It’s obvious that today’s engines are made up of a lot of moving parts, and those parts have changed along with the numerous changes in the industry over the years. What our advertisers have seen change the most over the years has been related to engine size, increased foreign competition, issues with getting younger people involved in the industry, and engines lasting much longer.
“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen engine downsizing, onboard diagnostics and brain boxes, turbo boosting, advanced combustion, and advanced valve timing,” Newman says.
One of the biggest changes in the industry is the fact that engines last upwards of 250,000 miles today versus perhaps 50,000 miles within recent memory, resulting in fewer engines in need of rebuilding.
“This shrinking market has rewarded those shops who are able to provide fast turnaround, precision work and reduce human error, all which can be aided with modern equipment,” Davis says. “The biggest expense is still labor, and a shrinking pool of skilled machinists makes it even more important that equipment be easy to set up and operate on a consistent basis so today’s tight tolerances can be met.”
EPWI agrees that today’s engines have forced the industry to change.
“There are generally fewer rebuild opportunities and fewer components in an engine to replace that’s offset somewhat by a continually growing vehicle population,” Dodge says. “The industry has seen rapidly changing engine technology and more advanced and sophisticated systems, shorter engine production runs and greater engine variety, and fewer production engine rebuilders and machine shop/engine builders. The survivors are well run, creative and technically competent machine shops/engine builders who have adapted to a changing marketplace and technologies.”
Both Engine Quest and Elgin echo the fact that people are the ones that keep the industry moving forward.
“The challenge for all business today is people,” Stolberg says. “Ours is not the kind of industry people grow up aspiring to be in. But if you work in it, you can find it very rewarding.”
“To us, this remains a people business and we work very hard to exceed the expectations of all our customers, from custom engine rebuilders to much larger global companies,” Simko says. “Some manufacturers – having been acquired and consolidated with other organizations – have lost sight of the people side of this business, but we never have.”
Aside from technology and people, the economy has also played a major role in how this industry has changed.
“Many of the industry’s key players have returned to their basic root products to reduce overhead and eliminate slow moving inventory due to the slow economy,” Meyer says. “Smaller shops with one to three employees without a niche market, or those that can’t afford to invest in advanced technology, struggle to remain profitable. Prices on shop labor, machinery, tooling, and supplies will continue to rise because of reduced sales volume and inventories causing special order situations for once normal stocked items.”
Speaking of once normally stocked items, Packard Industries has seen an increased number of discontinued products that rebuilders today are looking for.
“We are constantly looking at whether to reproduce certain parts,” From says. “There is not an everlasting supply. We have to stay on our toes and keep our ear to the ground to the ever-changing trends in the industry. One minute early V8 (331 and 365) Cadillacs are hot, then the next minute it is early HEMIs.”
Egge Machine has also seen how trends can change among rebuilders.
“For years engine swaps in older vehicles have not been uncommon,” Silver says. “An early favorite replacement engine was the Chevy 327, then hobbyists began adopting the Chevy 350, and now it’s the General Motors LS engine. The affordability and availability of the LS engine has brought major changes to how our market looks at repowering older vehicles. LS swaps have become very popular and have eroded a large piece of the domestic restoration market.”