The Class of 2015
A recruiting effort initiated in 2015 has once again brought an impressive number of lawmakers into the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. With 151 new members signing up so far this year, the group now numbers more than 700 members representing all 50 states. Founded in 2005 and supported by the SEMA Action Network (SAN), the caucus is designed as a non-partisan group of state legislators whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles. To follow is the complete list of those who have joined this year.
Legislative Front Lines
SEMA SAN Strike Force
Ben Knaus is shown here climbing the Rubicon Trail in his 1985 Toyota pickup—only one of many places he enjoys using the truck. Other locations include Pismo, Hollister, Carnegie and Swamp Lake. He purchased it in his freshman year of college. “The Toyota was pretty much stock when I bought it,” says Ben. “During the process of doing the custom lift and steering, I decided to switch my college major to mechanical engineering and really developed my love of suspension design.”
"I've always liked messing with mechanical items growing up," Ben Knaus explains. He learned to drive using his grandfather's Ford F-150 on the family farm, leading to a lifelong love affair with trucks. "I have been a truck guy forever. I currently drive a late-model F-150 but would love to have a classic F-100 at some point." However, it's his 1985 Toyota (pictured above) that holds a special place for Ben. It's the first vehicle he modified from the ground up. Knaus believes in having a vehicle that allows him to try out new ideas. "You form a special bond with any vehicle that you're constantly tinkering on."
Joining the Poly Goats 4x4 Club at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, directly led to the purchase of the Toyota rock crawler and subsequent career in the industry. He says, "They were a great group and I am still very involved, even though I no longer live locally or am a student. There's also a huge alumni following, so we get together to go wheeling pretty regularly." Despite a natural attraction to OHVs (off- highway vehicles), Knaus has been looking for a ‘64-‘66 Chevrolet Chevelle after catching the muscle car bug while working at Hellwig Products. "I still have plenty of time to add more cars and check some off of my ‘dream car' list too!"
Over time Ben has become increasingly involved with land-use organizations. He keeps up with local clubs like the Central Valley Crawlers, whose volunteers seek to keep the trails open and running. His membership in the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Inc., the Blue Ribbon Coalition and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) supports the same cause. "I think the SAN's mission is very important. My hobby, my job, basically everything in my life is affected by automotive legislation," he says. "I see trails and recreational areas shrinking or closing entirely. If we don't work together to keep these lands open, they will eventually disappear. It's everyone's responsibility to help out. Public officials need to hear our voices."
Great observations, Ben. It's nice to have you climbing alongside us-keep on truckin'!