SEMA News - March 2010 

  Dick Wells was the first editor of National Dragster when it launched in 1960 by the National Hot Rod Association. Courtesy of NHRA

Industry Mourns the Loss of Pioneer

The specialty-equipment industry lost of one of its most dedicated and active volunteers, Dick Wells, who died January 18 from complications following heart surgery in November. He was 75.

Wells was highly active in SEMA initiatives throughout his career and helped nurture the industry during its formative years.

“Dick played a major role in the development of the organization,” said former SEMA President Chuck Blum. “He was executive director of SEMA, which at the time, was the equivalent of president. Dick resigned, and I took his place. Later, the SEMA Board decided the Association needed a magazine, and I was able to lure Dick back from the NHRA. As vice president of communications, he set up SEMA News and was its first editor and publisher. We didn’t have much of a staff, so he wrote all our communications, public relations material, brochures and catalogs. That’s probably what he is best know for—his passion for journalism and writing.”

Wells was the first editor of National Dragster when it was launched in 1960 by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Soon after, he became managing editor of Hot Rod magazine and was later named executive editor of Motor Trend. As director of special events at Petersen Publishing Company, Wells was also instrumental in producing the first SEMA Show in 1967 at Dodger Stadium.


Dick Wells and former SEMA Chairman Corky Coker (left) have a laugh at an awards ceremony at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.   


Elected to the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1993, Wells was highly active in SEMA initiatives throughout his career.   

"I was fortunate to have known Dick on professional and personal levels,” said fellow industry icon Alex Xydias. “When we worked at Petersen, Dick and I were part of a very small staff who produced the first SEMA Show. It was well known around those halls that if you needed something written quickly and precise, Dick was the guy. None of us had any real experience; it was a time when you learned as you went. His unique and creative talents have supported the industry and its causes from the beginning.”

Wells was named SEMA Person of the Year in 1977 and was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1993. He received the International Specialty Car Association Founder’s Award in 1994 and was among those honored in 2001 with the NHRA’s Pioneer Award.

“Dick was a dedicated and devoted part of SEMA, NHRA and our industry,” said SEMA Hall of Fame member Leo Kagan. “He loved to write, to talk and to help the growth and stature of the associations. We worked together harmoniously for years, including negotiations that resulted in SEMA taking over production of the annual SEMA Show from Petersen Publishing. Dick was a pleasure to work with, and it was a delight to have him as a friend for more than 30 years. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on with us.”

Wells remained a key editorial, marketing and historical adviser to SEMA to the end.

“There are only a few folks you can identify as foundation stones in the realms of SEMA and NHRA, and Dick Wells was one of them,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “His life was all about drag racing, street rodding and the industry behind the hobby. Dick was unique in having held influential positions in race sanctioning bodies, the automotive media and the industry’s trade associations. In those walks, Dick made many important contributions and many, many friends. The industry family he so loved is mourning his loss.”  

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