California’s “Blue Oval” Congressman

SEMA News—August 2019

FROM THE HILL

By Eric Snyder

California’s “Blue Oval” Congressman

U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa Shows Off His Prized Fords to SEMA News

  Doug LaMalfa
Rep. LaMalfa’s “Gotta Have It Green” ’13 Boss Mustang 302 has seven-spoke Saleen wheels and modified exhaust.
   

While there are more than a few automotive enthusiasts in Congress, the zeal of U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) for the hobby and collection of classic vehicles puts him in a class by himself. LaMalfa started wrenching on cars during his formative years, and his passion for buying and personalizing vehicles continued to grow during the following decades.

LaMalfa’s fleet includes Ford trucks from ’34 and ’50, four Mustangs (’65, ’68, ’03, and ’13), a ’69 Torino Talladega, a ’72 Pantera, and ’55 and ’56 Thunderbirds that he maintains for his parents. SEMA and its members are fortunate to have a strong ally in Rep. LaMalfa, who has led the charge on pro-automotive hobby policies during his time as a California state legislator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Doug LaMalfa
This ’50 Ford F1 pickup was on the LaMalfa family’s original South Bay ranch. The truck initially had an inline six-cylinder Flathead engine. Rep. LaMalfa removed the rust from the exterior, put some primer on it, and painted it satin red. He sourced a ’40s Lincoln V12 Flathead engine with electric fans and dual exhaust pipes. In place of the original three-speed is a T5 transmission from Speedway Motors, using a bellhousing adapter.
 
   

LaMalfa grew up working on his family’s rice farm, which is located not far from Sacramento, California, and dates to 1931. When he wasn’t working or studying, he could be found tinkering with vehicles. He credits his father and especially his grandfather’s influence for shaping him
into a gearhead.

By the age of 16, he took out a loan from a bank and purchased a pickup, which he tinkered with and drove for a few years. He took a job at a local mill while in junior college and saved up to buy a Competition Orange ’69 Mercury Cougar Eliminator, which has a 351 engine and a ram air hood. LaMalfa also put a four-speed top-loader in place of the car’s automatic transmission.

He went on to study agriculture and business at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. He put his education to work managing the family farm, which he and his family still call home. Rep. LaMalfa is a fourth-generation owner of the LaMalfa Family Partnership, which owns and operates the farm.

As a result of his experience running the farm in a state that is not known for being friendly to farmers or business, LaMalfa ran for public office for the first time in 2002, winning a seat in the California State Assembly. He went on to serve in the Assembly until 2008, and he was elected to the California State Senate in 2010.

  Doug LaMalfa
Rep. LaMalfa helped his future wife purchase this ’65 Mustang Fastback when she was finishing college. LaMalfa stored it in his barn for years, and he recently fixed it up. In the ’80s, he swapped in a T-5 five-speed transmission from a former California Highway Patrol Mustang that he won at auction. The car is painted Shelby style, with white stripes on top of Gulfstream Aqua blue, and it has 16-in. American Torq Thrust wheels. Its 289 engine is punched out and is fitted with beautiful AFR aluminum heads that Rep. LaMalfa saw at the SEMA Show. The car is also fitted with Wilwood front disc brakes and a saddle-color Pony interior.
   

During his time in Sacramento, LaMalfa proved himself an ally of automotive enthusiasts, private property owners and taxpayers. As a member of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, LaMalfa was a frequent collaborator with SEMA on issues of importance to automotive enthusiasts. Most notably, he attempted to expand the smog-check testing exemption to include vehicles produced from ’76–’80.

When U.S. Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) decided to retire from Congress after representing inland Northern California for more than 25 years, he endorsed LaMalfa to be his successor. LaMalfa handily won the primary election against six other candidates and went on to win the general election by a margin of 57% to 42% during an otherwise difficult 2012 election cycle for Republicans. LaMalfa’s relationship with SEMA continued to flourish during his time in Congress, where he is a member of the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure
and Agriculture.

Fresh off his first re-election to Congress, Rep. LaMalfa attended the 2014 SEMA Show the following day. While it wasn’t his first time at the Show, it was a memorable one, as Rep. LaMalfa had the opportunity to meet Richard Petty. His conversation with “The King” was particularly special for LaMalfa, who owns a “Petty Blue” ’69 Ford Torino Talladega with a #43 on the roof. The vehicle has a 428 big-block Ford engine and was one of only 745 originally built.

Mustang Mach 1
Rep. LaMalfa’s ’03 Mustang Mach 1.
 
   

Rep. LaMalfa has also been a staunch supporter of the RPM Act, serving as a leading voice on Capitol Hill for protecting racing and the motorsports parts industry. Shortly after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a 2015 draft regulation stating that it is illegal to modify a street legal vehicle into a race car, Rep. LaMalfa led the charge to stop the agency in its tracks.

During a January 2016 House Agriculture Committee hearing, the congressman questioned then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about why the EPA was trying to shut down racing. Rep. LaMalfa’s aggressive questioning led the administrator to backtrack and confirm that it is legal to convert a motor vehicle into a race car, which ultimately led to the agency removing the provision from the final regulation.

Congressman LaMalfa was kind enough to sit down with SEMA News to talk about his collection of beloved “Blue Ovals,” which are described in the captions accompanying the pictures of his vehicles.

T-Bird
Rep. LaMalfa’s parents’ classic ’55 Thunderbird rolls on a set of Tru Spoke wire wheels and has been upgraded with front disk brakes, a larger front sway bar and Bilstein shocks. Future plans for the vehicle include a transmission swap for better shift control.
California
This ’68 Mustang California Special is highland green—the same color as the ’68 Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the film Bullitt. Rep. LaMalfa upgraded the engine to a 351 Cleveland from the smaller 302 that came stock. The 351 features aluminum Edelbrock heads and intake, a Tremec transmission, Koni shocks and four-wheel disc brakes.

Torrino
Rep. LaMalfa’s ’69 Torino Talladega serves as a campaign car in parades. It’s painted “Petty Blue” and includes a #43 decal. LaMalfa noted that Ford produced only 745 of this model in 1969. It has a 428 big-block Ford engine with special gears, along with a lengthened front nose and an aerodynamic grille. He bought the car from a family member and noted that he cleaned 40 lbs. of acorns out of it in addition to doing some rough body work. It also features NASCAR-style wheels with long racing studs and 1-in.-diameter lug nuts.

Ford FlatbedRep. LaMalfa’s ’34 Ford truck has been on his family’s farm since he was a kid. The original Flathead V8 was replaced by a small-block Ford with a Dart block, World Products iron heads, a Ford Motorsport intake, a four-speed overdrive manual transmission and a heavy-duty rearend to give it a modern feel. The congressman adapted the original five-lug wheels to the modern 10-lug pattern, each shod in Coker 7.00-20 tires. Interestingly, the truck has a manual turn signal with an arm that goes up when a cable is pulled.
Richard PettyRep. LaMalfa and Richard Petty (right) at the 2014 SEMA Show.

 

 

 

Wade Kawasaki

SEMA Board Immediate Past-Chair Wade Kawasaki (left) of Coker Group, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Rose Kawasaki (right) of Exports International posed for a picture during the 2014 SEMA Washington Rally.
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