While technology in general was the primary answer to what innovations helped grow the industry over the past 50 years, when asked about innovations within their own companies that have helped the industry, the answers were more specific to certain engine parts.
“Over the years a number of Sunnen innovations have been standards of the industry, and have stood the test of time,” Davis says. “It all started with a unique hand held honing tool, variations of which are still used today. The Sunnen CK-10 Cylinder King cylinder hone – a game changer many decades ago – is legendary around the world, and the new PLC-controlled SV-20 vertical hone with ball screw precision continues the heritage by setting the new standard.”
Sunnen was also instrumental in advancing the use of diamond abrasives to reduce honing time and improve productivity. Another company that has contributed a lot to this industry is Elgin Industries.
“From our earliest innovation – high-quality, affordable piston pins – to our latest breakthroughs in the development of one-piece, thick-wall pushrods and super-cryogenic hardening capabilities for high-performance parts, Elgin has consistently partnered with OEMs and rebuilders to identify and address emerging challenges associated with smaller, lighter and more powerful engines,” says Simko.
Outside of engine parts, AMSOIL is a company that has contributed a lot to how well all those parts function within an engine.
“AMSOIL’s history is a checklist of industry firsts, including first API-rated 100% synthetic motor oil, first “extended drain” 25,000 mile/one year motor oil, 100:1 Pre-mix 2-cycle oil, synthetic gear lube for automotive use, synthetic motor oil for diesel engines, as well as synthetic oil for racing, marine and turbocharged engines,” says Newman.
AMSOIL’s innovations have enabled higher-performance engines and equipment, reduced air pollution and fuel consumption, maximized convenience via extended drains and created less waste oil.
Just as AMSOIL has bettered lubrication, companies such as Engine & Performance Warehouse, Inc. (EPWI) and Engine Parts Warehouse have made one-stop shopping available to the industry.
“EPWI is an engine kit specialist,” says Dusty Dodge, director of marketing for EPWI. “EPWI and other engine parts warehouse distributors have long seen the convenience of including all of the needed engine rebuild components in a single box. EPWI has built and supplied in excess of 1.3 million engine kits.”
“Engine kit programs made pricing and engine rebuild much easier for the customer,” says Paula Flowers, CEO of Engine Parts Warehouse. “We stocked everything necessary for the engine rebuild so the customer could order all his parts with one phone call and receive it the next day.”
While not all companies sell as many parts as EPWI and Engine Parts Warehouse does, companies like Hastings and SCAT Enterprises specialize in specific engine parts.
“In 1956 we invented the Flex-Vent oil control ring, which quickly became the international standard for most engine applications,” says Kollar. “In the 1980’s the Flex-Vent oil control ring became the choice of OEM’s worldwide and is still specified in today’s engines.”
“When Detroit had to make cars compatible with high performance modifications, SCAT responded by making crankshafts, connecting rods and rotating assemblies for all these applications,” says Tom Lieb, SCAT’s founder. “SCAT invested in technology and modern computer driven machining methods to supply the best possible crankshafts and connecting rods at competitive pricing.”
Egge Machine is another company that has helped innovate a specific engine part – pistons.
“Up until the 1950s most production vehicles came with cast iron or steel pistons,” says Silver. “Egge Machine was among the first companies to offer cast aluminum replacement pistons in the U.S. Egge Machine designs its pistons to allow for the differing expansion rate of aluminum. In addition, since ring sets for some early applications are no longer available, Egge has redesigned those pistons to accommodate modern ring sets.”
Adding to the list of engine parts, Caitlin Green, vp of marketing for Pro-Filer Performance Products says cylinder heads, intake manifold designs and casting technology have been key innovations as well. “As far as I know we were the first with a Pro-Stock style “As Cast” 12-degree BBC Spread Port Head,” she says.
Melling Engine Parts is another company that has helped develop the landscape of the industry with its innovations in oil pumps and its acquisition of Dura-Bond Bearing Company, a leader in camshaft bearings.
“In 1952 we introduced the first high-volume oil pump, which revolutionized the automotive aftermarket for oil pumps,” says Charles Barnett, vp of sales and marketing for Melling. “Bewteeen Melling and Dura-Bond we offer an extensive portfolio of replacement and performance parts.”
Just as the engine parts themselves continued to improve over the years, the machines for making them also improved.
“In 1999, RMC was the first to present a CNC machine as a complete turnkey engine block machining package,” says Meyer. “From that point on we have continued to be a leader in developing new advancements using CNC technology. We have come to the realization that a single purpose machine still may have its place in the industry (example: dedicated resurfacers, align boring, rod boring equipment), but most customers need to get the most value for their dollar.”
While some companies are progressing forward with new product innovations, others such as Packard Industries, are rebuilding the past with today’s modern technology.
“We specialize in the obsolete,” says James From, marketing manager for Packard. “We have taken various pistons, bearings, timing chains and gears, reversed engineered them, corrected many of the flaws that had caused their downfalls and remade them using today’s technology and materials.”