Auto Briefs

President William Howard Taft ordered this White Steamer in 1909. It would become the first presidential car.

College of Charleston organizers last fall cranked up plans to promote the educational study of motor vehicle heritage by teaming with the national Historic Vehicle Association to highlight cars’ importance in the American experience.

Among the efforts this year will be an international conference on “automobile heritage” Oct. 20-22 in Allentown, Pa., said Grant Gilmore, director of the college’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program. Barry Stiefel, assistant professor, is helping to organize the event, entitled “Putting Preservation on the Road: Protecting Our Overlooked Automotive Heritage in the 21st Century.”

The program will include learned papers and other research on the automobile’s place in history. Deadline for proposals is May 15, according to the conference’s website.

Allentown, in eastern Pennsylvania north of Philadelphia, is home of the Historic Vehicle Association Research Laboratory.

According to the website, Stiefel and association president Mark Gessler — who visited Charleston in the fall as the College of Charleston moved to fashion preservation courses focused on the automobile’s historic achievements — are conference organizers.

“Some of our students will be participants and speakers,” Gilmore said. A conference academic committee includes Nathaniel Walker of the College of Charleston and Amalia Leifeste of Clemson University.

The National Historic Vehicle Register, developed in a partnership of the association and U.S. Department of Interior, “can be used as a tool to carefully and accurately document the most historically significant automobiles, motorcycles, trucks and commercial vehicles, as well as recognize the dynamic relationship between people, culture and their means of transportation,” the conference website says.

“Just because automobiles move should not be the disqualifying reason for not studying them,” according to the conference’s overview. “Indeed, we have lost much of our automotive heritage due to this lack of awareness, especially when considering that in the United States alone, prior to 1930, there were over 2,600 different automotive manufacturers,” the overview notes. “This local and regional heritage has largely been forgotten.”


Even with gas prices on the low side as of late, work to find alternative sources in order to power vehicles continues. One choice that hasn’t made major inroads in the passenger car industry but has proven marginally popular in the business world is compressed natural gas, or CNG.

White Plains, N.Y.-based TruStar Energy, one of the country’s larger suppliers of CNG fueling stations, wants to get the word out. A company manager plans to address “challenges and opportunities in converting fleets to CNG.” Anthony Flynn, Southeast sales director at TruStar Energy, will speak Tuesday at the Fleet Management Expo to be held in Charleston.

According to TruStar Energy, Flynn will co-host the session with Andrew Burnham of Argonne National Laboratory. It’s called “CNG Vehicles Moving Forward: Thinking about converting but haven’t made the switch?”

Flynn will provide a clear picture on the feasibility of CNG conversion and insights and resources for fleet managers to use to keep conversion and fueling projects on track and under budget through the transition process, the company said.

“Anthony is one of the best known experts in the CNG fleet industry,” said Adam Comora, president of TruStar Energy. “He’s able to help fleet owners and operators better understand the ins and outs of fleet conversion and help them make short- and long-term plans to meet both financial and environmental goals,” Comora said.

Last year, TruStar Energy completed 41 fueling stations for public and private use. The move nearly doubled the number of CNG stations from 2014, the company said, adding that the work took place “during a period of unusually low oil prices.”

TruStar Energy, a subsidiary of Fortistar, said compressed natural gas is insulated from the impacts of “international conflicts and events,” which in recent years have contributed to price fluctuations of gas and diesel.

According to the company, “CNG-powered engines produce 30 percent less greenhouse gases” and boast an average of 80-90 percent lower decibel levels than diesel engines.


Half of the prize winners in the National Independent Auto Dealers Association’s latest sports-themed campaign to recruit members to the trade group hail from the Palmetto or Tar Heel states.

The overall leader in bringing in new members was Dennis Pope of People’s Financial Corp. in Mableton, Ga. According to the NIADA, Pope “carried the ball across the goal line to claim the top prize in the second quarter” of the trade group’s membership challenge. During the November to January period, he brought in 82 new members.

Second and third place winners were Jayne Harris and Jenny Myrick of the Carolinas Independent Auto Dealers Association, who recruited 44 and 40 people respectively, while Debbie Braswell of the Carolinas brought in 25 to place sixth.

The winners can pick from prizes such as complimentary full registration to the association’s Convention and Expo this June in Las Vegas, an Apple Watch, GoPro 4 camera, autographed sports memorabilia and a free subscription to the group’s online dealer compliance training.

The association’s year-long effort started with a baseball theme and just completed a basketball campaign Thursday. “The membership drive’s last lap – an auto racing-themed promotion – begins in April and runs through May 15,” the group said.

“NIADA’s membership initiative has been a tremendous success so far, but it is far from over,” NIADA president Frank Fuzy said.

The association describes itself as among the nation’s largest trade groups representing the used motor vehicle industry. The group includes more than 38,000 used car dealers.

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