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All the news from the specialty-parts industry.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 23:00

All the news from the specialty-parts industry.


Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) members opened their hearts and pocketbooks to benefit two children's charities at the recent SEMA Installation Banquet and Fund Raiser, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine, California, on July 27, 2007. Proceeds from the gala and auction went to Childhelp and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Childhelp, founded in 1959 by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, is a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. Childhelp focuses on prevention, intervention, and treatment. The organization operates the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hot Line 24 hours a day [(800) 4-A-CHILD] and offers residential treatment services (villages) in both California and Virginia.

The Victory Junction Gang Camp is located on 72 acres of land (donated by famous stock-car racer Richard Petty) in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. The camp was created by Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie in 2004 in honor of their son Adam, who died in an auto-racing accident. The free camp serves children from ages seven to 15 who suffer chronic illness. Victory Junction has 10 week-long summer sessions and also hosts 19 family weekends. The camp enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illness by providing life-changing camping experiences that are fun and empowering in a safe and medically sound environment. Victory Junction Gang Camp has an auto-racing theme and is comprised of 44 buildings, including a medical center, dining hall, theatre, water park, sports center, and more.

In addition to the fund raiser, golf tournament, and silent auction, there was a live auction of five special items, including a race helmet signed by Richard and Kyle Petty, special trips, and a customized Fat Boy motorcycle donated by Harley-Davidson. It was a very special night with the proceeds going to some very special children's charities.

Speaking of children, Taylor Longbreak (remember that name, you will see it again in the not-too-distant future), a very-talented, very-tiny, 10-year-old singer with a big, big voice, brought down the house, first with her vocal rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and then with her performance of the Martina McBride song, Anyway. Young Taylor was so poised and so powerful, she brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation, not once, but twice. Way to go Taylor!


Volkswagen of America, Inc. scored the top spots in the High Performance Showroom Stock division at the 85th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), July 21, 2007. Volkswagen entered two V-10 TDI Touaregs and a V-6 TDI Touareg, driven by professional drivers Ryan Arciero, Mike Miller, and Chris Blais. Arciero put on a strong performance on his way to winning the division with a time of 13:17:703, setting a new division record for the fastest time with a diesel-powered vehicle. Mark Miller finished closely behind with a time of 13:25:247, and Chris Blais took third with a time of 15:48:312.

"The V-10 TDI is an amazing motor, and the Touareg chassis is so well balanced that it performs more like a true race car than a premium SUV," said Arciero.

Miller also posted a competitive time, just 7.544 seconds off the pace set by Arciero. Throughout practice and qualifying, the drivers were rarely separated by more than 0.5 seconds.

Touareg number three, driven by motorcycle racer, Chris Blais, suffered a mechanical set back early in the first practice session. The team rallied to help get Chris back on the mountain in a V-6 TDI, and he was able to compete in his first ever four-wheeled vehicle race.

Volkswagen raced the Touaregs at Pikes Peak with support from Red Bull, Castrol, Nitto Tires, Oakley, and Arciero Miller Racing.


You'd think a multi-ton, 800-hp, 20-foot-long, polished aluminum roadster powered by a V-12 tank engine would be wild enough for even consummate car guy and popular TV host Jay Leno, but the diehard gearhead knows there's no such thing as too much power. With that in mind, the Tonight Show host turned to his friend Gale Banks for a little help.

"There are two things Jay wants in a car," says Banks, "a loud horn and huge power." So, the Banks team went to work dissecting a spare V-12 engine and creating a game plan to get the big roadster rolling with twin-turbo power—a specialty at Banks.

It wasn't easy, however, as getting parts to twin-turbocharge an engine designed more than half a century ago for an armored war machine proved difficult; the crew actually whittled most of the scratch-design parts out of huge slabs of billet aluminum. Relying on decades of experience with twin-turbo power plants—from record-setting marine engines in the 1970s to land-speed record-shattering passenger-car powerplants in the '80s and '90s and 1,000+ horsepower crate engines today—Banks turned to his crack engineering staff and industry contacts to complete the unique project.

Bosch was responsible for converting the engine from multiple carburetors to computer-controlled fuel injection and the turbos are from Honeywell/Garrett Turbo Technologies. The massive twin TR 72T turbos are magnesium-housing units originally designed for Toyota's CART racing efforts. The Korean War-era M47 Patton tank engine churned out 810 hp when it was delivered to Banks Engineering and left with 1,600 hp—nearly double the horsepower and torque output. Literally a "tank," the engine alone weighs in at 2,000 lbs. To read the eight-part series on Leno's tank car power boost, which includes photos of the upgrades in progress, visit And for a short vidcast of the turbos being added, visit


Len Hunt, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Kia Motors America, said that Kia is seeking "tattoo status" for the brand and that Kia will once again participate in motorsports when the time is right.

Hunt, who worked at Rover, Jaguar, Audi, VW, and Bentley before joining Kia, knows about brand building. "A brand is satisfaction promised and delivered," he said, while addressing a Motor Press Guild (MPG) meeting in Los Angeles.

Kia's core promise began with low price and a long warranty. "We started with two vehicles and now, 13 years later, we have 10 vehicles and we plan to introduce two new vehicles next year," he said.

