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SEMA Council & Network News: Hot Rod Power Tour Participants Share Their Stories

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Hot Rod Power Tour Participants Share Their Stories

Amy Fitzgerald
Amy Fitzgerald

I can say without hesitation that I am a stronger person in more than one way after this trip. I didn’t think it was possible to love my industry even more. Every town we passed through seemed to welcome the rolling car show with excitement.

Fellow Tour participants were so nice and truly seemed interested in each other’s cars, passions and places in the industry. It was remarkable to see the unity among enthusiasts. Strangers stopped to help each other out, just because. Family Events went above and beyond to help me find a valve-cover gasket so I would be able to continue to the next city without problems. The Hot Rod staff fed us a lavish dinner each night. I felt so well taken care of from the beginning of the tour all the way to the end. I can’t imagine a better group of people to travel across the United States with!

The highlight of my journey was the opportunity to speak to a group of young enthusiasts about the industry. The excitement and interest the teens showed when I brought my car into their shop assured me that there will continue to be young people entering the industry, and my hobby is not going to fade off into the distance.

My Bel Air only had 1,200 miles on it before the tour started, meaning it really got broken in on this journey. I am proud of myself, my husband and our shop for building the entire car in 18 weeks and putting it to the test. Now that I am home, it seems odd to be on the road in my classic all alone—parking lots and gas stations are boring again. I do feel that I came home with some serious bragging rights and I am already looking forward to 2015!

Ian Lehn
Ian Lehn

Describing the experience of a lifetime is difficult. Hot Rod magazine and SEMA’s YEN Power Tour brought together every aspect of automotive passion and beauty that I’ve held dear since childhood. It would have been unbelievable to go on the Hot Rod Power Tour, but by taking this adventure with nine other peers and sharing experiences together, it was something that I will never forget. I find myself still reminiscing with my fellow participants about the mishaps, interesting rods and even more interesting people. 

What the Power Tour meant to me was the chance to surround myself with like-minded gearheads, and partake in something that we all love. What the YEN Power Tour meant was something far more. I have never had an opportunity that left me so speechless. Meeting leaders in our industry, such as Doug Evans and Chris Kersting, to the people who are pushing our industry forward at the technical schools we visited, I don't know if there will ever be a more impactful seven days. 

As long as there are groups like SEMA and Hot Rod magazine keeping our hobbies and passions alive with events like this, we will keep showing up and supporting.

So, what was the Hot Rod Power Tour experience for me? A whirlwind seven days of friendships, breakdowns, fix-ups, beef jerky, burning rubber, horsepower and opportunity.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Right from the start, I knew that this would be an overwhelmingly positive experience. Watching as 10 individuals quickly formed into 10 close friends was quite inspirational. It’s hard to believe how quickly the bonds were formed between the individual teams participating in the YEN Power Tour, and also the group as a whole. There was such a perfect mesh of personalities, knowledge and passion between us all that it felt like we had been friends for years instead of only a few days. This was probably the best part of the entire tour for me. The cohesion of our group stretched further than just the 10 of us, and extended to the teams of Hot Rod magazine and Family Events. I have made personal connections and friendships with so many different people in the industry that SEMA and other tradeshows and events will never be the same.

Every day of the tour was packed full of events. Not only did we get to meet other enthusiasts, we were also able to interact with vendors, staff and even had the opportunity to talk with SEMA President Chris Kersting. Having the opportunity to speak with Chris helped put things into perspective about the big picture of SEMA and the future of our industry. Having one-on-one time with such important key figures helped me look further ahead and see where I would like to take my business and where I want to be in the future. 

Paul Makarucha
Paul Makarucha

A few months ago, I had never even heard of the Hot Rod Power Tour. Now, I can’t imagine not attending every year from here on out. Not that I really need a reason to talk to strangers, but SEMA tasked us with talking to as many young people on the tour as we could to show that the young enthusiast sector is alive and thriving. It was fantastic! The hot-rod community is far larger than I initially estimated, and one of the friendliest, family-oriented, welcoming groups I’ve encountered. Rolling with the Tour through beautifully scenic country roads in the heart of America as townspeople line the roads with friendly smiles, waves and American flags evokes a feeling not easily described. Honestly, no matter what you drive, if you’ve modified it, it’s a hot rod. As they say, the journey is getting there. The friends you’ll make, challenges you’ll overcome and laughs you’ll share on the Tour can last a lifetime.

Brit Mansell
Brit Mansell

Living in Birmingham, Alabama, I have been fortunate to see the Hot Rod Power Tour pass through my town a couple of times in the past. During those years, I joined the tour for a couple of legs, so I thought I was informed about the Hot Rod Power Tour. However, my previous experience only scratched the surface of the true value of this event. For the full experience, one needs to run multiple legs of the Tour. The relationships forged in such a short time are amazing. While on the Tour, everyone is the same and equal and has a genuine bond. Seeing the gearhead bond grow through seven different cities in seven days is truly an amazing experience.

Rolling through the hills and town squares of several small-town American cities in the world’s largest traveling car show is an experience I will never forget. Seeing people in each town set out their lawn chairs on the side of the street and wave as the Tour drove by gave me a unique sense of what America truly is and what I hope it continues to be.

The hot-rod world is one that has withstood the test of time and been somewhat impervious to the problems plaguing the rest of the country. The Hot Rod Power Tour may consist of one of the largest groups of people who truly understand and experience what it is to be a proud American.

