Charting the History of HRIA
The primary objectives of the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) are to ensure the future prosperity of the industry and to advance and promote awareness of the hobby. A recent undertaking involves documenting and preserving HRIA’s history from its early days as a SEMA committee to its current status as a council.
It is a daunting task that involves extensive research—locating and sorting through reams of committee and awards rosters, photographs, brochures, newsletters and other memorabilia as well as reaching out to industry veterans to record their recollections.
The task has been undertaken by Dennis Overholser of Painless Performance, a decades-long member who was “volunteered” for the project by fellow HRIA members and has been working on it for more than a year. The goal is to complete the history as a bound book by the end of June 2021.
For the council history to be as well documented, meaningful and accurate as possible, HRIA needs help. Both Major and Overholser urge current and former members to lend a hand to dig through files, look for photos, share reminiscences and pass them along to SEMA Council Director Jim Skelly. You may contact Skelly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m putting together a timeline and trying to be as accurate as possible,” Overholser said. “It’s time-consuming, and some of the information is hard to get, but we are making progress. I see this as a living document that we could add to as time goes on.”
For HRIA Chair Jeff Major, the project is an important initiative.
“This is one of my pet projects,” he said. “I term out in June, so I want it done by then. There’s a tremendous amount of history, and I want it preserved accurately for future generations. Our plan is to distribute the book to all current and former members—all the people and companies instrumental in building our industry.”
From the Beginning
Until the early ’90s, SEMA was still very much a performance-centric trade group, but as former SEMA President Chuck Blum recently recalled, the association was interested in embracing other markets. So when former SEMA Board Chair Jim Davis, then of B&M Performance, requested a meeting on behalf of now-deceased Pete Chapouris, Blum agreed.
“Pete had worked for SEMA as vice president of marketing and was back building street rods,” Blum said. “I met with Pete and a group of manufacturers. They were seeking help with issues they were having with a street-rod organization.
“At the time, SEMA had only committees—there were no councils—but we wanted to grow the association and the Show. We helped the group resolve their issues, and we formed a SEMA committee called SREA [Street Rod Equipment Alliance].”
In 1992, SEMA was approached by other street-rod suppliers interested in merging with SREA. That group became known as the Street Rod Market Alliance (SRMA). In 1993, SRMA as well as the Automotive Restoration Market Organization and the Professional Restylers Organization were elevated to council status. Flash forward to 2004 when SRMA morphed into HRIA.