This past week I was in Washington for SEMA’s biannual DC Rally.

SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) is the trade association that represents the automotive aftermarket. It is made up of 7,500 member companies; most of which are small businesses. In fact, the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas is the largest gathering of small businesses in the US. And while the individual companies may be small, the automotive aftermarket in total accounts for $32 billion in sales annually.

I’ve been on the Board of Directors of SEMA for the past seven years and will finally be terming out in July. There was a board meeting in DC in conjunction with the Rally, but the main purpose for being there was to keep this industry and this hobby top-of-mind on Capitol Hill.

I had meetings with the two senators from Indiana, Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, as well as the congressman from my district, Brad Ellsworth, to discuss issues that affect our industry like health care costs for small businesses and tax credits on capital expenditures and R&D.

This may seem like sort of boring stuff, but there is a direct correlation between the strength of the car hobby and the health of the aftermarket. The hobby is as strong as it is today at least in part because of growth of the automotive aftermarket. Twenty years ago we couldn’t do the restorations, the rods and the mods we can these days because the parts simply weren’t available. However, the demand was there, and leave it to American entrepreneurs to create products (and entire businesses) to meet that demand. Actually they fuel each other; the hobby is strong because the aftermarket is strong and vice versa.

SEMA has a Washington office that is dedicated to keeping legislation “hobby friendly”. Many of you (or perhaps your car clubs) are members of the SEMA Action Network (SAN); a grassroots network that stays on top of local issues and that can be rapidly mobilized when we need to make our collective voice heard in Washington.

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May 17, 2010 | CATEGORY: General,Travel

Man, does time fly! Our shoot in Calgary turned out to be really interesting. We visited Fred Phillips’ extensive and eclectic collection, but we picked out a couple little Italian jobs as our focus; a ’53 Abarth and a ’55 Siata. These were both cars that I had never seen and in one case, never even heard of. I always like those kinds of experiences.

alberta-hawaii-british-columbia-michigan-03

The Abarth was a tiny two-seat sports/race car powered by an 1100 cc Fiat engine. That may not seem like much of a power plant, but considering the car wasn’t much bigger than a go-cart, it did just fine. Probably the most interesting thing about this car is that is was an asymmetric body design which did give it a distinctive and somewhat odd look.

The Siata looked a little like an early AC Cobra, but predated that car by almost a decade. It was very Italian and very beautiful. This baby was powered by a very unique 2-liter, 70 degree Fiat V8. This is a very rare engine and you don’t want to have to find parts for it!

Fred was a great guy, his cars were beautiful, and he let me drive the heck out of both of them. What more could you ask for?

We were only back from Calgary for a couple days before we were off to the Big Island of Hawaii for Cruisin’ Paradise. Bob McClurg, my good friend, automotive journalist, and now resident of Hilo, Hawaii turned me onto this event, and I’m really glad he did! It only takes place every three years, and this was the third one. (You do the math.) It’s a 10-day happening with runs and activities all over the island, culminating in a big car show in Hilo on the 4th of July.

It was unbelievable, and I clearly made a big mistake by not going over for the whole thing. I did my typical swoop-in/swoop-out thing and only came in for the last three days, with one of those largely being a jet lag recovery day. What was I thinking?!?

At any rate, I did manage to spend one day cruisin’ with Herb Leite, the host club prez, in his ’30 Ford coupe as we led a group to the stunning Waipio Valley and the memorial park at Laupahoehoe which was the site of the devastating 1946 tsunami. We also stopped by a really cool 50’s themed café in the middle of nowhere for lunch. Believe me, I didn’t see that one comin’. Bottom line tho, there are few places on earth more beautiful than Hawaii and what a way to see it!

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August 13, 2009 | CATEGORY: Events,Television Show,Travel
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