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
“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
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
“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.”