If is were up to me, the award for the best exhibitor booth at the 2007 SEMA Show would go to Bob Drake's Early Ford V-8 parts company out of Grant's Pass, Oregon. The company's booth had the look of a salvage yard that specialized in hot rod parts for "jalopy" Fords. A Ford 5-window coupe with the "unwashed" look was set on center stage and backdropped by a ramshackle-looking "shop" that appeared to be made of stray pieces of galvanized tin.
Naturally, the whole setup was intended to look old and worn, although it really was custom-designed for SEMA. After all, Bob Drake Reproductions, Inc., (www.bobdrake.com) has been a manufacturer of just-like-new 1932-1948 Ford parts for 34 years. The company's product line includes die-cast chrome trim, rubber, sheet-metal, roll-formed steel and investment-cast stainless-steel products.
Over the past 29 years, I had seen Drake's vending space many times at swap meets such as Hershey and I had always been impressed with the quality of the products he sells. But it wasn't until I saw this fabulous "hot rod shop" diorama that I decided I had to stop, look the owner up and tell him how much I enjoyed his marketing creativity. And I was glad I did.
First, Bob told me that he was a Southern Wisconsin native. Then, he introduced me to two men I was very happy to meet . . . Hot Rodding legend "Speedway" Bill Smith, of Speedway Motors (www.speedwaymotors.com) in Lincoln, Nebraska (who I'd love to see write a book on V-8 Fords) and famed racing driver Jonny Rutherford.
Bob Drake gets my award for the coolest exhibit . . . as well as some of the coolest friends.