Fast Lane: Boundless Opportunities Await You in 2005
Although there are an unlimited number of opportunities in racing, there are other areas of high performance in which you may be able to find a niche.
By Jim Walbolt
By now you have all made your New Year's resolutions, and hopefully, at least one of those goals tions is to look for new opportunities that will help your business become even more successful. This month's column should give you some help in keeping that resolution.
The elections are finally over and the economy is picking up steam and now is the time to make your move. Of course, this column deals with high performance and motorsports and the opportunities in these areas continue to grow. No matter what type of work your shop is involved in you can find a niche in one of these areas.
The 2004 National Speedway Directory lists 1,344 racetracks in the United States with another 122 in Canada. The directory also lists 268 Motorsport Sanctioning organizations in the U.S. and Canada. This list doesn't take into account the hundreds of other facilities that host racing events, including fairgrounds, convention centers, and stadiums. No doubt, an Internet search would reveal dozens, if not hundreds, of others.
Motorsports these days can be made up of virtually any type of motorized vehicle. When people think of motorsports, of course, they tend to think of the usual stock car racing or drag racing, but there is much more out there. A partial list would include; go-karts, quarter midgets, midgets, mini-sprints, sprint cars, dwarf cars, lawn mower racing, junior dragsters, garden tractor pulling, motorcycle racing, ATV racing, Off Road racing, swamp buggy racing, mud bog racing and rally racing.
The list is virtually endless and contains things you might never have imagined. For example, how many of you have seen or heard of "bar stool" racing, where a bar stool with wheels on it is powered by a small 2-cycle engine? Or how about "motorcycle" pulling, where motorcycles are used to pull a weight-transfer sled like that used in tractor pulling?
There may even be some other obscure forms of racing that are unknown outside of a very localized area. Perhaps you have just such a phenomena in your area.
The fact is, human nature being what it is. if it has an engine, someone has found a way to race it. Every one of these racers has one thing in common; they are always looking for an edge over the competition, regardless of the form it takes. Whether it's a small 2-cycle chainsaw engine, a 12-cylinder 1,700 cid aircraft engine, or something in between; if you can give them the edge they're looking for, you'll never lack for work.
Although there are an unlimited number of opportunities in racing, there are other areas of high performance in which you may be able to find a niche. If you remember the muscle cars of the late '50s to early '70s, you may yearn for a return to the days of the big V8s. Although they had horsepower galore, everyone always wanted more and were constantly working on them to increase that horsepower.
Well, those days are returning. Roy Berndt of PERA believes that we are returning to the days when a lot of V8 engine work was going through your shops.
One reason for this comeback may be that the muscle cars of the '50s and '60s are becoming the choice for restorers and collectors of the baby boomer generation. Another thing giving cars of this era a boost is the popularity of the "Nostalgia" drag racing organizations, of which there are several. The popularity of "Cruise-In" nights in towns throughout the United States has also helped increase the popularity of cars from the muscle car era.
And while we're in a nostalgia mood, another area of opportunity is the antique tractor niche. Although collecting and restoring antique cars is as popular as ever, collecting and restoring antique tractors has also become a huge hobby. There are several magazines devoted to the subject and it seems as if there is a national organization for each of the brands. If you don't believe me, take a look at the antique farm machinery displays at your county fair.
Most of these antique engines require some work by a professional machine shop. Many of them have sat out in the weather for years before someone "discovers" them. They may have stuck pistons, cracked blocks, or worse. At least they will all need to have their heads rebuilt, if for no other reason than for operating on unleaded gas.
You can find an antique tractor club in nearly every county in the country. These clubs usually have one or two shows each year where the owners can show off their collections, just like the antique car collectors.
Many of these owners also use their tractors in antique tractor pulling competitions. Those who pull their tractors are no different than the many racers we've ever talked about: they are also looking for an edge over the competition and are spending a considerable amount of money to get it; I've heard costs of over $25,000 for engines alone!
What the muscle car was to my generation, the sport compact is to the current generation. The sport compact market is poised to dwarf anything from the '50s, '60s and '70s, not only because there are many more of them, but also because they have many more outlets for their "need for speed." Nearly every type of racing has a class or division for the sport compacts, from drag racing to circle track racing to rally racing.
Sport compacts don't necessarily need to be hopped up for racing. Many owners of these machines just want to look and sound good… kinda like when you were 18 maybe? I'll bet you know of at least one teenager who has done something to enhance the looks or performance of his - or increasingly, her - sport compact vehicle.
While we've spent a lot of time talking about cars, we don't want to forget the trucks and SUVs that are outselling cars by a wide margin. It seems that nearly everyone has a pick-up or SUV these days, although mini-vans aren't far behind. If you've seen any truck commercials, every one of them talks about having "the most power and most torque." Chrysler has even brought back the "Hemi" and the advertising is always wrapped around racing.
Another great niche market is the pick-up, SUV and RV markets. There are many opportunities in these areas whether you just sell and install add-ons, manufacture performance add-ons, or build performance engines for these markets.
If you build engines, own a machine shop or rebuilding business, or if you manufacture parts, you can find a niche in the performance, racing, or restoration market, the opportunities are boundless.
Jim Walbolt, a professional writer and photographer covering motorsports activities, is from Luckey, OH. firstname.lastname@example.org