SEMA Member News—September/October 2015

HRIA Cruises Through Summer

Carmen Bélanger-Martin
Carmen Bélanger-Martin is the president of AM Hot Rod Glass.

This summer was a busy one for the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA), with the usual council events plus a few changes.

The new select committee terms began on July 1. In this year’s election, HRIA welcomed back four incumbents: Scott Bowers (Ron Francis Wiring), B.J. Elmore (Ridetech), Jeff Major (Bed Wood and Parts) and Angela Schoof (TEN: The Enthusiast Network). In addition to these veteran HRIA leaders, Carmen Bélanger-Martin of AM Hot Rod Glass joined the team. Before jumping into her first meeting, Bélanger-Martin took a few minutes to catch up with SEMA Member News.

SEMA Member News: Tell us something about your industry experience.

Carmen Bélanger-Martin: In 2006, I started Aero Marine in a 5,800-sq.-ft. building with one customer, Skater Powerboats. I focused on building optically clear, 3/4-in. acrylic windshields with a vision of drivers being able to visually navigate the waters at 150 mph or greater. In 2007, I was approached to build custom-car windshields and roof panels by Ryan Friedlinghaus, Galpin and John Fraizer of FXperts as well as Sony/Paramount and Disney studios for TV and motion pictures. As Aero Marine grew, I launched AM Hot Rod Glass—windshields for hot rods, Bonneville land-speed cars, automotive prototyping and weight reduction.

I am a fabricator. My hands still touch/build every product we produce. I am strong and persistent, with a progressive perspective on the automotive industry that’s respected by my clients. After nine years of dedicated work, my goal to become the first female acrylic/polycarbonate Department of Transportation glazer in the United States was becoming a real possibility.

SMN: Why do you feel it’s important to serve on the select committee?

CBM: I want to bring a different perspective to the committee and communicate with my HRIA peers and committee members, to become a voice for them and advocate for developing issues that are related to our manufacturing processes.

SMN: What advice do you have for members who want to get more involved in the group?

CBM: Do it! Do it! Take the chance and figure out how to make it work within your already-filled schedule. This is very necessary and important to your growth within the industry. I see more and more of my client builders taking a serious look at the HRIA and wanting to become more active within the association.

HRIA Open General Membership Meetings

The annual HRIA open general membership meeting at the Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, took place on July 9 and gave attendees a chance to connect with each other, meet the council leadership and learn more about industry developments. Members who attended got a first look at the council’s newly released annual report and offered feedback about their own challenges and opportunities, which gave the council leadership some direction for future discussions and initiatives.

This July 24 featured SEMA’s yearly Installation Gala, when the new Board of Directors members formally took their positions and the HRIA Pinewood Builders Challenge cars made their debut. Members look forward to this event each year for the networking opportunities and the pinewood drag races that benefit SEMA Cares charities. The event was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

The annual HRIA Pinewood Builders Challenge showcases the skills of nationally known hot-rod builders and also raises money for SEMA Cares charities benefiting Child Help and Victory Junction facilities. Invited participants build small-scale pinewood cars to be raced at the annual SEMA Pinewood Drag Races. Hot-rod builders, being who they are, are not your typical pinewood racers. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that the auction proceeds go toward helping children, or perhaps they just want to build the best car they can, regardless of the scale. Whatever their motivation, the HRIA Pinewood Builders Challenge seems to bring out their best. This year, upward of 20 builders competed.

While the pinewood cars were displayed at the Installation Gala, the actual race took place for the first time at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, during the first week of August. The next stop for the vehicles will be the SEMA Show, where they will be showcased in the HRIA booth in Hot Rod Alley and will then be auctioned off for charity at the HRIA industry awards reception on Wednesday, November 4.

The next chance for HRIA members to connect will be at the SEMA Show. Details about the booth location and reception will be available soon. Don’t miss these community-building opportunities. For more information, contact Jim Skelly at

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