Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Charity Pinewood Derby Build Off

One Block of Wood….No Rules!

On July 24, 2010, the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) presented the first ever “Pinewood Builders Race” at the annual SEMA Show-N-Shine car event in Pasadena, CA.  HRIA is a SEMA council that promotes the growth and stability of the hot rod hobby and industry.  This unique event involved a dozen of the nations top hot rod builders competing in a pinewood car build-off.  The builders were given a block of wood, just like the kind Cub Scouts use for their annual pinewood races.  However, the similarities between those races of our childhood and this race ended with the block of wood.

The Challenge

The builders were encouraged to create a one-of-a-kind miniature hot rod, utilizing their own custom building skills, and incorporating their own recognizable style.  To make the race more interesting, very few rules were included in the build.  The builders were required to maintain basic dimensions for their tiny hot rods, ensuring that the cars would stay on the race track.  In addition, all forms of combustion were disallowed, per Fire Marshall guidelines. 

Finally, the most important rule of the race was to utilize at least one piece of the wood block, in a visible manner.  As is the case with all hot rod builders, this rule was stretched as far as possible, with some cars utilizing only a tiny splinter of the wood in their final build.  On many of the cars, you will need to look very closely to find the wood; a steering wheel, a blower or a seat may be the only wood on the vehicle.

The Builders

The twelve builders selected for this race represent past, present and future of hot rod building.  From legends such as Clay Smith and Alan Johnson to newcomers like Rob Ida, these vehicles represent the wide variety of styles found in the hot rod industry.  The selected builders included;

·         Alan Johnson Hot Rods

·         Art Morrison Enterprises

·         Boerne Stage Kustoms

·         Carl’s Custom Cars

·         Clay Smith Cams

·         Cotati Speed Shop

·         Fesler Built

·         Hot Rods & Custom Stuff

·         Pinkees Rod Shop

·         Rich Evans Designs

·         Rob Ida Concepts

·         Derek White’s Street Vizions

·         West Coast Customs

After all of the cars had raced through several heats of competition, the sleek hot rod of Derek White came across the finish line first.  Derek’s pinewood car echoed the nostalgic themes of cars built by Clay Smith and Carl’s Custom.  On the complete other side of the spectrum, Rod Ida and Zane Cullen went with non-traditional three wheel vehicles, both incorporating amazing artisan craftsmanship.  More traditionally, Rich Evans and Chris Fesler opted to utilize the entire wood block in sculpting their cars.  By contrast, Alan Johnson and Pinkee’s Rod Shop opted for billet aluminum in the design of their bodies.  The creative folks at Boerne Stage and Hot Rods & Custom Stuff spared no amount of effort in the design and craftsmanship, as seen in the amazing paint jobs of both vehicles.  And, finally, Art Morrison clearly won the “best engineered” vehicle, incorporating a miniature scale frame and suspension system.

The Auction

While fun and creativity were the goals of the Pinewood Builders Race, there is also a very serious goal of the race.  Each of these unique and one-of-a-kind vehicles will be auctioned to the public to raise money for two very important charities dedicated to children; ChildHelp and Victory Junction Camp.  ChildHelp ( is national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect, focusing on prevention, intervention and treatment.  Victory Junction Camp ( provides life-changing experiences for children with chronic medical conditions and serious illness.

All of the cars will be on display at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV (November 2 – 5), at the HRIA Booth in Hot Rod Alley (Central Hall).  Each car will be autographed by the builder.  Attendees of the show can bid directly on these cars at the show.  In addition, those not in attendance can bid online at starting on November 1st .  All proceeds from this auction will go directly to both ChildHelp and Victory Junction Camp.

Please join us in supporting these great charities by placing your bid on one of these special vehicles.  These pinewood cars are truly one-of-a-kind and HRIA appreciates the time and dedication of these fantastic hot rod builders.