Speed Across The Nation: Dyno Shops Get it Done

Dec 1, 2009

Welcome once again to Speed Across the Nation. This is a unique article format that allows shops from one niche or another speak to all of our readers across the country. The topics cover a wide range of issues affecting the industry. In this edition, we talked to a few of the nation’s top dyno shops to find out how that equipment contributes to the bottom line. Here’s what they had to say.

Chris Muzio
Co-Owner
DanZio Performance Engineering
Lake Elsinore, Calif.

Chris Muzio is an Englishman living in the foreign land of Lake Elsinore, Calif. He has been in the states for nearly 14 years. He is also know as a serious gear head who has used his dyno to do diagnostic work on more than 250 vehicles in a year, and he shows no signs of stopping. He proudly states, “I have a name for tuning engines.”

The Mustang dyno definitely has its work cut out for it in an area where he really doesn’t have any stiff competition. Not bad considering the two employees who actually work there: Muzio himself and his friend and co-owner Josh Daniel.

Their Mustang Dyno has been in the shop since it was opened back in 2005.They use it for tuning engines that they build, engine management systems they build and let’s not forget the research and development. When they are not using the dyno, they are building racecar engines. They also tackle off-road engines and trophy trucks engines. All of these engines are tested on their dyno, nearly non stop. Muzio says that he puts one to two vehicles on their dyno a day. Every day that the shop is open, the Mustang dyno is being used.

Muzio boasts, “I use my dyno more than any other dyno shop you will find.”

As far as services for dyno are concerned, engine tuning is a profitable service for this shop. The shop has a set fee of $250 an hour. The rate breaks down to $100 an hour for tuning time, Muzio’s time and the rest is for equipment and materials.

He says, “If I can make the car work right the first time, which I pretty much can every time, I need to be rewarded for it.” He has a reputation for proving his products’ worth with his dependable Mustang Dynomometer. Every day he proves that his dyno works and all of the numbers are correct. The engines that are built within the shop have never had any catastrophic failure to them since they have tested everything that comes in and out of their shop.

“Absolutely,” was the first word to come out of his mouth when asked if the dyno had paid for itself since they have had it. The Mustang dyno can hold the vehicle at any given speed. It also has a brake inside of it to the hold the horsepower and push the throttle full blast if he needs to. The vehicle can be loaded on the dyno, meaning the vehicle is loaded like it would be driving on the highway whenever it isn’t in the shop. With the dyno itself comes the relatively expensive accessories that help it provide the right numbers for a tuned engine.

Muzio claims that they have invested $50,000 to $55,000 in the dyno alone. He has a $2,500 weather station, including an air/fuel ratio meter. Muzio states, “You have to have a weather station. No matter the climate, a weather station has to be installed into all dynos. Without the weather station, the numbers will never be correct.”

Their Mustang dyno is also used as a huge marketing tool. They use their informative website to post pictures of it whenever they can and to provide proof of added performance for word-of-mouth advertising. Muzio claims, “I can prove my products with no questions asked.”

Nick McMahan
Co-Owner
MAC Autosports
Parker, Colo.

Four-and-a-half years ago, MAC Autosports officially opened for business, and their DynoJet Dynomometer has been there since the beginning. They use their dyno all day, everyday.

Co-owner Nick McMahan states company mottos, “We do it all,” and “We dyno anything.” That’s not just a line; their DynoJet can dyno any vehicle that rests upon it. And, in-house tuning gives them the verifications of torque and horsepower readings. McMahan says, “It’s nice having everything in house.” They do a lot huge variety of foreign vehicles and a lot of tuning on the dyno.

Dyno tuning is profitable for MAC Autosports, and they have a flat rate and an hourly rate. The flat rate is for McMahan’s personal tuning and services, which is $175.00 an hour, a rate arrived at because the customer is paying for McMahan’s expertise. It’s also time he can’t spend working on something else.

The hourly rate is for the customer who wants to basically rent the dyno and test their own vehicle, and that rate is $105 an hour. McMahan explains that they have done research over the years and determined their pricing is fair compared to the competitors in their area of Parker.

He prizes their DynoJet because it offers many accessories that make it much more usable. Those accessories have also made the dyno more profitable, and he has no problem letting us know that the dyno, “has paid itself off.”

McMahan also uses the dyno as a tool for their marketing. One tool is to have it displayed and promoted on their Internet site for anybody that wants to look at it. Another way in which it is used as a tool is to let the customers watch the DynoJet work its magic and fill the customer with accurate information so they can go tell their friends about it.

Terry Thain
Owner
Moonlight Diesel
Amalga, Utah

When somebody mentions Moonlight Diesel in Amalga, Utah, they think only of diesel power at its finest. The shop has been open since 1996, and up until two years ago, they didn’t have a dyno. That was when they decided to bolster their diesel shop with a stout DynoCom Dynamometer that has been running consistently every week since they purchased it. They are mainly using it to measure the performance of the transmissions and engines they are building for their customers.

The dyno is usually used for diesel trucks, and its usage varies between the days. Owner Terry Thain notes, “Some days it will run all day long. It has helped the performance side of the business a lot.”

They have a few different rates that use to run the dyno. Their first rate would be $50 to do three runs of horsepower and torque, and the second rate is tuning and that is running the customer at $100 an hour.

However, Thain says the true value of the dyno is that it can prove the performance value of their product. The dyno is a physical tool that shows their customers concrete evidence of what needs to be upgraded on their engine and vehicle.

