November 2003

SEMA Welcomes New SAN Director

My name is Conrad Wong. I am the new leader of SEMA’s grassroots lobbying effort – the SEMA Action Network – and the new Director of Government and Public Affairs in SEMA’s Washington, D.C. office. I look forward to maintaining and building upon the close relationships that have developed between many of our car clubs, hobbyists, and enthusiasts that form the core of the SEMA Action Network. Please feel free to write or call me with any concerns that you or your club might have.

I am a vehicle enthusiast, just like most of you. My first love remains the Sixties-era muscle cars, but I enjoy the performance and safety enhancements of later-model cars and trucks as well. My wife, Ann, and I have nine vehicles: a 1965 Chevrolet Impala four-speed 396/325 two-door hardtop, a 1967 Hemi Dodge Coronet R/T four-speed, a 1969 Dodge Coronet 500 four-speed 383 convertible, a 1989 Honda Prelude 2.0Si, a 1990 Ford Taurus SHO, a 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS (the only automatic in the bunch), a 1999 Mazda Miata, a 1999 Pontiac Formula Firebird (with the WS-6 Ram Air induction box, 1LE handling package and the ultra rare R7Q electrical-equipment-delete package), and a 2003 Jeep Liberty.

I was born in Palo Alto, California, and raised in Los Angeles. My affection for Sixties-era automobiles stems from the fact that I grew up with them, but was not yet old enough to drive them. Often, I was relegated to the back seat, and from that vantage point I witnessed the construction of Interstate 10, connecting Santa Monica with San Bernardino. I also spent lots of time at the old Fullerton Chrysler-Plymouth-Imperial dealership near Los Angeles International Airport, as we had a 1958 four-door Imperial that liked visiting the service bays there. (The dealership staff gave me lots of promo cars to placate me.)  When I was nine, my parents moved to Washington, D.C. as my father joined the U.S. Department of the Interior. My mother opened a Chinese restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, which operated from 1972 to 1984. I owe much to my parents, not only for giving me myriad opportunities to develop my skills and my future, but also for giving me the discipline to work hard and the patience and perseverance to endure.

I graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland with a degree in political science, and received my law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. I served as a judicial law clerk for a year and a half with a Maryland state trial judge. Following my clerkship, I was in private practice for five years doing corporate and insurance-defense work. Then I joined the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where, for 10 years, I was a trademark examining attorney, then an attorney in the agency's Office of International Relations.

In addition to spending time driving and maintaining our nine vehicles, Ann and I are members of the City of Alexandria (Virginia) Pipes and Drums. I'm an honorary Scotsman in the band, being a tenor drummer. The band competes in various Highland-Games band competitions in the Middle Atlantic region, and marches in several parades in the Metropolitan Washington area.

After having been a muscle-car guy for many years, I decided to merge my personal interests and my professional background with the government-affairs position at SEMA, which I have long held to be the premier trade association for the automotive and truck aftermarket sector. Some of you already have taken the time to write and welcome me to SEMA and the Action Network. I'm grateful to have such a warm reception, and to know that I'm working with such a wonderful group of people. I know that the hobbyists and enthusiasts across the country are some of the nicest and hardest-working folks that one can find. I look forward to working with you on the issues and challenges facing our hobby. We at SEMA are here to represent your interests and to address any concerns you might have. I can be reached by e-mail at conradw@sema.org or by telephone at 202/783-6007, ext. 39.

Legislative Quick Hits

California “Smoking” Vehicles/Emissions Exemption: California Governor Gray Davis signed a law that increases fines for violators of the state's current law prohibiting vehicles that emit excessive smoke. This law also adds certain vehicles that are cited for a smoking-vehicle violation to those eligible for the state's repair-assistance program. You may recall that the new law was drafted by SEMA as an alternative to a measure that threatened to repeal the state’s current rolling emissions test exemption for motor vehicles 30 years old and older. The original bill sought to revoke the current pro-industry/pro-hobbyist exemption and replace it with an exemption for vehicles that are 45 or more model years old.

