is given four months to complete a car, with no design limitations imposed except that the car has to fit the track’s dimensions and no propulsion systems are allowed.