When we first spoke with Jason Ore, owner of 955 Automotive in Erie, PA, it was 2018, and he had just completed a full restoration of a 1968 Mickey Thompson 3-valve Chevy V8 IndyCar engine. That build was so cool and unique, it made it into our Top 10 engines of the year in 2018, and the subsequent video on that engine build remains our most-viewed video to date! We’ve kept up with Jason and his work at 955 Automotive over the years because his shop is always doing something interesting, whether it’s a circle track race engine, a restoration build, a nostalgia build, or something totally one-off, his passion for engine building always shines through.
For those reasons, Engine Builder has named 955 Automotive its America’s Best Vintage Engine Shop for 2023. We recently sat down with Jason to discuss his engine business, how it all came to be and what he’s been up to lately.
For starters, Jason Ore first got into automotive work through his father’s restoration business, Bob Ore’s Restoration. However, Jason quickly realized he didn’t have the patience to do body work, so he ended up leaning towards the mechanical side of things. Between the time he spent working for his dad, then working at several other shops and then attending the School of Automotive Machinists in 1997, Jason built up his fair share of engine experience.
When he was ready to open his own engine business, he decided to add the machine shop and engine shop onto his dad’s business to have all those capabilities in one place.
“I started 955 Automotive in 2004,” Ore says. “We put an addition on the restoration shop because we needed room for that, and we figured we might as well start a machine shop too at the same time. Our first year in business was 2005, and it’s been going well ever since.”
Operating out of roughly 3,500 sq.-ft. of space, 955 Automotive can handle anything that comes in the door, but the focus is on automotive restoration jobs and circle track engine work.
“For circle track work, we do everything from street stock two-barrel stuff all the way up to big block modified and dirt late-model engines,” Ore says. “The crate engine stuff kind of took over in this area, so we do a lot of crate engine rebuilds for the RUSH series too.”
955 Automotive has two full-time employees including Jason, and is capable of doing all machine work in-house with the exception of crank grinding. Those capabilities come in handy, especially on the kinds of engine builds Jason often sees.
“My favorite thing is the nostalgia builds,” he says. “We’ve built a 1910 white firetruck engine, a 1916 Oldsmobile V8, Model As, Model Ts, a 1958 Cadillac Brougham, but we’ve done a bunch of different Cadillacs, Packards, Duesenbergs, Cords, and Auburns. I’ve had my hands on all of it at one point in time. I just keep plugging away doing what I would do.”
While Jason remains modest regarding his work, he is a very capable machinist and engine builder, and he has to be to ebb and flow between the different engine jobs his shop specializes in. Despite his level of professionalism, Jason says he was shocked to hear 955 Automotive was being recognized.
“I was surprised when I got that email,” he says. “There’s way more people doing way cooler stuff than I am. I just get up in the morning and do this every day. I was kind of flabbergasted, but I’m also very honored.” E