SEMA Amended California “Whistle Tips” Law: Under a SEMA amendment, California Governor Gray Davis signed a new law that only prohibits “whistle tips” attached to exhaust outlets which are designed for no other purpose than to create a shrieking sound. Originally, the proposed legislation broadly sought to repeal a California law that provides for the legal use of all aftermarket exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit. The new law will have no impact on the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s exhaust-noise testing program.   

California Enacts Replacement Tire Efficiency Program With SEMA Exemption:

California legislation that requires state regulators to develop a tire fuel-efficiency program for passenger-car and light-truck replacement tires was signed into law. A SEMA-drafted provision to protect most hobbyist tires is included in the new law. The SEMA provision exempts all limited production tires (15,000 or fewer annually), deep-tread snow tires, limited-use spares, motorcycle tires, and tires manufactured for use on off-road vehicles from the scope of the law and subsequent regulation. According to the law’s sponsors, the program will be designed to ensure that replacement tires are at least as energy efficient, on average, as tires sold as original equipment and will include a replacement-tire rating system.

Safety Group Wants Tire Expiration Dates: A safety-research group has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to establish expiration dates for tires (similar to food expiration dates). At issue is the claim that some rubber compounds degrade over time, even if unused. NHTSA has been in the process of studying the topic, but has found that it may be difficult to establish a uniform time limit (example: 10 years) without taking into account other variable aging factors such as climate, handling, and storage conditions.

California “Black Boxes”

Legislation has been signed into law requiring automakers to notify consumers if their vehicles are equipped with devices that can record vehicle-event data during operation. This information usually involves parameters, such as vehicle speed, steering angle and wheel speed/braking performance, that may be useful in determining the behavior of a vehicle and/or driver before a crash. These devices, however, are not limited only to such data and the data can easily be transmitted unknowingly via subscription services. The bill also restricts the ability of others, such as insurance companies and trial lawyers, to access this data. The vehicle owner must consent or a court order must be issued for this information to be accessed regarding any vehicle sold or leased in California that is manufactured after July 1, 2004. Exceptions are made for safety studies and dealership diagnostics, etc.

Proposed OHV Park for Riverside County:

A park dedicated to off-highway vehicle (OHV) use has been proposed for Riverside County, California. It would consist of 1,200 acres within a 2,400-acre site in the Badlands, a region of dry hills south of the CA-60 Freeway between Moreno Valley and Beaumont. The park would be bordered by a 4,000- to 6,000-acre buffer zone to protect wildlife and prevent development, thereby combining environmentalist and OHV concerns. California has six other OHV parks, but none in the Riverside area. In order to create the park over the next several years, environmental studies first must be undertaken, followed by the construction of entrance roads and fences.

Educating Arnold

As fans of the action-adventure movie genre, epitomized by the “Terminator” series, perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised by Governor-elect Schwarzenegger’s penchant for crushing things. But we were. It seems that Mr. Schwarzenegger may have bought into the previous administration’s confidence in the ill-advised and much pilloried scrappage programs as a means to clean California’s air. We'd like the Governor-Elect to think again about scrappage. Witness the following statement posted on his campaign website:    

“Get gross-polluting vehicles off the road now. Less than 10 percent of vehicles currently operating on California's roads contribute close to 50 percent of California's mobile source air pollution. I will insist on strong enforcement of new federal and state requirements for significant reductions in particulate matter and other emissions from diesel-fueled trucks and buses. I will look to expand innovative market-based mechanisms such as “scrappage” systems so that California can obtain the maximum reduction in tons of emitted pollutants at the lowest possible cost to the state. Under my Administration, the state will lead by example – identifying and permanently retiring those heavily used vehicles that do the greatest harm to our air quality.”

We’re willing to cut the Governor-elect a break and chalk this statement up to the uncensored rantings of an overzealous and poorly informed environmental advisor. We’re confident that over time the new Governor will prove to be business and hobbyist-friendly (he’s a Hummer fan, after all) and will question a lot of programs that haven't shown real results, scrappage being on of those. He has very strongly indicated he will ease excessive regulations that hurt businesses and consumers. Bottom line:  He appears to prioritize cost effectiveness in a way the previous governor did not.