Jonathan Mill
Jonathan Mill

Explaining the Power Tour is like an astronaut trying to explain space; until you are there, you won't fully understand. The sense of community and passion can only be felt. This was my first Hot Rod Power Tour and I understand now why so many cars had multiple-year stickers on them.

I was a long hauler driving my ’35 Ford pickup with the YEN group and it was our mission to engage as much as possible with the people, places and vehicles participating. I dove in head first and was able to interview Richard Petty on day number one, setting the tone for a collection of memories that I will carry with me my whole life. If you are at all interested in the automotive world, whatever the era (there were plenty late-model cars with us), I suggest planning to take this tour. It will give you the best insight into what this industry is all about.

Michelle Perez
Michelle Perez

I was one of the lucky participants to go on the YEN Power Tour. This was a dream come true for my ’67 Mustang and me. For all of the enthusiasts out there who say, “This looks like fun, I have to do it one year,” stop saying it and do it! Even if it's only for one or two legs of the trip, it's simply amazing. It brings people from all walks of life together. No matter your age, race or gender, we were all treated like extended family. I was able to speak to kids and see the passion that I had at their age and was able to see that the future of our hobby and passion is still alive and strong in the next generation! I was also able to speak with people who have been in the industry a while. They were so kind and even shared some of their tips and experiences to help me in the future. This experience really opened my eyes and warmed my heart.

I had some issues with my car, and the group of people I was traveling with were eager to jump in and help. People I just met that day! Passing cars saw me with my hood up and stopped to help me get my car running again without thinking twice. It was amazing to see how a complete stranger will help you. Like I said before, it's like extended family here. You may have met some of these people for the first time but they are willing to do what they can to help you get from one stop to another, help you with advice for going after your dream and help you learn just a little more. I made some amazing friends on this trip and even more amazing memories.

Dylan Sievers
Dylan Sievers

As participants in the YEN Power Tour, we were all very lucky that SEMA sent us out to engage the youth in the automotive industry and see who was going to be the next generation of this industry. We had the opportunity to visit technical schools and speak to the students about how they can be a part of the industry and what they can do to continually learn and expand their own skills.

The trip itself was a lot of fun and definitely allowed us to see how the younger generation was getting engaged with the industry. We were also able to interview these young enthusiasts and learn what they would like to see in the industry as well as what got them into it.

Overall, the Tour was an amazing chance to engage the younger generation and find out how exactly youth are getting involved with the automotive industry.

Kirstin Stone
Kirstin Stone

I was taken by the variety of cars that were on the tour. Since I was riding with Dylan Sievers in a ’14 F-350 Super Duty, I initially thought we would be the odd man out in a sea of ’60s and ’70s musclecars. I ended up seeing a lot of pickups (some labeled “Plan B,” and those that were apparently Plan A).

When I got to the start in Charlotte on Friday night, I was happy to see all the parking lot camaraderie going on at the hotel. It was just like hanging out at your local cruise night, only the stories were more interesting, and I was 2,500 miles from home. Car guys (and gals) seem to be pretty much the same wherever you go, and despite the inherent spirit of competition, everybody was looking forward to hitting the road. The excitement was palpable the first night or two.  

Once we got a few days in, it was even cooler to run into the long haulers repeatedly, and talk through the days’ events—only on the Power Tour can so much happen to a single classic car or truck in 48 hours. Bent rod, broken fan, utterly destroyed radiator, you name it and the driver’s back on the road with plenty of time to check in at the next stop before the show closes down for the night.

That same energy carried the long haulers through to the end of the line in Wisconsin Dells. Through bouts of bad weather, long days and the occasional roadside brake job, it was a great week.

Jerid Suchy
Jerid Suchy

I feel extremely blessed to have been a part of an event that captures the true spirit and passion of our industry and hobby. One of the tasks for YEN members on Power Tour was to set out and investigate the commonly debated issue of the aftermarket parts business—are there enough younger enthusiasts getting involved with the industry? After travelling more than 1,700 miles through nine states and interviewing many enthusiasts, the answer was clear to me. This hobby is not aging out. While many of the traditional trends of the industry may be losing favor with the younger generation, there are just as many newer trends emerging. Probably one of the most impressive aspects of the Hot Rod Power Tour was the diversity in vehicles participating. Almost every market segment SEMA identifies was covered.

Another task assigned to the YEN crew was to visit a technical/trade school each day, and discuss the automotive aftermarket industry as a potential career path. It was exciting to see so many young people passionate about getting involved in the industry.
The friendships and networking that I have been able to build through the Power Tour have been invaluable to my career and personal life.

Visit TORA's website. 

Carlisle Truck Nationals Give Platform for Free Product Promotion

By Amanda Gubbins

For the fifth year, accessory manufacturers for light trucks, Jeeps, off-road vehicles and SUVs are invited to display new products at the Carlisle Truck Nationals, August 1–3.

The TORA New Products Showcase provides council members with a platform to promote their new products to one of the largest groups of truck enthusiasts in the country. The products are housed in the TORA tent, where attendees can view the descriptions and inquire about purchase options from 8:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m. each day. The accessories are also professionally photographed for use with descriptions on, and presentations at the TORA booth and awards reception at the SEMA Show.

All of this exposure is available to TORA members for only the cost of shipping the products to Carlisle Events. Register today to save a place for your product.

Not yet a member? Need more info about the event? Contact Clayton Drescher at 909-978-6696.

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