Three industry leaders are joining the prestigious SEMA Hall of Fame: Steve Ames of Ames Performance Engineering, John Iannotte of Kunzman & Associates and Mitch Williams, who recently left StopTech Performance Brake Systems to join Rigid Industries.
Created in 1969, the SEMA Hall of Fame honors trailblazers who have significantly enhanced and contributed to the automotive industry. Its members are considered heroes, and each individual has a unique story to tell. The industry is invited to join in honoring the new SEMA Hall of Fame members during the 2023 SEMA Leaders & Legends Gala in Anaheim, Calif., on July 21. More details on the inductees will be shared during the gala.
Having developed a fascination for cars at a young age, Steve Ames began drag racing after earning an engineering degree from Columbia University. He started in the parts business by traveling along the East Coast buying new sld stock (NOS) parts. In 1976, he noticed that Pontiac parts were in particularly high demand and began focusing exclusively on such products. As business continued, Ames realized that demand for restoration parts outweighed that of NOS parts and launched Ames Performance Engineering. He expanded with other companies within the restoration industry, providing much-needed products for growing markets, and became an authoritative voice in the classic car industry. Ames is one of the original founders of SEMA’s Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO), was named ARMO’s Person of the Year in 2007 and is a recipient of the ARMO Lifetime Achievement Award. Ames passed away in December 2020.
John Iannotte is among the industry’s most known and respected sales reps. As a teenager, he was the first-ever service rep for the Mr. Phone/Mr. Gasket organization. He continued his career playing a key role in the founding and growth of Bob Barker Marketing & Sales and for much of the success at the multi award-winning company Kunzman & Associates. An active member and supporter of the SEMA Manufacturers’ Rep Council (MRC), Iannotte advocated for and became one of the first certified professional manufacturers reps (CPMR) and pushed for standards throughout the industry. He served numerous terms on the SEMA Board of Directors, where he fought legislative issues involving manufacturing tax relief, pushed for industry data standards, supported philanthropic activities, and promoted ongoing education and training throughout the industry. Iannotte continues to serve as a sales rep for Kunzman & Associates, as well as volunteer his time and expertise to many industry initiatives.
Mitch Williams has nearly 40 years of industry experience, including six terms on the SEMA Board of Directors — one as SEMA chairman of the board. As such, he introduced lean concepts to SEMA and expanded SEMA’s global influence by founding the SEMA International Task Force to connect SEMA members with international business opportunities. He also served on the Joint Operating Committee, providing oversight to the SEMA Show and its partner show, AAPEX. He was a charter member of the SEMA political action committee (PAC) and personally lobbied members of Congress on important industry issues. Williams founded the SEMA Lighting Task Force at a time when NHTSA was targeting lighting companies. In addition to nearly 20 years with Hella, Williams held executive positions with Original One Auto Parts, Restoration Parts Unlimited, APR, Dinan Corp., Xstream Trucking and StopTech, and recently joined Rigid Industries as its president.
Ames, Iannotte and Williams will be formally introduced during the 2023 SEMA Leaders & Legends Gala in Anaheim, Calif., on July 21, at which time newly elected and outgoing SEMA board members will also be honored. All SEMA members and industry professionals are invited to join the celebration by purchasing tickets at sema.org/gala.