The story with scrappage programs remains the same. “Scrappage programs, as we all know, accelerate the normal demise of vehicles through the purchase of older cars which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal,” said SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. “These proposals fail to take into account that scrapped cars typically are second or third vehicles that are rarely driven in the first place. Older cars are infrequently used, generally well maintained and not a good source of emissions reductions. Scrappage programs are based on the false perception that old cars are dirty cars. Even the U.S. EPA has acknowledged that many old cars are quite clean.

“These programs also ignore the fact that lower income car owners cannot afford to purchase a new vehicle with the money provided by scrappage programs,” McDonald added. “These same people could lose a source of inexpensive repair parts resulting in the inability to drive their vehicles. All scrappage programs hold the potential for vehicle collectors to lose a valuable source of rare parts for vehicle restoration projects. Data has shown that voluntarily upgrading older vehicles with newer technologies can be roughly twice as cost-effective as scrapping vehicles. Numerous commercially available products exist which can substantially lower the emissions rates of older ‘daily driver’ vehicles while also offering considerable benefits in terms of performance, driveability and fuel mileage. An approach that allows for repair and upgrade would provide maximum benefits to those seeking emissions credits without hurting those who must rely on low-cost transportation.”  

Let’s nudge Mr. Schwarzenegger to our side of this debate. We think he’ll be receptive once he hears the facts. Contact the Governor-Elect and let him know your thoughts on California’s scrappage programs and the advantages of voluntary repair and upgrade programs as a viable and cost-effective alternative. The Governor-elect can be reached by e-mail at info@joinarnold.com.  

More information on Governor-Elect Schwarzenegger's action plan for the environment can be viewed at http://www.joinarnold.com/en/agenda/#D1  

IV. Sidebar Article:  Can You Believe This?  Using Year-of-Manufacture Plates in Michigan 

The State of Michigan has two registration options for classic vehicles. One is a dark blue and yellow license plate that is stamped with “historic vehicle” status. “Quite efficient, but rather boring,” said Berkley, Michigan enthusiast Greg O’Sullivan. The other option is getting a year-matching Michigan license place – a green and yellow 1968 plate, for example – to match the year of the classic vehicle. That’s what O’Sullivan did for his ’68 Dodge Charger.

On a Saturday morning few years ago, O’Sullivan was on his way to a car show and drag race that was sponsored by his car club. “As I was thinking about all the cars I would see, I remembered that I left my camera at home,” he recalled. But as he started his return trip for the camera, he was pulled over by an Oak Park police officer. He pulled O’Sullivan over, walked up to the car and asked for registration and insurance information. After being gone for five minutes or so, he returned to the Charger.

“Where did you get this registration?” he asked.

“Secretary of State,” was O’Sullivan’s reply.

“This plate number is registered to a truck in Clinton Township,” the officer said.

By this time, a second police car had pulled up. They were both behind O’Sullivan, checking with one another and placing an occasional radio call.

The original officer returned. “You got this from Secretary of State? Where did you get the license plates?”

“At a swap meet,” O’Sullivan answered, realizing that neither officer, nor the dispatcher at the other end of the radio, knew about the state’s year-plate registration program.

“So I’m waiting for a ticket, handcuffs and arrest, and who knows what else,” O’Sullivan recalled, “only because there had been a serious lack of communication between their department and the Secretary of State’s office.” The plates, by the way, had been legally registered two years before the incident.

As it turned out, the incident ended with O’Sullivan getting nothing but a warning about “not having proper paperwork in his possession.” During the next week, he went to a branch office of the Secretary of State, and they issued him a letter authenticating his already legal plates.

“Even today I keep that letter, and its successor, handy for educational purposes, just in case,” O’Sullivan said.

Attention Car Clubs, Event Organizers, and Enthusiasts! Put SEMA on Your Mailing List!

We’d like to know what's going on with SEMA Action Network clubs and enthusiasts across the country; what charity events they’re involved in; when and where the rod runs, car shows, trail rides, rallies, and tech meetings are held; and what legislative and regulatory issues concern club members and individual enthusiasts.

One of the best ways to keep us abreast of what is going on and what is important to the vehicle hobbies nationwide is for us to receive your club newsletters and updates. Please consider placing SEMA on your mailing list. Send correspondence to: Conrad Wong, SEMA, 1317 F Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004-1100. Or by e-mail at conradw@sema.org .

