SEMA Member News—November/December 2015

HRIA Booth at the SEMA Show

The shared Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) and Automotive Restoration Market Association (ARMO) booth at the SEMA Show is sometimes referred to as Central Park because it’s a gathering point, but it also serves to showcase the entries in the annual HRIA Builders Challenge. Hot-rod builders (and now manufacturers) spend hours creating pinewood drag race cars that compete and then are auctioned off Wednesday night, November 4, at the HRIA reception. Putting them up for auction not only provides much-needed funds for SEMA Cares children’s charities, but also gives everyone a chance to own a unique hot rod created by one of the nation’s top builders.

The booth is also home to three vehicles picked for the HRIA display. The vehicles are carefully chosen each year by the team of HRIA Chair John McLeod and Immediate Past Chair Rick Love, and showcase the talents of top builders and up-and-coming craftsmen.

This is the third year that HRIA will unveil a car from one top builder for its public debut. The unveiling will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 3, the opening day of the Show. This year’s unveiling is from Goolsby Customs. (It’s worth noting that Goolsby had a car in the HRIA reception three years ago, and the company credits that experience with kick-starting its rapid rise in the industry.)

A Few Words With John McLeod and Rick Love

John McLeod
John McLeod is the chair of HRIA.

SEMA Member News: The HRIA/ARMO booth has been referred to as Central Park at the SEMA Show. Can you give us some insights into what makes the booth so special?

John McLeod: There’s quite a bit of crossover between the hot-rod industry and the restoration industry, so it’s fun working with that group. Also, each group brings three vehicles to view at the Show. The hot-rod industry is a pretty open palette about what a hot car is, so we have quite a bit of fun with it. We try to get three high-end cars and make it very fun and exciting.

Rick Love
Rick Love is HRIA’s immediate past chair.

Rick Love: Central Park is a great analogy. Our booth is pretty much the center between the restoration and hot-rod sides of Central Hall. The great thing about the HRIA/ARMO booth from a manufacturer’s standpoint is that it gives us an opportunity to showcase some of the parts that our company and other member companies manufacture. We look for builders that use a good cross-section of vendors’ parts, so it’s a great way for the vendors, HRIA and the restoration marketplace to have those parts showcased in a central location.

SMN: It sounds like the booth is very lively. What are the opportunities for networking and engagement like?

JM: There are tons of them! The cars draw the people and get them talking. The builders and owners are in the area, and there’s a lot of creative thinking going on.

RL: That’s why we try to have some tables and chairs there. It’s a place to stop and relax for a few minutes and look at the great cars. It’s a good place to take a breath, and it’s the perfect place to display the pinewood cars prior to the auction and give people some background on SEMA Cares and our scholarship activities.

SMN: Even though the SEMA Show happens once a year, it really propels both councils for the rest of the year, correct?

JM: What’s really exciting is that we have a brand-new car that’s never been seen by the public, and that really creates a buzz. We also always look to sign up new members, and visitors can ask the staff on hand any questions they may have and get signed up. Finally, we get to debut the pinewood challenge cars, talk about the fundraising that we do, and we invite people to our reception on Wednesday night, which is the second largest event at the SEMA Show.

RL: We keep the booth staffed at all times with volunteers from HRIA as well as some SEMA staff. It’s a way for us to spend a few minutes with people and show them the advantages of becoming a part of HRIA. When we unveil the new display car, we tailor that toward some of the younger builders in our industry. Bringing along the next generation is one of the primary goals of HRIA. We give them exposure and a way to help grow their business.

This is very much a relationship-driven industry. The booth is just another place along with our reception to help build those relationships. The buzzword “networking” can be overused, but the HRIA/ARMO booth is a place where you can really accomplish that.

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