POMONA, Calif. (KABC) --The Grand National Roadster Show at the Pomona Fairplex was not only three days of gearhead eye candy, it showcased the industry's big business appeal.
But all that glitters isn't chrome. The industry surrounding it is a gold nugget of sorts in both the U.S. and California economies. Many of the companies that participate in shows like this started out as hobbies for their founders.
"And then word got out and he started making those products for his friends, and then the next thing you know, that little garage-based business is employing two or three people, 20 or 30 people," said Peter MacGillivray, vice president of communications and events for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA.
Or in some cases, hundreds of people for decades, as with Torrance-based Edelbrock Performance.
Up and down the various buildings at the Fairplex, there were vendors that specialized in car parts from head to tail, inside and out. Add them all up, and it's a big industry - SEMA says $36 billion worth annually.
Of that, nearly 10 percent represents the hot rod and restoration market, as seen on the cars at the roadster show. Of all the businesses the trade group represents, 25 percent of them are right here in California.
We often hear that nothing is made here anymore. Not true, say large businesses like Edelbrock, which employs over 500 workers in its various locations in California and North Carolina.
Many smaller ones echo that dedication to keeping things on home soil, like Carson-based Aldan American, which makes specialty suspension components.
The company has always been based in the Los Angeles area, and currently employs 10 people. Both Edelbrock and Aldan boast on their literature and packaging that their products are made in the United States.
Custom car builders tend to prefer U.S. and especially locally-made parts, and many of the vendors who set up shop at the Grand National Roadster Show were happy to oblige.
The hot rod and custom car industry has become more international in recent years, thanks to reality television which features car builders like Huntington Beach-based Chip Foose, and has made them stars.
The Grand National Roadster Show has a long tradition of being big fun. But scratch the surface, and it's big business too.