Kia's core promise now is value, fun-to-drive, quality, and safety. According to Hunt, the promises must be true. "You have to move up an escalator that starts with confidence, moves up to integrity, then to pride, and then to passion. Right now, nobody wakes up thinking 'I have to buy a Kia.' Eventually, if we do our job correctly, they will," he said.

"We want to reach tattoo status." Hunt described that as being when satisfied customers become brand advocates and tattoo themselves with the company logo. The example he pointed to was Harley-Davidson.

"We need to raise our brand profile. People are aware of Kia, but not yet familiar with the brand. We plan to continue to maintain our sense of humor, but still get our message across. It's important not to take yourself too seriously.

"I am pushing the company to bring clean diesel to the U.S.," he added. "But before we can do that we need to be able to meet Tier II/Bin 5 emissions requirements and that's not easy.

"When the time is right, we will probably start with a grassroots motorsports effort. What we need first is hardware and high-performance engines," Hunt said. Right now, the term Kia performance is an oxymoron.


Mr. Gasket, Inc. and Prestolite Wire Corporation have announced that Prestolite has agreed to acquire substantially all of the assets and business of Mr. Gasket. Mr. Gasket will become a division of Prestolite and continue to operate the entire Mr. Gasket family of high-performance and racing brands. Dennis Rogers will continue in his role as executive vice president of Mr. Gasket. Bob Romanelli, president of Mr. Gasket, will continue to advise the company on strategic initiatives. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

"Mr. Gasket is an excellent strategic fit and a logical step in the continued growth and development of our automotive aftermarket business," said Greg Ulewicz, president of Prestolite.

Dennis Rogers of Mr. Gasket, Inc. added, "The combination of the two businesses provides Mr. Gasket with the resources to expand our automotive, motorcycle, and marine product portfolios to better serve our customers."


Americans continue to customize and personalize their vehicles—to the tune of $36.72 billion in 2006 alone—according to a study by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). This represents a 7-percent increase over 2005 sales of $34.28 billion.

"Today's consumer wants something unique and different," says Jim Spoonhower, SEMA's vice president of market research. "They are buying vehicles that are dependable and reliable, but then they are personalizing those vehicles so that they look distinctive, perform differently, are more comfortable, safe, or just more fun."

SEMA, which has been monitoring the specialty automotive market since 1986, reports the automotive specialty-equipment industry has grown an average of 7.4 percent during the past 10 years. Meanwhile, the total automotive aftermarket (which includes repair parts) and the U.S. economy have seen much slower growth. The automotive aftermarket has grown 4.4 percent and the U.S. economy has grown only 3.2 percent.

"What's really exciting is that we are seeing more and more mainstream consumers discovering the benefits of vehicle personalization," said Spoonhower. Automakers also recognize the importance of vehicle personalization. Many now work directly with SEMA and SEMA members on programs that allow companies to develop products better, faster, and more efficiently than ever before.

A recent survey indicated 25 percent of American drivers planned to purchase automotive specialty-equipment industry products in the next 90 days. "The automotive specialty-equipment industry is made up of innovators," Spoonhower says. "Because many enter the industry as enthusiasts who know and love the hobby, they have a deep understanding of what the end-users will want and need. As a result, products are resonating with consumers more than ever before."


Toyota has been a long-term supporter of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, but 2007 marks the first time the car and truck manufacturer will serve as the Vehicle Manufacturer of the SEMA Show.

"SEMA members and the automotive specialty-equipment industry have benefited immensely from Toyota's long-time support," said Carl Sheffer, SEMA vice president of OEM relations. "By serving as the Vehicle Manufacturer of the 2007 SEMA Show, Toyota is reinforcing and strengthening what it has been doing for years. They are solidifying an already-existing relationship."

In addition to exhibiting at the SEMA Show, Toyota supports SEMA's project vehicle program with SEMA members, provides members with hands-on early access to vehicles, and participates in the association's OEM roundtable program. Also, Scion, a marque of Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., allows access to confidential data through the SEMA Tech Transfer Program.

For the past four decades, SEMA has enjoyed an expanded association with the world's automakers. In fact, more OEMs than ever are expected to join Toyota at the 2007 SEMA Show, scheduled to run from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The show, which is part of auto industry week in Las Vegas, is open exclusively to automotive professionals.


TMI Products' Classic Automotive Interiors Division has launched a newly redesigned Web site for its Mustang interior restoration and restyling products. The new site,, features a sophisticated new design scheme and improved navigation features.

"We wanted our Web site to reflect the quality look and feel that already exists with our Classic, Fox Body, and Late Model Mustang interior restoration and restyling products," said Dean Satterfield, sales and marketing manager for TMI Classic Automotive Interiors. "Added to that, we wanted users to be able to quickly and easily find the information they're looking for, and our new navigation allows them to do just that."

TMI Classic Automotive Interiors, located in Corona, California, was founded in 1982 by the Tuccinardi brothers. With more than 190 employees, TMI specializes in developing and manufacturing interior automotive components, including seating, consoles, door panels, convertible roof assemblies, headliners, and integrated electronic systems. Aftermarket restoration interior components are available for Classic, Fox Body, and Late Model Ford Mustangs, as well as Classic Volkswagen models.


If you are a member of the automotive aftermarket, you can submit news items for Buzz at or through your Styling & Performance account manager. Do it now.

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