John Menzler

2014 Inductee

Inductee Photo


Gallery
            

Biography

 

Loyalist and Ambassador for the Industry

“Life doesn’t come with a remote…so get up and change it yourself!”
—Mornings with Menzler

Ask people who knew John Menzler to describe him, and “funny” will probably come up most often. But you’ll also hear “mentor,” “enthusiast” and “giver.” To his daughter, Kristi, the word is “hero.” Sadly, the automotive industry and the SEMA family lost Menzler in October of 2013.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Menzler’s first jobs were mowing lawns and a paper route. He didn’t put those early savings toward a car; rather, the first thing he bought was a necklace for his mom. But once he reached his teen years, he took to vehicles and the faster things in life.

“Anything to do with transportation,” Kristi said. “A wagon, a tricycle—if it moved, and he thought he could make it go faster.”

According to close friend Mitch Frey of Hughes Performance, “John led a colorful life before his involvement in the automotive aftermarket. He would tell me the story of riding his horse to school when the only paved roads were in the downtown Phoenix area. He was a cowboy and won awards for roping. He was also deputy sheriff for a time.”

Menzler’s automotive career launched with a stint pumping gas at a Blakely station, but he transitioned to sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve Control Group, Rifle Specialty, from 1965 to 1967 and received an honorable discharge. By 1974, he was back in the automotive world, this time as a car salesman for a Chevrolet/GMC dealership. In 1978, he launched Inventive Marketing to focus on automotive-related parts, eventually adding Motofeet—a company known for its engine stand—under the same umbrella. Yet his calling seemed to be as a sales representative, working for companies such as Baer Brakes, Centerline Wheels, Dart Engines and Manley Performance.

“He liked people and loved the industry, and that gave him the opportunity to go places, see people, share his knowledge of cars and parts and be a part of the auto industry,” Kristi explained. “And when new things came out, he could share them. He was also able to be a part of ideas with other people on things that would enhance the industry.”

Menzler eventually moved to COMP Performance Group, where he remained employed until his final days.

“I truly believe that being hired by COMP was the turning point,” Frey said. “John had many jobs throughout his career, but his job as ‘ambassador’ was the perfect fit.”

Another perfect fit was SEMA. Kristi explained that Menzler’s late wife Wendy actually encouraged him to join by stating, “You will never be able to understand what this industry is about until you’ve seen what it’s like to give back and participate with a group of people who give back.”

He took to volunteerism immediately.

“John truly believed in SEMA,” Frey said. “When John spoke to a customer or another manufacturer, he always asked ‘Are you a SEMA member?’ If the answer was no, he would tout the advantages of SEMA and, more times than not, he would convince that person to join.”

Added Kristi, “His life changed because of the people in SEMA, and he went forward to change others’ lives.”

That included his passion for the SEMA Cares Pinewood Drag Races.

Dennis Overholser of Painless Performance met Menzler about 15 years ago through SEMA.

“He became a very close friend,” Overholser said. “We did a lot of things together on the education side for both the MPMC and the Hot Rod Industry Alliance councils, including the MPMC media conference. He’s someone who dedicated many years to the organization and many years to the aftermarket.”

Menzler’s honors included National Hot Rod Association Division 4 Person of the Year in 1988, the MPMC Industry Recognition Award in 2000, the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network Mentor of the Year and the MPMC Hall of Fame in 2010, the SEMA Person of the Year in 2011 and, posthumously, the inaugural Dick Dixon Legacy Award from the Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show.

The popular “Mornings with Menzler” inspirational quotes found on his Facebook page will be continued by Kristi, who said she has “thousands” of quotes that her dad put together for people to continue to enjoy.

“He was just one of those kinds of guys. He was one of us,” Overholser said, choking back tears. “I miss his friendship. That’s one of those tough ones.”