Mini Custom Pinewood Cars Burn Up the Track

SEMA News—December 2016

EVENTS

By Chad Simon

Mini Custom Pinewood Cars Burn Up the Track

Blake Meaux Repeats as Grand Champion in Charity Builders Race at NSRA Street Rod Nationals

For the second consecutive year, the 2016 Pinewood Builders Challenge—previously held during SEMA’s Installation Gala—featured head-to-head racing last summer at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to the Builders Challenge, a Manufacturers’ Shootout was staged for the second time ever for participating members of the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA).

Pinewood Cars
Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars—Grand Champion.
Pinewood Cars
John McLeod, Classic Instruments Inc.
   

This year’s grand champion was Blake Meaux from Mo’ Muscle Cars, who successfully defended his 2015 Builders Challenge championship, winning back-to-back titles. Jeff Wehr from RideTech won the Manufacturers’ Shootout; Alex Benevides from Hot Company Brasil won Best in Show; and Tom Farrell from Farrell Creations & Restorations won Best Engineered.

“I was excited for the Pinewood Challenge this year; it turned out to be our best one yet,” said HRIA Chairman John McLeod of Classic Instruments. “The event succeeded in bringing together companies, attracting positive youth involvement, raising money and having a little fun. Unfortunately, RideTech came loaded for bear and beat Team Classic Instruments in the finals. Congrats to them, but we will be back.”

Pinewood Cars
John McLeod, Classic Instruments Inc.
Pinewood Cars
Craig Darpino, American AutoWire.
   

The miniature hot rods were displayed in the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) booth at the 2016 SEMA Show before the winning cars of the Builders Challenge, Best Engineered and Best in Show were auctioned live during the HRIA reception. A silent auction was held for the rest of the Pinewood cars. Proceeds benefitted the SEMA Cares children’s charities.

“It was cool to take home the trophy two years in a row,” Meaux said. “I competed against a lot of awesome car builders, and just like last year, I not only beat the builders but also the manufacturers. I just wanted something to show what we do here at the shop, which is building beautiful, quality cars that are also fast and functional. With all the work that goes into these cars, it’s good to win it, but we do it to try to raise as much money as possible for charity.”

Pinewood Cars
Tom Farrell, Farrell Creations & Restorations—Best Engineered.
Pinewood Cars
Brent Vandervort, Fatman Fabrication.
   

Meaux used a block of wood called Asian satinwood burl to build the car, which he aptly named “Wood Burner.” To show off the wood, he didn’t put any windows or trinkets on the outside; he just sanded it down and clear coated it.

“My thought was that if I could get a wood that looks beautiful and really pops with the clear coat, that’s the way I was going to go,” Meaux said. “I put the weights in the right place and did everything I could to make it go fast, and it ended up winning every single race. Three years ago, which was the first year we participated, we made a car that was based on a vehicle that we had built, and it wasn’t fast at all; it just looked cool. I wanted a little bit of both this year.”

Pinewood Cars
Josh Henning, Goolsby Customs.
Pinewood Cars
Alex Benevides, Hot Company Brasil—Best in Show.
   

In addition to supporting the charities, the builders showcased their creations throughout the year to children interested in cars, providing an opportunity to promote the hot-rod hobby and custom-car industry to the next generation of car builders. The Builders Challenge moved to Louisville two years ago to provide a more central location for many of the builders and also to gain additional exposure.

“This year’s Pinewood Drag Race was another great event,” said BJ Elmore, HRIA select-committee member and head of the Pinewood taskforce. I can’t say enough about the efforts of all the participating builders and manufacturers and their willingness to donate countless hours in constructing these cars to help out the SEMA Cares charities. We saw pinewood cars, including a 3D-printed ’33 Ford, a complete polished billet-aluminum ’40 Ford Coupe, a hand-poured resin throwback and Speed Racer’s ‘Racer X.’ And for the first time, we had an international entry from HRIA member Hot Company Brasil—a hand-crafted, aluminum-wrapped, ’30s-style race car. Thanks to everyone who stepped up to make this such a fun and worthwhile event.”

Pinewood Cars
Ty Hauer, Reisinger Custom Rebuilding LLC.
Pinewood Cars
Jeff Wehr, RideTech.
   

The race came to fruition at the 2009 SEMA Show, when former HRIA Chairman Rick Love of Vintage Air and HRIA members Eric Saltrick of Steele Rubber Products and the late John Menzler of Comp Cams decided to walk the Show floor and ask every well-known hot-rod builder to participate.

The idea behind the first Challenge was simply to see what top-notch hot-rod builders could do with a block of wood, and they have pushed the boundaries every year.

The rules are simple and subject to interpretation. Each pinewood builder is given four months to complete a car, with no design limitations imposed except that the car has to fit the track’s dimensions and no propulsion systems are allowed.

Pinewood Cars
Jeff Wehr, RideTech—Manufacturers’ Shootout Winner.
Pinewood Cars
Brady Basner, XS Power.
   

Each builder must use at least one piece of the pinewood block that SEMA provides. Over the years, builders have not only used the wood for their cars but also aluminum, fiberglass and chrome. They have fabricated custom wheels, suspensions and chassis parts in miniature formats.

Participating builders this year included Alex Benevides, Hot Company Brasil; Josh Henning, Goolsby Customs; Ty Hauer, Reisinger Custom Rebuilding; Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars; Tom Farrell, Farrell Creations & Restorations; Craig Darpino, American AutoWire; Jeff Wehr, RideTech; John McLeod, Classic Instruments Inc.; Brent Vandervort, Fatman Fabrication; and Brady Basner, XS Power.

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