SEMA Member News—March 2020

The HRIA booth unveiling, now in its sixth year, is a big draw, attracting ever-larger crowds.

By SEMA Editors

HRIA Feature-Vehicle Program: More Than a Car Show

During the late ’80s and early ’90s, SEMA’s Street Rod Market Alliance (SRMA)—the predecessor to the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA)—had a small booth in Street Rod Alley in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) at the SEMA Show. SRMA also had a feature-vehicle display area located nearby, which showcased several street rods of the day.

As the Show expanded and was sectionalized, a significantly larger exhibit area (now known as Hot Rod Alley) was created in the Central Hall near Restoration Marketplace. Located at the corner of those two sections is a popular destination—a feature-vehicle display shared jointly by HRIA and the Automotive Restoration Market Organization. For the past 10 years, HRIA has used the Show to prominently showcase a collection of handpicked hot rods, both in the booth and at its annual awards reception.

Building Show-Worthy Hot Rods

It may come as a surprise to some that the featured hot rods don’t simply show up in Las Vegas; there is a selection process. It actually begins immediately after the end of the current year’s Show, with vehicle selection for the following year finalized by August. Here’s how it works:

Applications are submitted online. A select committee task force reviews the applications, including renderings and photos. An effort is made to select vehicles that represent a cross section of the different segments of the hot-rodding hobby, such as traditional pre-’48, musclecar, pickup and so forth.

To be considered for the program, each build must meet specific criteria. For instance, builders must utilize SEMA- and HRIA-member products in all builds. Vehicles must also be new builds, never before displayed at the SEMA Show and preferably nowhere else prior to the Show. Builders and vehicle owners are also required to cover their own expenses and ensure that the vehicles arrive on-site at the specified time for loading into the booth.

While one or two established builders are typically included in the final selection, the focus is always on bringing in up-and-coming builders. Indeed, several builders who are now recognized as industry leaders credit their participation in the feature-vehicle program with helping to build their businesses.

“One of the highlights for me,” said Josh Henning, HRIA select committee member and chair of the council’s feature vehicle taskforce, “is seeing how this group of competitors truly make the most out of the experience and have fun together. There are so many different shops from all over the country helping each other, all at different stages in their careers, from just starting out to seasoned veterans. I have a very special place in my heart for this program, as I have seen firsthand what it can do for the future of hot-rod building.”

Drumming Up Excitement, Earning Recognition

With so much eye candy on view at the SEMA Show, HRIA goes the extra mile to drum up enthusiasm and anticipation for its feature-vehicle display. Prior to the Show, the task force selects one or two vehicles to be unveiled on opening day. Once on-site, the vehicles remain covered until Tuesday morning of Show week.

Now in its sixth year, the unveiling is a big draw, attracting ever-larger crowds. In fact, it is typically the first time the vehicle owner or owners actually get to see the completed rod.

The media increasingly utilizes the booth as a backdrop for photo shoots and interviews.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. On Wednesday, several hot rods displayed outside the LVCC are moved to the Westgate Paradise Event Center in preparation for the HRIA awards reception. Placed strategically in the Westgate’s ballroom, the knockout rods are a centerpiece attraction for the more than 500 hot-rod industry pros who attend the event.

In recent years, HRIA feature vehicles have also earned numerous awards, including multiple Mothers Shine awards, design awards from General Motors and Ford, as well as a Gran Tourismo award. Participating vehicles also routinely make it into the judging rounds of the annual SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.

“The HRIA feature-vehicle program had another amazing year, with booth and reception vehicles once again winning many of the top awards at the SEMA Show,” Henning said. “All the builders exceeded our expectations. Between the quality of the builds and quality of the people and relationships built with many of the HRIA exhibiting companies, last year’s builders’ futures are some of the brightest I have ever seen.

“On behalf of HRIA, I once again thank Blue Sky Performance, Dutch Boys, CHRA, Boneyard Builds, Fast Company, BBT Fab, Cruzer’s and Hammer Fab for truly embracing the experience and for being such an awesome group of builders.”

Builders and Their Vehicles

Here are the cars, the builders and some of the member-company products that participated in the 2019 HRIA feature-vehicle program.

Vehicles In The Booth

’58 Chevrolet Apache Pickup

Builder: Hammer Fab
Member companies represented: Roadster Shop and AM Hot Rod Glass

’69 Chevrolet Camaro

Builder: BBT Fabricators
Member companies represented: Bowler Transmissions, Baer Brakes and Dakota Digital

’69 Camaro

Builder: Dutch Boys Hot Rods
Member companies represented: Detroit Speed and Bowler Transmissions

Vehicles In The Reception

’40 Ford Pickup

Builder: Customs and Hot Rods of Andice
Member companies represented: Roadster Shop, Classic Instruments and American Autowire

’73 Chevrolet Camaro

Builder: Voletto Customs
Member companies represented: RideTech, Wilwood and Dynamat

’69 Chevrolet C-10

Builder: Cruzer’s Customs
Member companies represented: RideTech, Dakota Digital and Vintage Air

’59 Chevrolet Corvette

Builder: Fast Company Canada
Member companies represented: Roadster Shop and JRi

’70 Chevrolet C10

Builder: Boneyard Builds
Member companies represented: Roadster Shop and ProFab

’66 Pontiac LeMans

Builder: Blue Sky Performance & Restoration
Member companies represented: Roadster Shop, Boze and Level 10

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