The RPM Act: A Message From SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting
Over the past year, the racing community undertook an unprecedented effort to protect Americans’ right to modify street vehicles into dedicated racecars and our industry’s right to sell the parts that support the sport. In February, more than 100,000 racers, industry members and enthusiasts rallied to sign a White House petition in a single day. Since March, you have flooded Congress with nearly 200,000 letters in support of the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act—a bill that makes clear that the Clean Air Act allows motor vehicles to be converted into dedicated race vehicles. The bill also protects our ability to sell the parts and equipment that enable racers to compete.
You have been heard! Your persistence and enthusiasm resulted in 148 Congressional lawmakers signing on to co-sponsor the RPM Act.
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As indicated by the vintage “calling card” pictured here, the Push Rods’ club name has a humorous meaning aside from the internal engine part. These printed cards were given to stranded motorists by club members who had provided mechanical assistance.
The Push Rods of Waltham, Massachusetts, were established in 1957 by two high school friends, Bill Chaplis and Fred Hire. In fact, the kids formed the group without even owning a vehicle! The duo’s enthusiasm and automotive passion lead to ownership of a drag racing machine soon enough. Their first car was outfitted with a Ford Model A roadster body that was channeled over a modified frame. A 1956 Buick “nailhead” was set back 20% and carried six Stromberg 97 carburetors on top. This rebuilding project was good for club morale from the very beginning. Next came custom aluminum club plaques and member photos and the group was ready to roll. However, drag racing had a reputation at the time of being a sport filled with delinquents. The guys decided that this negative image needed to be cleaned up. So the Push Rods began assisting drivers who had broken down along the roadside. To generate publicity, those drivers in need were asked to call their local newspapers and tell them local “hot rod hoodlums” had helped out.
The tight-knit Push Rods became a formidable team within a few years. The club had fine-tuned their skills by racing on New England’s drag strips. In early 1960, they ventured out to be competitive in other places, such as Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and even Illinois. However, their racing days were nearing the end by the late 1960s. Between getting older, getting married and moving on into adulthood, the guys were losing interest. The club was largely inactive from the 1970s through the early 1990s. A few members had kept the spirit alive during that period by staying in touch. Thankfully, there has been renewed interest in the rod and custom hobby in the last couple of decades. Nostalgia drag racing has been popping up all over the country, which began rekindling old flames within the group.
A search for “lost” Push Rods members was undertaken several years ago to rebuild the group and host a 40th anniversary reunion. Once a few letters were written and several phone calls placed, the gang was back in gear! Members old and new were wearing the club jackets and coming to scheduled meetings in Massachusetts from the New England region and beyond. Today, they meet informally and have a very basic format: eat, drink and be merry. The reunion has evolved into an annual dinner held at the Hudson Elks, in Hudson, Massachusetts. The club’s philosophy is now focused on safe driving and building safe "hot rods" to build good memories. They also keep tabs on legislative proposals via the SEMA Action Network (SAN). “What the organization does to protect our hobby is fantastic,” says the group’s chairman Jim Grillo. “When the people that make the laws affecting our hobby need some direction, they get it from the voices in the SAN. Thank you from all our members.”
Many thanks to the Push Rods, past and present, for setting such a positive example of our hobby. Thanks for looking out for our community’s interests in the Bay State and beyond!
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