Members of the SEMA Hall of Fame in front of the new SEMA Hall of Fame Exhibit at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
Hundreds of enthusiasts and SEMA members were joined by some of the industry’s most respected and renowned leaders, during what was dubbed “SEMA Night” at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum on July 2, 2008.
Held in conjunction with the museum’s monthly Cruise-In, the event celebrated the official opening of the SEMA Hall of Fame Exhibit. The exhibit is an interactive display that honors SEMA’s legacy, and it will be housed permanently at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California.
"The SEMA Hall of Fame is an elite group that we owe a great deal to," said Joel Ayres, chairman of the SEMA HOF/History Task Force. "These are innovators and leaders who are responsible for having developed a $38.1 billion industry. We are excited to honor and recognize the SEMA Hall of Fame through this new exhibit, where consumers and enthusiasts will be able to learn more about them and pay tribute to them as well."
Using a touch-screen system, visitors can single out any one of the 125-plus SEMA Hall of Famers and learn about his or her background and the contributions each one made to motorsports and/or the support industry. SEMA Hall of Famers are typically the producers of performance products of all types, along with principals of other industry segments, from superstars of racing to publishing magnates to the leaders who made it all happen.
The centerpiece of the display features one of John Force's 2007 Ford Mustang Funny Car bodies that has seen its share of competition. Visitors to the Museum can sit in the interactive car and take it for simulated ride through the history of SEMA.
"Fans get a chance to test their reaction time using the NHRA 'Christmas tree' starting system while actually seated in a Force-team Funny Car," said Tony Thacker, executive director of the Parks Museum. "It's a lot of fun and learning experience. And that's the point of the overall SEMA Hall of Fame exhibit—to educate the public about the creative individuals who created and sustain the hot rod and performance industry. Thanks to SEMA, the public will see firsthand the type of people who were responsible for bringing motorsports and hot rodding to where they are today."
SEMA Hall of Famers at the event included Bob Airheart, Ray Bleiweis, Chuck Blum, Pete Chapouris, Jim Deist, Ron Funfar, Harry Hibler, Bob Keller, Burke LeSage, Dave McClelland, Carl Olson, Rick Rollins, Louis Senter, Tom Shedden, Nate Shelton, Bob Spar, Linda Vaughn, Joan Weiand, Dick Wells and Alex Xydias.
Four of the SEMA Hall of Famers, Louis Senter, Harry Hibler, Carl Olson and Bob Keller, were named Budweiser Celebrity Judges for the Prolong Cruise Night festivities. Senter, a performance parts maker from the early days, had a difficult time choosing one of the 300-plus hot rods, so he picked two!
"I love 'em all," Senter said. He first tabbed Doc Conroy's 1956 2-door Chevy, which has been a regular at Cruise Night since 2000. Senter's second choice was Ken Sapper's '32 Ford highboy.
Former racer and NHRA VP Olson picked a "flawless" '32 Ford 3-window roadster, driven by Brandon Tachajian, whose grandfather Charlie has a collection of more than 80 cars and is a frequent Budweiser pick at Prolong Cruise Night. Hibler, who earned fame as a racer and magazine publisher, chose what he described as "the most unusual vehicle on the lot," a '58 Morris Minor pickup. Owner Bill Borke said the rare truck was primarily used for utility companies in the U.K.
A cool, blue-flamed '53 Henry J, owned by Harold Kneller, caught the eye of turbo manufacturer Keller.
"It's the most potent sawing machine I've seen," he joked, noting that it had a supercharger instead of a turbo. Keller is the founder/owner of Turbonetics.
The SEMA Hall of Fame Exhibit remains on display at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA, located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Avenue in Pomona. Phone: (909) 622-2133.