Hey! That’s My Car!

Thanks to all who have sent in or e-mailed us photos. Efforts to replenish our photo library and continue publishing an informative as well as visually appealing newsletter are going well…but we need more photos!

We need MORE antique/classic pictures, MORE restoration-process pictures, MORE hot-rod pictures, MORE junkyard pictures, MORE street-rod pictures, MORE sport-compact pictures and MORE lifted 4x4 pictures.

Please continue to send us photos of your trail rides, restorations in progress, rod runs, car shows, charity events and drag races. Also, if it is okay with club members and web masters, please give us permission to reproduce the images from your web sites.

Kindly submit pictures to:  The Driving Force, SEMA, 1575 South Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765. You also may send high-resolution digital pictures (minimum 300 dots per inch in resolution; minimum 5 inches wide) by e-mail to linneah@sema.org. While we regret that we cannot return any pictures, the next time we do a story focusing on your segment of the automobile hobby, we may use your ride as the example.

We Get Letters

Is there anything in the works regarding exhaust noise limitations in Illinois?  I realize that there are a lot of states having the same issue with the officer’s ear and mood for the day being used as the decibel meter.

Thanks and it's always a pleasure to read how you're helping the enthusiasts.

Ron Hallack

Mr. Hallack:

A number of people have contacted us about exploring the possibility of amending the law in Illinois. However, we are unaware of a single concentrated effort. I recommend that you contact the state legislators who represent your district in Springfield to request introduction of SEMA's model bill in the 2004 session. The names and contact information for your state legislators can be accessed through our website at http://www.congressweb.com/cweb4/index.cfm?orgcode=SEMA Remember to contact your state legislators and not the U.S. Congressional Members who represent your district and state in Washington, D.C. As you may be aware, Illinois prohibits exhaust system modifications that "amplify or increase the noise of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle.” For the past several years we have been pursuing a model bill that provides that modified exhaust systems are legal if they meet a 95-decibel limit under SAE test standard J1169 (engine revved to three quarters of maximum rated horsepower, sound meter placed 20 inches from exhaust outlet at 45-degree angle). To date, we have enacted this bill in California, Washington State and Maine. The measure is also pending in the New Hampshire legislature. We have sent a copy of the model to your e-mail address for your review. As you will see, it does not require an actual test. It only requires that law enforcement PROVE a violation before issuing a citation. As happened in California and Maine, the bill can be amended to provide for an actual testing program, if that better suits the state's purposes. 

We hope this information is helpful. 

For further information about pursuing the SEMA model exhaust noise bill in your state or to receive a copy, contact Steve McDonald at stevem@sema.org.


I publish the “Nor Cal Cruisin' News” and host a weekly old-car radio show here in Sacramento on KCTC 1320 AM. Please provide the straight info on SB [California Senate Bill] 708 that Governor Gray Davis signed into law. It would be helpful to put it in the paper and discuss it on the radio show. It looks like each county can set up smog checks if the car is smoking. State Senator Rico Oller is trying to review the law and give me his take on how it will affect the old cars.

John Sweeney


Cruisin' News

Mr. Sweeney: 

This spring, SEMA successfully negotiated a deal with California legislators on revisions to a bill (S.B. 708) that originally threatened to repeal the current 30-year rolling emissions test exemption for older cars in the state and replace it with a 45-year exemption. The final deal, as signed into law by the Governor, only amends the California Vehicle Code to increase fines for violators of the state's current law prohibiting vehicles that emit excessive smoke. The new S.B. 708 also adds vehicles cited for a smoking vehicle violation to those eligible for the state's repair assistance program, which is available to low-income citizens. This bill brought out our hobbyist contacts, the SEMA Action Network, in record numbers. In fact, the bill’s sponsor told us that we could rewrite the bill to remove the exemption repeal only if we got our people to stop calling his office. At the end of the day, our 30-year rolling emissions test exemption remains intact. Please let your readers and listeners know that we appreciate the efforts they made to retain the old car exemption. That’s the straight skinny!


I am a former Automotive Technician and New York State vehicle inspector.

