How a Car Can Launch a Career: HRIA’s Feature-Vehicle Program

SEMA Member News—November/December 2014

How a Car Can Launch a Career: HRIA’s Feature-Vehicle Program

Each year at the SEMA Show, a walk through Hot Rod Alley gives attendees a snapshot of the market’s artistry. For the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA), the week is a chance to highlight a few creations by members displayed in the council booth and at the organization’s annual reception. It’s an initiative that’s much more than just eye candy, according to HRIA Chair Rick Love.

“We have been fortunate to build the HRIA feature-vehicle program to the point where we get to choose some of the best cars being built and debuted, but it has also given us a platform to help launch and further the careers of quite a few young builders in the industry,” he explained.

Jonathan Goolsby accepted the Goodguys Trendsetter Award on behalf of Goolsby Customs at the Hot Rod Industry Alliance awards reception during the 2013 SEMA Show.

Jonathan Goolsby accepted the Goodguys Trendsetter Award on behalf of Goolsby Customs at the Hot Rod Industry Alliance awards reception during the 2013 SEMA Show.

Several past featured builders have since won prestigious industry awards. One of these success stories belongs to Jonathan Goolsby, owner of Goolsby Customs in Bessemer, Alabama.

Goolsby and his wife opened their shop nearly 10 years ago, focusing on paint jobs. One day, a local customer approached the staff about taking on a full build. It was a ’67 Chevelle, and Goolsby never imagined how the project would impact his company. The team installed a roadster chassis and a big-block engine, but Goolsby believes that the black nickel trim was what really made the car stand out.

In 2009, the vehicle was chosen as an alternate for the HRIA reception, where it was displayed outside the ballrooms. Goolsby was seated at the back of the room and remembers a sense of awe at the celebration.

“I guess if you were walking through Hollywood and seeing a bunch of movie actors, that’s how it was for us,” he said. “To see all the bigwigs in the hot-rod industry in there—all the builders that we’ve always looked up to and read about in magazines, all the people that are in the industry and sell product—seeing them was a huge deal for us.”

Since then, Goolsby Customs has grown and found new opportunities—many stemming from connections made within HRIA during the SEMA Show. The company is now working on product lines with Lokar and scheduling builds and car shows to fill the coming months.

A customer from the Netherlands later approached the shop about building another ’67 Chevelle. That car was featured at the 2013 reception, where Goolsby and his team were honored with the Goodguys Trendsetter of the Year award.

“It worked out well, because our customer from the Netherlands was there and was impressed by it,” said Goolsby. “Going from being at that far back table to being in front of everybody and actually being on that stage, you can’t put it in words.”

At the 2014 Show, HRIA hopes to set the stage for more young builders, such as Talbert Goldman of Mike Goldman Customs in Meridian, Mississippi. Some of Goldman’s earliest memories are of helping his dad in the garage, where he was welding by the age of eight.

“In 1990, Dad went full time into building street rods, and I’ve been right there by his side,” he said. “My dad’s basically taught me everything I know.”

Goldman first attended the SEMA Show with his parents as a 17-year-old. Now, 11 years later, he is excited to be returning with a vehicle. Goldman’s shop recently completed a ’57 Chevy truck that caught the eyes of Rick Love and Chair-Elect John McLeod, who asked the Goldmans if they would like to feature it at the HRIA reception.


“We told them sure,” said Goldman. “I mean, it’s an honor just to be asked to do that. One of my goals that I’ve always had was to have a vehicle there, and it kind of fell into our lap.”

As far as what the company hopes to gain, Goldman said that it’s a little exposure and a chance to make some new friends.

HRIA has a number of community-building activities planned for other hot rodders looking to get connected. Stop by the HRIA booth (Central Hall booth #23395) during SEMA Show hours to network and check out the feature vehicles.

On Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. in the Las Vegas Convention Center, room N258, HRIA will power a discussion entitled “99 Reasons Why Your Favorite Car Sucks: How to Be a Successful Car Builder.” It will be aimed at coaching new builders.

Finally, make plans to join the council for its industry awards reception on November 5, 5:15 p.m.–8:30 p.m., in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (formerly LVH), Ballrooms A–B.