A Leader in Good Times and Bad
Born and raised in the area around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jim Cozzie began
living out his dreams at a very early age.
“I pretty much knew when I was five or six years old that I was going to do
something with cars and performance automobiles, because while everyone else was
reading Dr. Seuss, I was reading Hot Rod,” he said.
Cozzie was 15 when his father passed away, so it was his uncle—an engineer for a
company that made avionics for airplanes—who fueled his passion.
“One day, a fellow engineer showed up in a ’27 Ford Roadster that had a Cadillac
with trips and a LaSalle transmission, and from that day on, that was it,” he
Cozzie worked at a service station at night and on the weekends and, as with
many back in the day, the owner of the station raced a ’55 Chevy Gasser. Cozzie
began attending races and soon became a racer himself.
“When guys were going on dates, I was going to the dragstrip,” Cozzie joked.
In 1978, he tried over-the-road truck driving for several years but felt
compelled to work in the automotive industry. He heard about a position as
customer service manager at Hurst Performance.
“In those days, Hurst was a magical name in the performance world,” Cozzie said.
“I think I took a $6,000 pay cut to go there. My mom thought I was nuts.”
He began there at age 22 in 1979 and stayed 10 years, “drinking it all in,
burning my fingers along the way. That’s where I got schooled and really learned
about the business end.”
He rose through the ranks to director of marketing for the corporation. While
there, he headed every brand at one time or another and developed a racetrack
supply division, which involved developing parts exclusively for drag racing,
and built a list of client racers. He was also behind the development of the GM
500ci DRCE racing engine and the Hurst Olds Pro Stock team with Oldsmobile in
the early ’80s.
Where Cozzie ended up next was the other extreme: vice president of operations
for a T-shirt company, Super Press, which was meeting the growing demand for
souvenir T-shirts at races. After three successful years, he became restless for
the parts business again, so when B&M Racing and Performance Products called, he
His initial regional manager position there evolved 14 years later to vice
president of sales and marketing, wherein he grew the business and expanded
distribution to include OE suppliers to the Ford GT and distribution programs in
Europe, Australia and the Pacific Rim. By 2005, Cozzie was recruited by the
performance division of Berkshire Hathaway to resurrect the Zoom Performance
Products brand and guide the company through a portfolio-building program, and
he became president of the enterprise. His path then turned toward automotive
entertainment, first with RTM Productions and now as managing partner of Brenton
Cozzie became actively involved in SEMA while at B&M, although he’d attended his
first show in 1979 and hasn’t missed one since.
“Brian Appelgate asked me to serve on the newly formed Motorsports Parts
Manufacturers Council [MPMC],” Cozzie said, and he joined the council in 1996. A
year later, he became its chairman. Since then, he has served on the
International Task Force, the SEMA Executive Committee, the SEMA Political
Action Committee, and he chaired the SEMA Show Committee. He also served
multiple terms on the SEMA Board of Directors and was its chairman in 2008–2009
during the recession.
“I believe that Jim had the toughest job any SEMA Chairman has ever had in
navigating the worst economic times our industry has ever faced,” said Mitch
Williams of TrimParts Holding Corp. “SEMA’s existence wasn’t at stake, but
certainly SEMA’s future health was. Some of the tough decisions were ones SEMA
had never had to make, so there was no precedent—no one to ask. Jim just had to
figure out the right course of action largely on his own. I believe that anyone
can look good during the good times, but it takes excellent leadership to look
good during the tough times, and that is exactly what Jim and Chris Kersting
Cozzie also became a driving force behind the SEMA Education Institute and the
CU-ICAR program with Clemson University. He was inducted into the MPMC Hall of
Fame and, in 2004, was named the SEMA Person of the Year for his ongoing
“Very few people in our industry have given so much to it and have worked as
hard to leave it a better industry for generations to come,” said Bob Scheid of
McLeod Racing and SERES. “Jim always has his eye toward success.”