SEMA News—November 2011

Representative Don Manzullo Cruises Into Hopperstad Customs

HRIA Select Committee Member Hosts Congressional District Site Visit in Illinois
By Dan Sadowski

     Don Manzullo (third from left) joined a large group of his constituents at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois
Representative Don Manzullo (third from left) joined a large group of his constituents at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois. The business is owned by Kerry Hopperstad (fifth from left). Also attending the event were SEMA Congressional Affairs Manager Dan Sadowski (left), Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council Select Committee member and Holley Performance Products Regional Sales Manager John Sonnefeldt (ninth from right) and the Congressman’s brother, Frank Manzullo (second from left).
     Don Manzullo (third from left) joined a large group of his constituents at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois
The Congressional District Site Visit at Hopperstad Customs became an impromptu car show and cruise, as several local automotive enthusiasts drove their collector cars to the event.
     Don Manzullo (third from left) joined a large group of his constituents at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois Hopperstad Customs owner Kerry Hopperstad explained to Representative Don Manzullo (left) how he builds and customizes each vehicle in his shop.
Each August, members of Congress spend the month in their districts meeting select businesses and organizations to learn more about how policies crafted in Washington directly affect homegrown industries. These events can help provide solutions to issues specific to local congressional districts and businesses while helping to establish long-term working relationships between SEMA members and their elected officials. At one such event, SEMA members and enthusiasts gathered at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois, to tour the facility and talk about cars and the economy with their federal representative. Their special guest, Representative Don Manzullo, is a lifelong car enthusiast from Rockford in northern Illinois and now represents these local communities in the U.S. Congress.

Owned and operated by Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Select Committee member Kerry Hopperstad, Hopperstad Customs has been serving the custom car and hot-rod community since 1968. It specializes in louvers, rear suspension setups, front axle conversions, disc brake conversions, chassis restoration, body reconstruction, interior/dashboard fabrication, electrical wiring, powerplant buildup and custom concept car building.

“Having worked on projects with his brother Frank, including his ’32 Ford, I was happy to have Representative Manzullo visit my shop,” Kerry Hopperstad said. “Our area is well known for having many automotive businesses and hobbyists, and I am pleased that Manzullo took time to visit with fellow car buffs to discuss the important issues. Hosting the event at my shop provided a great backdrop for the Congressman to talk cars and policy in a setting he was familiar with. This Congressional Site Visit event was beneficial for everyone involved.”

Representative Manzullo, a Republican, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Representative Manzullo serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. From 2001–2006, he was chairman of the House Committee on Small Business and currently serves as founder and co-chairman of the House Manufacturing Caucus, a leading voice in urging the United States to develop a more comprehensive policy to support its domestic manufacturing base.

Representative Manzullo’s visit to Hopperstad Customs was a natural fit. He is a founding member of the SEMA-supported Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, which recognizes contributions made by the specialty parts and motorsports industries to the U.S. economy. Representative Manzullo is a classic car enthusiast who knows firsthand the issues facing the industry. He also has a family connection: His brother, Frank, who attended the event at Hopperstad, played a role in helping enact SEMA’s model street rod/custom vehicle bill into law in Illinois in 2002 as a member of Rockford’s Unique Street Rod Club.

During his visit, Representative Manzullo discussed custom car construction and the economic outlook for the specialty-equipment industry. Hopperstad provided a comprehensive overview of the process by which he obtains classic car frames and creates one-of-a kind collector automobiles tailored to the needs of individual enthusiasts.

Illinois has a strong tradition of hot-rod and classic car enthusiasts, and
several local hobbyists attended the event as well, driving their classics to Hopperstad’s shop. Representative Manzullo spent a good part of his visit asking questions and learning more about each collector vehicle, many of which had been fabricated at Hopperstad Customs or other local shops.

After the shop tour, Representative Manzullo convened a roundtable discussion about current issues facing small businesses and the challenges for small manufacturers.

Representative Don Manzullo, a collector car enthusiast himself, got behind the wheel of one of Kerry Hopperstad’s (left) custom builds at his shop in Belvidere, Illinois. 
“Throughout my time representing the 16th District of Illinois, I have been a staunch supporter and promoter of American manufacturing,” Representative Manzullo said. “I commend Hopperstad Customs for their part in the vibrant manufacturing community in northern Illinois, and I am proud to represent them. The recently introduced Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2011, of which I am an original co-sponsor, will alleviate some of the regulatory burdens placed on Hopperstad and other custom automobile shops by establishing a program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that will address the unique safety and financial issues associated with limited-production custom vehicle manufacturers. This bill would resource several hundred jobs back to the United States if enacted.”

Local SEMA members and enthusiasts in attendance had an opportunity to ask Representative Manzullo questions about current events and plans for congressional action for the remainder of the year. Manzullo said that he remains committed to advocating on behalf of small businesses in his district and throughout the nation while promoting domestic manufacturing. The visit provided a unique opportunity for both SEMA members and industry enthusiasts to meet with their federal representative.

The Congressional District Site Visit Program is overseen by SEMA’s government affairs office in Washington, D.C. The program pairs SEMA-member companies with their member of Congress for facility tours and business roundtables in their home districts. These visits provide an opportunity for SEMA members to meet face-to-face with their Washington representatives or senators and discuss issues impacting the company and its workers. They help establish working relationships that can eventually translate into legislative successes in Washington.

If you are interested in hosting an event at your facility with your federal elected officials, please e-mail Congressional Affairs Manager Dan Sadowski at or call 202/783-6007 x19.

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