No Attitude Adjustment Needed

Dec 28, 2009

So much of customizing is attitude. After all, attitude is a very important if not critical factor in personalizing one’s car or truck. Attitude comes from the customer as well as the customizer. How that attitude should channel through the looks or performance of the car is up to the owner. So when an owner wants to instill attitude in his or her car, he or she looks for a shop with attitude. But – and this is a big but – if the ‘tude doesn’t deliver, all systems fail. And that’s the catch: delivering that promise with real results. That takes knowledge, staff, equipment and, most of all, results.

FSR Motorsport Creations has those essentials. In the high stakes business of delivering an owner’s perceived and all too often not too concrete version of performance, a shop doesn’t last long when it comes up short on results. FSR’s attitude kicks in right away with a ballsy tagline of, “Give us your car and a line.. and we’ll cross it.”

And FSR seems to have the right answers since their start a scant four and a half years ago. But don’t let that short time fool you. Their time spent in their industry building a foundation of experience happened before they officially opened the spanking new doors of FSR in Montclair, Calif.

Dream chasers and catchers

First things first: the name. One would think it would be an acronym of owner’s initials or something like that. But FSR is a little hesitant about revealing the origin. When pressed further for an answer to just what those letters FSR stand for, they will say it stands for “Flight School Retards.” Proving they take themselves not anywhere as seriously as their work, they just use the acronym for the shop name. The FSR gang does get a bit serious, though, when they get a visit from a black widow spider. The lethal arachnids seem to wander into the shop almost on regular basis. When they do, the workload seems to change priority and FSR goes in another direction.

When you ask the owners, Ian Sai-Ngarm and Eric Roehm, how these four-plus years have unfolded,  they’ll tell you it’s “been a heck of a journey, and we never thought we’d make it this far.”

Like most small businesses, they started out chasing their dream with the help of what they call their, “amazing family and friends.” To that effect, some family members even have official FSR job titles. The Shop Mom is Judy Roehm, Shop Dad is Sukum Sai-Ngarm and Peter Martin is the Shop Grandpa. With those family and friends helping, FSR is on its way to achieving that dream.In fact, with one look at just what they have to offer, the folks at FSR may already be firmly established in their dream.

Swap meet

FSR has a big range of parts and services to offer, and even within that large list, the guys there have areas of specialization such as complete custom supercharging and turbo installs and development. Engine swaps, always a highly complicated and often profit-eating service, are easily covered – especially their noted Honda-Nissan swaps.

And that brings about another specialty. The engine management woes that seem to follow such swaps are not a problem at FSR. They excel at building wiring harnesses for swaps, custom installs and their advanced induction systems. Working closely with engine management system manufacturers helps greatly in delivering that promise.

Imagine the sheer logistics of offering such a diverse line of specialties and services – and with relatively few employees. Ian explains, “We’ve got a very small staff of four full-time guys and a couple part-time specialists. Within that group, we’ve got specialties ranging from hot rods, classic, muscle cars, truck and diesel performance to high-tech imports, Japanese muscle cars and European performance cars.” And that is a big range of cars and trucks to see moving through the newly enlarged 4,000-sq.-ft. shop. When asked about the size of the FSR office space, Ian will quickly illustrate FSR’s priorities by revealing their, “office isn’t where we build race cars; so, it’s small.”

That all ties in with another of the FSR philosophies: If we build it, they will come. That’s another statement that requires delivery of the ‘tude, so they back it up by saying, “We live breathe and dream cars and trucks all day long,” and point out they are, “for the enthusiast by the enthusiast.”

As such, they operate 100% on the referrals of satisfied customers to keep them busy with no visions of being a bigger shop. “We are a small company and intend to stay small,” they say.

Race ahead

Their varied range of cars and services extends beyond street cars. If all those brands of cars and trucks weren’t enough to keep things mixed on a daily basis, FSR not only services but enjoys road racing, rally racing, drag racing, building heavy-duty tow vehicles, and even working on marine performance projects on a regular basis.And that brings up one of their best methods of growing their FSR brand. FSR not only makes available but really enjoys some track time with their customers. The team makes it a weekend package and essentially offers pit crew services for their customers.

Essentially, they pack up the shop, take it to the track and work on the customers’ race cars as well as their own FSR house race cars. This move, under the guise of fun for all, helps foster relationships with customers. As FSR’s team members help customers and their cars in areas such as maintenance, data acquisition and troubleshooting, they are helping the customer evolve. Of course, when those customers want to do more to their cars, they know exactly where to go.

With such a large number of styles of cars and genres of performance circles, how do the FSR owners aim their focus? Ian says the answer is simple, “Servicewise, we feel our competitive advantage comes from our ability to theorize, fabricate, tune and finish a vehicle all in one shop.With a complete metal fabrication facility in addition to a four-wheel load dyno and four service bays, we offer about every service any enthusiast could ever dream up.” In simple terms, it means if they can’t get what they want off a shelf, they’ll build, install and tune it. Delivery, pure and simple.

A big start, a big win

As it turns out, they started delivering with their first job. It was a V-mount of an intercooler on a Mazda RX7. Essentially, they had to design, fabricate and install a tube frame section on the front of car for mounting the intercooler. All this while still maintaining the stock front end appearance and components. Ian says it was a tough job but it helped put them on the map.

When it comes to their biggest job to date, taking a 3,850-lb. Mitsubishi 3000 GT and getting an amazing 131 mph in the quarter mile was a task. FSR took the stock 3-liter V6 and added twin turbos. The 3000 remained in full street weight and retained its creature comforts of leather seats, GPS system, power steering and brakes, a/c and audio system while still turning a highly respectable 10.6 in the quarter mile.

Proving they work on American muscle cars, as well, FSR helped a 1965 Mustang deliver 650 hp to the rear wheels. The team removed the 302 and replaced it with a popular 347 billet stroker motor, ProCharger blower and TKO five-speed transmission. For handling upgrades, they installed a total tube road race suspension and 17″ Torq Thrust Two wheels. Now, the classic Mustang runs as good as it looks.

“Power to the people” is yet another favorite semi-serious FSR tag line but they prove it by installing late-model engine and transmission combinations in cars. They take it to the next level by creating and installing a fabricated forced induction system for those engines and then tune it for optimum results. Again, having the expertise in design, fabrication and engine management is the key.

Small but mighty

Despite using their ‘tude when interfacing with customers, they still admit they are on a learning curve. On the lead page of their website, they write, “Every month that goes by, we are acquiring more skills, resources and tools to better serve you.”

Taking in all of the many aspects of FSR Motorsports, it’s easy to see they follow a few simple formulas for being a successful business. They keep their shop small but their customer list big. They have a few good people that knock out plenty of big results. And here’s one of the strangest ones: They don’t even have a sign on their shop, yet their services are in demand from as far away as Japan.

It sounds like FSR has hit on the perfect combination of attitude and delivery. Near Los Angeles, FSR’s owners say they are, “at the heart of all things racing.” From there, they’ve spread out and say, “We have flown all over the world (literally) to service cars.”

Oddly enough, about the only time work actually stops at the FSR shop is when the team gets yet another visit by a black widow spider that for some reason is attracted to the shop. Then it’s the guys that are moving fast, not the cars.