I am a charter member of the WNY Mopars car club. I enjoy working with the club. It keeps me close to the one thing I love doing, working on cars. It is hard when you can no longer do a lot of the maintenance on your own vehicles. I still do what I can and help my children with maintaining their Chrysler vehicles.

The WNY Mopars meet every month. We have two chapters. One meets in Lockport, NY and the other meets in Hamburg, NY. We are looking for speakers for our winter meetings. Would you be interested?  It is a good club with a lot of great members. We have over 200 members all around western New York State, Canada, Pennsylvania and Georgia. We host an annual two-day car show each June. We have put your SEMA literature in our registration bags. We do charity work to raise money to help children afflicted with spina bifida.

Please feel free to check out the Club homepage at: www.wnyliving.com.

Sandra M. Tomaszewski

WNY Mopars

Ms. Tomaszewski: 

Thanks for taking the time to write to us at SEMA, and telling us about your background and that of the WNY Mopars. [Our new Director of Government and Public Affairs, Conrad Wong, has two Mopars: a 1967 Hemi Coronet R/T and a 1969 383 Coronet 500 convertible.]  Thank you also for placing SEMA materials in your goody bags. SEMA applauds your efforts to protect our vehicles, as well as your dedicated work with children afflicted with spina bifida. 

We have heard about the WNY Mopars, and appreciate very much your invitation to speak to your club. Please give us the dates on which your group meets. If our schedules mesh, we would be more than pleased to come out and speak to you all. 

Invitations to speak at club gatherings greatly help SEMA to get the word out to enthusiasts and hobbyists on the latest legislative, state, and federal proposals and laws that govern the use and operation of our vehicles. If your club or group is interested in having a SEMA representative come out and speak to your members, like the WNY Mopars, please contact Conrad Wong at conradw@sema.org.


VIII. Car Shows and Events

NOTE:  No car shows or events included in this Driving Force as few are scheduled at this time of the year.

November SAN Club Events


November 1, Tucson:  All-Ford Day at the Drags

Sponsor:  Southern Arizona Mustang Club

Information:  Gloria and Dave Carroll at 520/622-6118

November 2, Mesa:  Karl's 4th Annual Custom Classic Car Show, 264 East Broadway

Sponsor:  The Arizona Bus Club

Information:  Volksworks@cox.net

November 8, Glendale:  Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council Annual Car Show, Checker Auto Parts, 59th Avenue and Camelback

Sponsor:  Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council

Information:  Dan at 623/435-8961

November 9, Phoenix:  Phoenix in the Fall XI Car Show, Crowne Plaza Hotel, I-17 and Peoria

Sponsor:  The Walter P. Chrysler Club

Information:  623/535-0524

November 14 to 16, Tucson:  Super Chevy Show, Southwestern International Raceway

Submitted by:  Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council

Information:  800/692-6230

November 15, Chandler:  Thorobred Thunder V All-Chevy Car Show, Thorobred Chevrolet, 2121 North Arizona Avenue

Sponsor:  Corvette Club of Arizona

Information:  Sharon at 480/314-5440 or Charlie at 480/883-1754

November 15 to 16, Scottsdale:  6th Southwest Nationals, West World

Sponsor:  Goodguys

Information:  925/838-9876 or www.good-guys.com


November 1 to 2, Bakersfield:  5th Fuel and Gas Finals, Famoso Raceway

Sponsor:  Goodguys

Information:  925/838-9876 or www.good-guys.com

November 6, 13, and 20, Irwindale:  1/8-Mile All-Thursday-Night-Racing Drags, Irwindale Dragstrip

Submitted by:  Buick Grand National Racing Association

Information:  626/305-1562

November 8 to 9, California City:  BLM Work Weekend, Camp B

Sponsor:  Smitty's Desert Riders

Information:  Alex Smith at 714/528-1817

November 8 to 9, Pleasanton:  14th Annual Autumn Get-Together, Pleasanton Fairgrounds

Sponsor:  Goodguys

Information:  925/838-9876 or www.good-guys.com

November 9, Pomona:  NHRA Auto Club Finals, Pomona Fairplex

Submitted by:  Buick Grand National Racing Association

Information:  800/884-NHRA

November 9 and 30, Long Beach:  Hi-Performance Swap Meet, Long Beach Veterans Stadium

Sponsor:  Topping, Inc.

