By Mike Imlay
Rugged Ridge/SEMA Cares Jeep Auctions for $85,000
Charities and Student Builders Benefit From an Exciting SEMA Garage Project
The ’15 Omix-ADA Jeep Wrangler JK Sport featured at this past November’s SEMA Show has sold for $85,000 to benefit SEMA Cares charities. The sale came on the Barrett-Jackson auction block on Wednesday, January 16, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Known as the Rugged Ridge/SEMA Cares Jeep, the upfitted, dirt-ready vehicle was originally procured with funds from a 2013 Omix-ADA donation and contained a total of $30,000 in aftermarket parts and accessories from other donor companies, including Falken Tire, Super Chips, Rugged Ridge and Kicker. It was also clad in custom paint by Theresa Contreras from LGE-CTS Motorsports.
Perhaps most notably, however, it was customized through a collaboration with the Alex Xydias Center (AXC) for Automotive Arts, in which a team of AXC students modified the standard four-door JK at the new SEMA Garage facility in Diamond Bar, California. All of the proceeds from the Jeep’s auction will go to benefit Childhelp America and Victory Junction.
Mike Spagnola, SEMA vice president of OEM and product development programs, attended the auction and expressed the association’s excitement about the funds raised as well as the industry collaboration that made the entire project possible.
“This is the sixth SEMA Cares project build and the second build we’ve done with the Alex Xydias Center for Automotive Arts, and I really enjoy working with these young adults as well as our involved manufacturers and SEMA staff,” said Spagnola. “The Jeep was built in one month with the help of numerous students who came to the SEMA Garage and were supervised by their teacher, Brian Suggs, and a group of SEMA staff members who worked alongside them. They all brought a lot of energy to the build and did a great job overall.”
The AXC program is part of The Learning Centers at Fairplex in Pomona, California, and was developed in collaboration with automotive business owners and classic-car enthusiasts from Southern California’s Inland Valley region. A team of seven second-year students worked on the Jeep as part of their Auto 103 curriculum, investing more than 50 hours per student. Once their work was done, they also had the opportunity to attend the recent SEMA Show to help present the one-of-a-kind Jeep to the industry, furthering their connection to the greater aftermarket in the process. The vehicle was placed on display in Omix-ADA’s popular Off-Road Success Center for the duration of the Show.
“We enjoyed our role in the Jeep build,” said Henk Van Dongen, director of marketing for Omix-ADA/Rigged Ridge. “It is always exciting when you can work with organizations that are giving back to either society as a whole or to organizations that support our industry. We always encourage working with students when we can.
We did a ‘live’ build at the 2013 SEMA Show and worked with a few technical schools to have their students involved. Seeing students working on the SEMA Cares Jeep is just another great way to get the next generation involved in our industry and hobby. For students, it’s a great experience to see what all the possibilities are when they graduate. Seeing the Jeep at the SEMA Show and the work the students did, we were very impressed by their workmanship.”
According to Brian Suggs, the student’s AXC instructor, the build team learned much from the Jeep project.
“This project is a big change from the vehicles and projects at school—working with a new vehicle and installing and upgrading great aftermarket products is a very real experience,” he said. “Many aspects were addressed in this project, from upgrading the audio system and the suspension to installing a spare-tire rack. This type of project prepares the students for real-life industry work that they can add to the résumé. As for opportunities, LGE-CTS is a local shop that was also involved with this project and has since hired one of the students involved at their shop. Building relationships—that’s what SEMA and AXC are all about.”
Suggs added that his students learned through experience that having the right tools makes a difference, along with the importance of researching and finding those tools and even resorting to some problem-solving critical thought during the build process.
“SEMA always brings such amazing opportunities to these students that most high-school kids will never have the chance to experience,” he said.
The SEMA Cares committee was established by the SEMA Board of Directors and brings the voice and resources of the SEMA community together to make a positive difference in the lives of others. More than $1 million has been raised since SEMA Cares was established in 2007. To date, the first five SEMA Cares vehicle builds to go to Barrett-Jackson (a Camaro, a Mustang, a Challenger, an F-100 and an F-250) have raised more than $700,000 combined for the charity. This is the first build in which Omix-ADA has partnered with SEMA Cares, which has included WD-40 as a previous program participant.
SEMA Cares Project Donations
The list of donors and parts for the Rugged Ridge/SEMA Cares Jeep project includes the following: