Mike Wolfe dropped in for a visit with Corky Coker. The History Channel’s “American Pickers” has launched Antique Archaeology into mainstream popularity. Mike and Corky have been picking each other for years, and Mike found time for a visit between shoots of upcoming episodes of the popular television series.
My name “Corky” is a nickname… my mom wanted to name me a bible name so she came up with Joseph, which means “he will have a big mustache one day”. Although my mom named me Joseph, my dad nicknamed me “Corky”. All that to tell you that nicknames given to us as kids often stick. Did with me, and one of my friends too! My friend I wanna introduce you to also has a nickname,… it’s Pinky. Now that COULD seem like a girly kind of name sort of like the boy named Sue, but it really ain’t. You see M. G. Randall had a brother nicknamed “Red”, and since Red’s little brother didn’t sound right and neither did “little Red” so when he was a kid, someone named him “almost red”, or ….you guessed it! “Pinky”! Now why is that important to me and why is Pinky Randall on Corky’s blog? Well, he’s one of my long time friends for one thing, and it’s my blog and I can write what I wanna. Actually, Pinky is one of the most well known authorities on Chevrolets. Some folks call him Mr. Chevrolet. He and his wife Joyce live up in Houghton Lake, Michigan. Pinky was a good friend of GM’s Jim Perkins and was actually selected to take delivery of the last Chevrolet Impala back a few years ago. He, like my pop is a Past President of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). I have known Pinky for years. He is one of my good, good friends and is certainly a friend to anyone around collector cars. I saw him recently in Louisville at the 75th Anniversary AACA National Meet. Jason filmed it, so I thought I would put er up!
Years ago some of us who sold parts and services for collector vehicles simply referred to what we did as a hobby business. Now it is clearly an industry employing thousands of people and securing and supporting the lifestyles of many families.
A number of years ago, a few of us (hobby business leaders) banded together to form an association of collector car related businesses (even competitors) to work on anti-hobby legislation and licensing issues. The idea was to protect our businesses and the hobby those business served. This new group we called ARMO was started (Automotive Restoration Market Organization) and we added other businessesin the new “industry”. We hooked up with SEMA which is the large automotive aftermarket association representing over 6000 member businesses and got involved and got the muscle of SEMA involved in our issues. Since those early days, a number of us have served terms on the SEMA Board of Directors and in leadership of SEMA. I was actually Chairman of the Board of SEMA from 03 to 05. We had OEM’s shutting down businesses over legitimate intellectual property issues and governments giving tax credits and outright passing laws to crush and scrap older cars. Because we came together and worked hard we made a positive impact on these issues back in the day.
Scrappage, issues about registering our Hot Rods and emission issues are always active and have never been completely solved or handled but as a part of SEMA, we had the power of numbers. While I was a SEMA Board member, we started the SEMA action network (SAN) which is a large group (millions strong) of individuals willing to contact legislators, beaurecrats and governors about issues we would notify them about which could adversely affect our industry. The SAN has been successful on most State and Federal levels. Hundreds of thousands of phone calls, emails and letters have been sent to our “leaders” expressing dismay, disapproval and disgust with these anti collector car bills and rulings. We have not only been “naysayers” because we have sponsored state and federal bills proactively helping our industry on things such as titling and scrappage.
Fast forward to the election of 2008 when the Obominals came to power in DC. Detroit is in a mess and when asking for a financial bailout from our government, the Detroit Three suggested a type of tax credit or refund from our government coffers to get rid of older cars so hopefully we Americans would buy more new cars! They also say these old cars are polluters and gas hogs. President Obama also endorses, supports and is pushing such a program. I guess he doesn’t care about putting down one industry to help another or how large our industry and voter base has grown to be. President Barrack Hussein Obama continues so push his “anti collector car” agenda his own way and hopefully partially and artificially propping up the Detroit Three (…or at least two!) and by paying our tax dollars to get rid of older cars.
We need to pay attention NOW MORE THAN EVER, and not hesitate to say NO to the Obominals or anyone who supports scrapping old cars! The SEMA action Network is a great avenue to stay connected on these looming issues. SEMA has a great staff of folks in Washington and Diamond Bar, California working on these things every waking moment.
NOW MORE THAN EVER!
From the road,
(Corky Coker is the owner of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Coker Tire, which supplies specialty tires and parts for antique and classic cars. He’s past chairman of the Specialty Equipment Market Association. His company is developing an all-electric hot rod based on an iconic 1932 Ford model. He spoke with Reuters correspondent Kevin Krolicki.)
DETROIT (Reuters.com) – Coker Tire owner Corky Coker spoke with Reuters about the future of the auto industry in the United States. Here are excerpts of that conversation.
On what U.S. automakers can learn from hot-rod culture:
We are the largest supplier of collector tires in the world. I very much live and breathe the automotive after-market, which is a $41 billion industry. It is the epitome of what consumers want for their automobile. Auto design changes have been sparked by after-market companies, because these guys who have this passion for cars are closest to their consumers. Our industry brought many things such as running boards and sunroofs into the mainstream for the auto manufacturers. In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of momentum and energy created by Toyota’s Scion brand. They are really on the leading edge of personalization of vehicles. If the Big Three will start doing things right and developing good products, they will start getting the market share and profits back. You’ve got to be on the leading edge in quality. If they do those things, our domestic industry will make those turnarounds.
On what it means as U.S. auto manufacturing shifts South:
Being from the South I have a lot of friends from the North. I like to joke that you Yankees up there think you won that terrible skirmish 100 years ago, but the South has had a 200-year plan to infiltrate your industry and bring it South. You tell me who’s winning. There is an energy down here and people feel good about their future. We’re re-developing and re-designing our downtowns. Young people are graduating from college and staying here. They’re not moving off. They’re trying to develop new businesses and stay in the area. People want to do business where there are success stories and where there’s energy. If I can say anything about Volkswagen’s decision to build this decision in Chattanooga, Tennessee, it’s that we have that purpose and energy. Chattanooga was once a manufacturer of a production vehicle. Between 1910 and 1912, a gentleman named Henry Nyberg manufactured cars in Anderson, Indiana and Chattanooga, Tennessee. So this story is really about creating the opportunity for automobile manufacturing to come back to Chattanooga.
On the need for fuel-efficiency:
If you look at Ford and GM, I think they’re getting it now. With oil above $100 per barrel, it’s important that we have personalization but that we’re also smart about fuel economy. We’re in the process of building a very high tech roadster that’s all electric. We won’t call it a hot rod. We’ll call it a green rod. It will be a 1932 Ford Highboy and it will be very quick zero to 60 miles per hour. It will be a clean and cool hot-rod. Maybe we’ll figure out a CD sound system that makes it sound like a Ford flathead V8 engine.
Car shows are always a great way to meet new friends, see old ones, sell your product and rub elbows with customers. When I was kid, I remember my Dad constantly traveling to shows to meet the prospective customers, see their company’s and factories. When I say travel, I don’t just mean a couple hours across the state to set up a booth, I mean, he was a “Get-R-Dun” kind of traveler. He would go all over the globe to meet with people from Australia, Germany, England and Brazil and many more. I didn’t quite understand why he wasn’t home all the time when I was growing up, but now since I have been in the business here at Coker Tire for 2 years now, I get to see first hand what those important travels accomplish.
The 2008 Street Rodder Road Tour Kicked off from Coker Tire Headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our renovations were almost complete and the tour cars along with with over a hundred other cars were on display. The tour stops include Barillaro Speed Emporium in Knoxville, TN, Car Museum and Detroit Speed-Mooresville, NC, The Victory Junction Gang Camp-Randleman, NC, Harley Davidson Assembly Plant-York, PA, Posies-Hummelstown, PA, Party at Southern Tier Harley- Binghamton, NY and The Syracuse Nationals-Syracuse, NY. Casey Coker talks about the tour, stops and the kickoff show at the Coker Tire Headquarters.
Casey Coker and Tony Thacker chat about the recent Hot Rod Reunion tour, the late Wally Parks and Tony’s visit to Coker Tire headquarters.
Tony Thacker is the Executive Director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Before joining the Museum, Thacker was the marketing vice president for So-Cal Speed Shop. He also worked for seven years at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and was the first editor of Performance Aftermarket magazine, now called SEMA News. He has written more than a dozen books on hot rods.
At the opening of our exhibit at the NHRA Museum it all came together. Casey and Aaron did a great job building the exhibits for Coker Tire’s 50th and Honest Charley’s 60th Anniversaries. Everyone was really enjoying the opening of the displays. It was really something special to see all these pieces of our history on display. It was also my pleasure to spend some time with one of the car hobby’s most influential people, ever. And I mean EVER! The legendary George Barris was with us, as his famous 1949 Mercury Custom is proudly included in our exhibit. Barris’ custom Mercury is widely regarded as the most famous custom Mercury of all time, and by some as the father-car of all customs! George and I had a chance to do this little video blog during all the festivities. I hope you enjoy it.