Information:  www.toppingevents.com

November 15 to 16, Hollister Hills:  East Bay Hi-Tailers Run

Sponsor:  East Bay Hi-Tailers

Information:  Charles at 510/232-4457

November 15 to 16, El Mirage Dry Lakes:  Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) Speed Event

Sponsor:  Southern California Timing Association and Bonneville Nationals, Inc.

Information:  661/946-6986 or www.scta-bni.org

November 21 to 30, Dumont Dunes

Sponsor:  Escarabajo Buggy Club

Information:  Diana Mead at 925/689-1938 or meadfamily@astound.net

November 27 to 29, Stonyford

Sponsor:  Escarabajo Buggy Club

Information:  Diana Mead at 925/689-1938 or meadfamily@astound.net

November 27 to 30, California City:  23rd Annual Thanksgiving Outing, Camp B

Sponsor:  Smitty's Desert Riders

Information:  Alex Smith at 714/528-1817


November 13 to 16, Zephyrhills:  19th Fall Auto Fest Car and Truck Show, Zephyrhills Festival Park

Submitted by:  Classic Trucks magazine

Information:  813/258-6726 or www.zephyrhillsswapmeet.com

November 13 to 16, Miami:  "Miami Beach Bash," South Florida Regional Invitational

Sponsor:  Lambda Car Club International

Information:  www.lambdacarclub.com

November 23, Bradenton:  Super Sunday Mustang and Ford Show, DeSoto Mall

Sponsor:  Mustang Club of West Central Florida

Information:  Lola Baker at 941/351-3789 or http://mcwcf.tripod.com


November 1, Caldwell:  Caldwell Wal-Mart Charity Cruise

Sponsor:  Cruisin Classic Car Club

Information:  Keith at 208/459-8601


November 22 to 23, Chicago:  Fall Chevy Vettefest, McCormick Place, North Building, 2300 South Lake Shore Drive

Submitted by:  Cruis'news

Information:  708/563-4300


November 30, Indianapolis:  Super Sunday Indy Auto Swap Meet, Indiana State Fairgrounds, West and South Pavilion

Information:  708/563-4300


November 2, Churchville:  Cruise Letter Toy Run, Big M Drive-In

Sponsor:  Maryland Chevelle Club

Information:  410/734-7788


November 21 to 23, Novi:  Michigan Fall Classic Car Auction, Novi Expo Center

Sponsor:  RM Classic Cars

Information:  800/211-9371

New Mexico

November 8, Truth or Consequences:  Annual Veteran's Day Car Show

Sponsor:  Desert Cruzers

Information:  Clements at 505/884-7912


November 1 to 2, Carrizo Springs:  Open Rod Run

Submitted by:  Fifties Unlimited Auto Club of Texas

Information:  Jessee Essquive at 830/468-3447 or balleri59@hotmail.com

November 1 to 2, Houston:  21st Annual Original Conroe Swap Meet, Sam Houston Race Park

Submitted by:  The Special Interest Fords of the 50s Club and The Model A Club

Information:  713/461-5557 or http://www.conroeswapmeet-fall.com

November 2, Caddo Mills:  Texas Muscle Car Club Challenge Race, Redline Raceway

Submitted by:  North Texas Mustang Club

Information:  817/595-6900

November 7 to 9, South Austin (Congress):  Continental Club, Happy Hour, Vintage Drags, and Rod Run

Submitted by:  Hill Country Street Rods

Information:  www.kontinentals.com or www.templeacademy.com

November 15, North Galveston:  Car Show at Kemah Boardwalk

Sponsor:  North Galveston County Chamber of Commerce

Information:  Tonya Thompson at 281/337-0641

November 21 to 23, Dallas:  Dallas 2003 Collector Car Show and Auction, 31st Annual Kruse International Collector Car Auction, Market Hall

Submitted by:  Texas Vehicle Club Council and Fifties Unlimited Auto Club of Texas

Information:  800/968-4444 or www.kruse.com

November 21, Decatur:  Decatur Pre-War Swap Meet

Submitted by:  Texas Vehicle Club Council

Information:  TVCCmail@aol.com