By Todd Ryden
HRIA Feature Vehicle Program—Kicking Careers Into High Gear
HRIA holds annual vehicle unveilings in its booth on opening day of the SEMA Show, attracting a crowd of media and Show attendees.
Each year at the SEMA Show, the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) partners with the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) to have a booth in Hot Rod Alley in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This area gives both councils a place to gather and speak to companies and individuals about each group as well as the status of issues within the industry.
Selected vehicles are placed in the shared booth to serve as conversation pieces, and HRIA also uses this space to introduce different builders to the industry through the council’s feature vehicle program. HRIA’s feature vehicle program provides an opportunity for 10 hot-rod builders to gain exposure to thousands of potential partners and buyers. Three vehicles are featured in the HRIA/ARMO booth, and six are featured at the annual HRIA reception, with one alternate. Those spots have proven to make a big difference to builders who are chosen to represent the hot-rod industry.
The 2016 HRIA feature vehicles came away from the SEMA Show highly recognized and awarded. A ’31 Ford Model A roadster owned by Brian George and built by Roseville Rod and Custom was named Ford Best of Show. A ’51 Ford coupe owned by Bryce Leven and built by Wicked Fabrication and Byers Custom earned two Gran Turismo Awards. A ’51 Ford Model A roadster owned by Brian George and built by Roseville Rod and Custom and a ’69 Camaro owned by John and Nicki Wilkus and built by Roadster Shop both won Goodguys Gold Awards and were in the Mother’s Shine Top 10. And a ’67 Chevrolet C10 pickup owned by Nick Germano and built by Outkast Kustoms won the GM Design Award.
However, the real story is how the program has helped launch the careers of a couple of builders and brought recognition to many others. In 2016, the star of the booth was the incredible ’51 Ford coupe that was built by Wicked Fabrication and unveiled in the booth.
Based in Auburn, Washington, Wicked Fabrication was started by Craig Wick in 2002. The company has built many hot rods over the years, but most of its builds—and their recognition—have remained in the northwest region. The Wicked Fabrication staff knew if they wanted to continue to grow and put their stamp on hot rodding, they would need a larger stage. They learned through John McLeod, the HRIA chairman, that a committee was seeking applications for the 2016 feature spaces. The Wicked Fabrication team was in the process of building a custom ’51 Ford coupe and felt that it would be an ideal candidate.
Early in the summer, they learned that they had been chosen and, in fact, would be the car to be unveiled in front of the gathered media and hot rodders.
“After the feature vehicle task force narrowed down the hundreds of applications, I was pleased to see that Wicked Fabrication was going to make the Show,” McLeod said. “They had a long way to go to finish the car, but the hard work and perseverance obviously paid off.”
The Ford, a heavily modified and customized coupe, was built in the styling of a vintage race car but was full of modern performance technology. Its owner, Bruce Leven, had a vision all along and continued to refine the car as the Wicked Fabrication team progressed on the build. The result was a phenomenal car with visual ties to road racing’s past, combined with modern engineering and design.
The praise and reviews of the little Ford started as soon as the team pulled back the car cover. By the end of the week, everyone knew the name Wicked Fabrication, and the car received the Goodguys Gold Award as well as Best Hot Rod and Best of Show awards from Gran Turismo—quite a slate of honors for a first-time SEMA Show offering!
Since the SEMA Show, the phones and emails at Wicked Fabrication’s headquarters have been going strong.
“We were busy before,” said Brandon Kozlowski, the shop’s parts manager. “But it’s even busier since the SEMA Show.”
The team is planning a national tour of shows and events for 2017, and it will include the ’51. If you didn’t see it at the SEMA Show, make sure to check it out sometime this year.
If you would like more information on how to submit an entry for the HRIA/ARMO 2017 feature vehicle spaces, go to www.sema.org/hria.