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Challenge Accepted


What keeps you awake at night? Or rather, what is it that wakes you from a sound sleep, reminding you that you did something, didn’t do something or have to do something RIGHT NOW?!

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Can you ever go back to sleep again once that happens?

I met an industry friend at the SEMA show in Las Vegas earlier this month. We were staring in awe at some of the coolest cars on the planet making small talk about the tires, the paint jobs, and the customers who finance those great rides. The discussion eventually turned – as all great discussions do – to what was under the hood.

“You know, that’s just a crate engine,” he growled. “The car looks great, but why would they just slap a crate engine in there? We could have built something really unique and made that even cooler. Man, am I losing sleep about dealing with those things.”


Another conversation with someone else at the AAPEX Show started this way: “I am having more and more trouble finding the parts I need. I really pride myself on the unique engines I build, but how can I do that I can’t get the parts from my WD in time?”

Still ANOTHER conversation on the bus between the two convention centers began when my traveling companion looked at some young, enthusiastic show attendees who were wearing t-shirts bearing the name of a prominent industry training college. “If I could only get a few people with their enthusiasm to join my team,” she said, “I think we could do some great things.”


Three conversations, three complaints. Sadly, they’re they same conversations I’ve had at almost every trade show I’ve attended over the past 20 years. We always seem to be looking for better customers, better suppliers and better employees.

Is that how you find yourself? Are these challenges bringing you down or do you instead see them as opportunities for growth?

Are you making yourself available to the custom car builder in town? Maybe the crate engine seems like a good option for him because it’s easy and dependable. If you can help him help his customers by being part of the overall build team, you may find your creativity will be rewarded. Technical Editor Brendan Baker addresses  such creativity elsewhere in this issue.


We’ve been asking readers for the past couple of months about their experiences buying parts. The bad news, competition for parts sales continues to be a challenge, particularly with the ease of buying online. The good news, many engine builders tell us they have made the transition from just being a parts installer to having significant influence or downright responsibility for the parts purchase.

And those kids? Maybe you need to do a better job marketing yourself to potential employees.

Hey, I get it – this is a tough business with a significant amount of seeminly unrelated outside influences combining to make your days seem dreary and your nights seem sleepless. But I’ve also had other conversations with readers that have left me encouraged and downright optimistic about the future of this industry.


I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses and I haven’t been sipping any Kool-Aid, but those three conversations in Las Vegas aside, the attitude of showgoers and, in fact, many readers, has been downright upbeat.

What’s your outlook? Feel free to reach out to me with your sob stories or your success stories at [email protected] – and you may find yourself the source of the next great industry interview.

Whether you’re feeling down or feeling positive, you’re not alone. Many in this great industry say the challenges are real – but they’re going do something about it in 2019.


I hope you’ll continue to be part of the conversation.

Engine Builder Magazine