A History of ARMO

SEMA Member News—July/August 2011

A History of ARMO

Born of Necessity and Still Serving

  The ARMO New Products Showcase
The ARMO New Products Showcase gives member companies the opportunity to present their newest products to the huge gathering of restoration enthusiasts at Spring Carlisle. The 2011 event featured 64 products from 26 ARMO companies.  
Like other SEMA councils and committees the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) came to be out of necessity. As SEMA membership grew to encompass all aspects of the automotive specialty-equipment market, industry leaders recognized the need for a volunteer group to focus on the specific needs of the restoration market.

In early 1991, Jim Wirth attended a SEMA management conference and was impressed by the way SEMA-member companies were working for the betterment of the automotive aftermarket. Already heavily involved in the restoration industry as an enthusiast and the founder of the Springfield Auto Swap Meet and Car Show, Wirth suggested to several friends that restoration companies could benefit from a similar organization. By the end of that year, ARMO was formed and recognized as a SEMA committee.

Less than a year later, Wirth’s vision of a restoration association proved its value when representatives from GM and EMI (GM’s trademark licensing arm) met with ARMO in Indianapolis to discuss issues relating to the licensing of restoration products. That marked the first time ARMO-member companies were addressed as a group and not individually.

Ford Motor Company followed suit in July 1993 when Tom Spencer, corporate trademark marketing director for Ford, asked ARMO for input in developing a licensing procedure for restoration products. Leaders from SEMA and ARMO continued to work diligently with Spencer, helping him to develop and, ultimately, establish an effective licensing program that would meet the needs of Ford and the restoration aftermarket. Those same procedures are still in use today at Ford Motor Company.

Several other milestones made 1993 a banner year for ARMO. In March, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) met with SEMA and ARMO to discuss proposed “clunker” laws. SEMA and ARMO explained the negative impact such laws would have on classic-car hobbyists and the restoration industry. After much effort from SEMA and ARMO, the EPA published an addendum to its guidelines for clunker programs in early 1994, suggesting that states should consider the needs of car collectors in any legislation they might propose.

That was a tremendous accomplishment for the restoration industry and was perhaps the greatest single achievement in dealing with clunker laws since the problem first surfaced. It also signaled the start of long-standing cooperation between ARMO and SEMA’s office in Washington, D.C.

At the Fall Carlisle event in 1993, ARMO leadership met and agreed that ARMO should transition from being a committee to a full-fledged council within SEMA. The association agreed to the proposal, and ARMO became a SEMA council at that year’s SEMA Show.

From that time to the present, ARMO-member companies have been some of the most active and engaged in the association. ARMO members Wirth, Corky Coker, Matt Agosta, Doug Evans, Dennis Gage, Luanne Brown and Ernie Silvers have served or are serving terms on the SEMA Board of Directors, and Wirth and Coker were elected to the SEMA Hall of Fame.

Since the first clunker law discussions in 1993, ARMO has continued to be actively involved with the D.C. office. ARMO members routinely promote the SEMA Action Network at car shows and events throughout the country and have worked closely with the Washington office in establishing Collector Car Appreciation Day.

Other popular ARMO programs include Take a Kid to a Car Show (TKCS) and the ARMO New-Products Showcase. Started in 2004 with stickers and a few public service ads, TKCS now boasts an interactive website, and the New Products Showcase—introduced in Charlotte in 2004 and now held at the Spring Carlisle event in Carlisle, Pennsylvania—allows ARMO-member companies to display the latest and greatest restoration products before the largest gathering of restoration enthusiasts in the country. In addition, photos and descriptions of the products are featured in a gallery on the ARMO website, and in the ARMO booth at the SEMA Show.