Auto Service World
News   November 10, 2003   by Auto Service World

Canadian Performance Personality Inducted into SEMA Hall of Fame

Bob McJannett, president and founder of Performance Improvements, was inducted into the Specialty Equipment Market Association Hall of Fame.
McJannett was inducted along with Brian Appelgate, Marvin Rifchin, and Robert Vandergriff, Sr. were honoured at the SEMA Annual Industry Awards Dinner held in conjunction with the annual SEMA Show and formally inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame its the newest members. Each has made unique contributions to the growth and prosperity of the aftermarket and performance industry.
Bob McJannett, president, Performance Improvements, one of Canada’s largest independent retail store chains has been a member of SEMA since 1978. McJannett most recently championed the cause of automotive enthusiasts’ right to modify their vehicles in Ontario working with the SEMA Washington, D.C. staff earlier this year to prevent a restrictive bill from becoming law.
As a retailer, McJannett has shared his knowledge with the entire industry as a contributing expert to business publications. His regular column in SEMA News, which ran for several years, provided helpful advice about practical matters such as improving staff morale, and increasing sales and profits. He also wrote for consumer publications.
In addition to his three terms as a member of the SEMA Board of Directors, McJannett also contributed his energy and wisdom to the Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) as a director of that group for several years.
He first entered the performance retailing business when he borrowed money from his then-fiance to open a part-time speed shop in 1964. He recently sold the wholesaling portion of the business to Keystone Performance. Though semi-retired, he continues to be involved in the continuing retail business. He was SEMA’s 1990 Person of the Year.
Brian Appelgate, President, B&M Racing and Performance Products, became a “car guy” at age 10 when he scribbled margin notes in his first copy of Hot Rod magazine. During college, he worked at a performance warehouse, and his career took off from there. Following assignments with several performance product companies, he joined the staff of B&M in 1987.
Appelgate’s involvement with the industry includes being the main force behind the creation of SEMA’s Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) and advocating the merger of the Truck Cap & Accessories Alliance (TCAA) with SEMA, the Equipment Market Association.
He was SEMA chairman from 1997 to 1999. During his term, SEMA laid the foundation for today’s technology transfer programs in which Ford Motor Co., General Motors, The Chrysler Group, and Scion (Toyota) participate, providing electronic engineering specifications for new and future vehicle models to SEMA manufacturing members. Appelgate, who served for more than a decade on the SEMA Market Study Committee, was SEMA chairman when SEMA established its in-house market research department. SEMA honoured him as its 1995 Person of the Year.
Marvin Rifchin: SEMA’s third 2003 Hall of Fame inductee has been called “the godfather of drag racing slicks” for his innovative work with racing tires. Marvin Rifchin and his dad Henry started H&M Tire Co. in the cellar of a Massachusetts gas station in the 1930s. They produced retreads for use by midget racers but moved on to the stock car circuit when midget racing waned in popularity.
In 1952, Rifchin made the business-changing decision to switch from retreading used tires to making new tires for stock cars from the bead out in collaboration with Denman Rubber Mfg. Co. in Ohio. Among his first drag racer new-tire converts was Don Garlits, who earned top eliminator honours the first weekend he ran on Rifchin’s prototype new tires.
Shortly after that, M&H became one of the first companies to manufacture drag race tires. Even though a smaller company in a market filled with competitive industry giants, Rifchin’s firm not only kept pace with the large firms but spurred them on to match M&H’s technological advances.
Robert Vandergriff, Sr., has participated in the automotive specialty industry in several capacities, moving from car sales to advertising sales to ad agency executive to performance company owner. He sold ad space for Petersen Publishing Co., then moved to NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) to work on the in-house publication National Dragster and then as advertising and marketing director for the association.
Vandergriff spent 15 years at McMullen Advertising working with automotive clients and, while there, purchased one of his clients, Hedman Hedders, with his own funds and some help from others in the industry. While working both jobs agency and Hedman he added Beeline Engineering (JR Headers) and accessory firm Trans-Dapt to the Hedman business.
Since 1992 when he officially left McMullen, he has concentrated his business efforts on Hedman, Beeline and Trans-Dapt.
Vandergriff’s industry activities are not all business, however. For many years, he raised money for the SEMA Scholarship Fund as chairman of the annual SEMA golf tournament. He served three terms on the SEMA Board of Directors. Vandergriff was the SEMA Person of the Year in 1989.

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