Leaders and Legends Headline ARMO Builders Panel
In preparation for the SEMA Show, the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) lined up several high-profile programs. With the onset of COVID-19 and the Show cancellation, the select committee focused instead on a virtual ARMO Builders Panel during the SEMA360 event.
“I’ve attended every Builders Panel at the SEMA Show,” said ARMO Chair Ben Tucker. “They’re always interesting and fun. Amy Fitzgerald [Cool Hand Customs] had been our moderator and did a fantastic job.”
But when Fitzgerald withdrew, ARMO needed a stand-in. Select committee member Sabra Johnson of City Classic Cars stepped up to the plate.
“Sabra was super pumped, and we were excited,” Tucker said. “He wanted to take it to the next level and really acquired a super-star panel. Not only that, but he also went for diversity by including people from different geographic areas and with different perspectives. I thought that was cool.”
As chair of the Builders Panel task force, Johnson’s aim was “to build on the panel’s legacy of offering insights and information” by taking it up a notch with a three-person panel from across the restoration spectrum.
“When I think of diversity, it’s regional and cultural as well as diversity of businesses,” Johnson said. “They were builders from different markets or regions who run different types of businesses, so members could be exposed to diverse viewpoints and experiences.”
To determine the regions, Johnson carved the country into three segments: East Coast, West Coast and what he called the Third Coast, which runs from Texas to the Great Lakes. Armed with a network of contacts, Johnson lined up three industry legends.
The trio included Dan Short, famed classic car restorer, TV personality and owner of Fantom Works based in Norfolk, Virginia; Steve Cook, whose Oklahoma City company, Steve Cook Creations, is known for its award-winning restomods and more traditional restorations; and Art Morrison of Art Morrison Enterprises, whose company in Fife, Washington, is considered the premier chassis manufacturer.
To kick off the session, Johnson asked the panelists what inspired their passion and how they got involved in the industry. From there, the free-flowing conversation shifted to talk about industry trends and directions, new manufacturing and design processes, and how their businesses are overcoming challenges in an evolving industry.
“From the start, I wanted it to be a premier panel—the guys are living legends,” Johnson said. “It was not just about sharing information to help people build better cars; it was also about helping people build more profitable businesses. As builders and industry leaders, they shared information and insights to help our member companies do that.”
“Sabra filled it with the best panel he could get,” Tucker added. “It was the perfect group. We’ve got wide diversity within the builder community, from the mega-shop to the smaller ultra-custom shop, and an open discussion with real answers from real builders was invaluable. We try to make the program better every year. Sabra killed it.”