Nick Arias Jr., Bill France Sr., Mark Heffington and Bob Larivee Sr. will be inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame, an honor that recognizes an elite group of individuals for raising the stature or growth or the automotive specialty equipment industry.
Industry professionals will and pay tribute to the new hall of fame members during the SEMA Installation Banquet & Gala Fundraiser July 27 in Pomona, Calif., according to a press release. In the meantime, SEMA has released brief biographies of the four inductees.
Nick Arias Jr., Nick Arias Racing Components
Arias has been finding ways to make engines work better since he first started tinkering in his garage more than 70 years ago. He became serious about hot rodding at the end of WWII and remembers being involved in his first organized drag race in California in 1949.
At the time, Arias was working at Wayne Manufacturing, where he learned a lot about engines, pistons, cylinder heads and more. In the ’50s, Arias was involved with the Rusetta Timing Association dry lake meets and The Screwdrivers Car Club, where he experimented with different engines and configurations while setting records and testing the limits of his share of vehicles and parts.
He started Arias Pistons in 1969 to manufacture forged pistons and components and kept refining engine configurations. In 1972, Arias introduced what was then considered a state-of-the-art Hemi head conversion for big-block Chevys known as the “Hemi-Chevy.”
His creations did not end there and included the 10-liter block and Hemi head that dominated tractor pulls and drag boat races, an 8.3-liter power plant for Top Fuel and Alcohol drag racing, the Arias 4-cylinder for USAC Midget circuits, the Arias V-6 Hemi, A/R Boss 429, Howard 12-Port GMC and more.
Arias was recognized as a Lifetime Achievement honoree in 2000 by the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion. He was also inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bill France Sr., NASCAR
France founded NASCAR-the most successful stock-car racing series in the world. Initial races were held on short dirt tracks and a combined beach and highway oval course in Daytona.
Through his early career as a racer and fledgling promoter, France experienced the challenges of race promotion, from recruiting drivers and spreading the word to creating the tracks, hiring ticket-takers and generating a profit.
France was convinced that a single, firmly governed sanctioning body was necessary for stock-car racing to succeed. He gathered a group of race promoters, drivers and mechanics for the first National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing in 1947. The organization, which named France (aka Big Bill France) the president, became incorporated in 1948, and more than 14,000 fans attended the first event on the Daytona Beach road/beach course in February of that year.
France eventually gained the support of automobile industry executives to build the world’s first and fastest superspeedway in Daytona. In the 1959 Daytona 500, the concept of drafting was discovered and ushered in the aerodynamic era.
Big Bill pioneered developments in safety, organization, infrastructure, scoring and purses. All of these developments enabled racing to reach new levels of professionalism and respect within the sporting industry.
Mark Heffington, Hypertech Inc.
Heffington began his career in the aftermarket industry as the chief cam designer for Crane Cams. In 1972, Heffington founded Cam Dynamics-at the time a leading manufacturer of high-performance and racing camshafts.
He sold Cam Dynamics in the early 1980s. Soon after, he began consulting on camshaft design and engineering and became a consultant for United Technologies and General Motors.
With the concept of computer-controlled engines beginning to emerge, Heffington understood how computer-controlled tuning could significantly impact the performance industry. In 1985, he founded Hypertech Inc. and began to develop and manufacture onboard computer reprogramming devices. The company introduced the Power Chip in 1986 and, in 1994, Hypertech released its Power Programmer.
Now in its 27th year, Hypertech is still a leader of engine tuning products. Heffington is also a two-time winner of the “Popular Mechanics” Editor’s Choice award for product innovation.
Bob Larivee Sr., Auto Art Promotions Inc.
Larivee competed in a soap box derby in Detroit at age 11, which ignited his passion for automobiles. He joined the Motor City Automobile Club and the Michigan Hot Rod Association (MHRA) in the early 1950s.
By 1961, Larivee had founded a small car show company named Promotions Inc. and created the International Car Show Association, which became the sanctioning body for car shows. Larivee and Promotions Inc. produced some of the most popular car shows and events of the ’60s, including the World of Wheels series, and co-produced the Detroit Autorama with the MHRA.
His efforts, such as the development of uniform judging systems and standard rules and categories for the popular car shows, helped to bring more prestige to the car show circuit. The shows became more meaningful for the winners and also provided them opportunities to achieve additional recognition in the mainstream automotive field.
Larivee competed in drag races and circle-track events before retiring in 1977 to concentrate on promotional efforts. Most recently, Larivee has extended his organizational expertise to the promotion of automotive art.
His most notable accomplishment in this arena has been the Automotive Fine Arts Society, which has produced art shows in Pebble Beach, California, and at the SEMA Show.