Thain states, “Being able to show people where they are at right now is a beneficial sales tool for our company. The DynoCom keeps all engines and vehicles up to date with accurate tests and perfect visuals for the customers to see what is actually going on with the product.”

Moonlight Diesel is a simple shop, quiet, humble and happy with its diesel powered roots. This shop doesn’t do anything fancy to market their dyno. All they do is use it as a tool to help their business grow-a job the dyno is good at.

Jim Chapman
Co-Owner
Spitfire Engine & Performance
Denver, Colo.

Co-owner of Spitfire Engine & Performance, Jim Chapman, has a lot of responsibility. He is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the shop with co-owner Mark Logan, whose machinist and engine building skills are invaluable to the business.

 

Chapman is also responsible for his customers’ satisfaction with their final product. He admits that much of that satisfaction wouldn’t be possible without his Land & Sea Engine Dynamometer.

The Land & Sea Engine Dyno is a dual brake dyno. Chapman notes that while he has paid for dyno in full, it will achieve ROI (Return On Investment) for Spitfire in another year or two. The dyno has been with the shop for little more than two years.

Chapman says enthusiastically, “It’s a tool that actually lets us go in the direction we want to go.”

Spitfire was started by Mac McCormack in the early 1960s, and it was recently bought out by Chapman and Logan. With the dyno in hand, they are able to focus their efforts more precisely on performance and pure customer satisfaction.

Chapman states, “We don’t let a motor go out of here without putting it on the dyno first.”

He adds that the most financially profitable use of their dyno is testing the motors and breaking them in. All engines have been perfectly tested and tuned by the time they leave Spitfire, where they pretty much have one fixed rate of $85 an hour. If there is a lot of electrical work involved with the engine, then he will raise the rate to $95 an hour.

Chapman says the Land and Sea dyno is used frequently, adding, “When there is a motor on there, it is an all day deal.” Then he mentions, “We’re making sure everything we put in makes this motor right and is tuned to maximum performance.”

Chapman thinks of his Land & Sea dyno as a huge marketing tool. They promote it on the website thoroughly. And, of course, word-of-mouth marketing helps, boosted by other shops who actually recommend to their customers that they swing by and visit Spitfire.

Chapman works hard to make sure his customers are impressed with their dyno work to the point that they will go out and tell their friends about their dyno. Chapman adds, “For those that know how to make use of it potential, it’s an awesome tool.”

Lee Stauffacher
Owner
Performance Flat Four
Albuquerque, N.M.

Performance Flat Four is a performance shop that focuses on early air-cooled Volkswagen performance, early Porsche and four-cylinder performance. They also do some diesel modifications and upgrades.

With all of this, they do a lot of dyno testing, and their dyno is a DynoCom, which they say is a “rocking dyno” with some “awesome characteristics.”

Owner Lee Stauffacher uses the dyno seven to eight times a week, and he states, “Anything we can use the dyno for, we do it.”

Performance Flat Four is located in Albuquerque, N.M., and it has stiff competition in the area. Five other shops have dynos, and they are constantly striving to keep up with them and the firepower of their employees.

There are only two employees at Performance Flat Four: the owner Lee and his wife Kim. Lee is the dyno master and Kim works the interior of all of their restorations. Before the dyno was in the picture, they were in a 1,500 square foot facility. With the dyno, they are now in a 3,000 square foot facility with all the space they can handle. The dyno has been with them for about a year-and-a-half.

Stauffacher originally leased the dyno to start. He admits, “If you lease it, you lose a little money in interest and a lot more tax write-offs over the years.” At the end of the lease period he will own the dyno, to which Stauffacher adds, “This dyno pays for itself every month.” It earns its keep by testing and tuning customer cars, as well as the engines Performance Flat Four builds themselves.

Stauffacher says his DynoCom is special because it came with certain material that usually one will not have. One example of this is the atmospheric sensor, which measures the altitude wherever the vehicle is. With this, he measures the horsepower at the wheels, then factors in the atmosphere, humidity and temperature to figure out what the SAE correction at sea level would be. This is known as corrective horsepower.

They also program engine management systems and do pulls for customers. A pull is to measure the horsepower by popping the car into gear and drop the throttle and any given speed. The pulls are done a rate of $75 for two. If they are not showing consistent results, Stauffacher does it again, free of charge.

He prices everything 10% less than all of his competitors. He states, “I offer a better service.”

He has one other price application. If someone wants to rent the dyno, he charges them $95 an hour. He admits that the most profitable part of the dyno services is that he can test the engines he builds for his customers. The easiest (and also profitable) use of the dyno is to test the engine’s power and push it to the limits. Stauffacher says, “This has the least amount of work involved, and it’s the easiest thing to do.”

He uses the dyno as a marketing tool in a simple manner: All day, everyday, his bay doors are open so that he can allow customers and spectators to actually watch the DynoCom work its complex magic. Then word-of-mouth sets in and the rest is history. New customers call days after and want their vehicles’ engine tuned or pulled for power. He states, “People like to buy a product and see what it does for their car.”

Will Kilgore
Owner
Automotive Passions
York, Pa.

Will Kilgore of Automotive Passions says he can dyno-test anything: anything foreign, anything domestic with his Mustang Dyno. Kilgore loves that, “It allows me to get into the engineering side of the vehicles.” His dyno helps him dig deeper into the complex world of vehicle engineering and its internal parts.

The dyno has been with him since he opened the shop four years prior in the town of York, Pa. He uses the dyno mainly for performance purposes. The bottom-line of his business is affected because the dyno is mainly used for performance, and that is 50% of their work. Kilgore chose the Mustang dyno because the sensors, chips and weather station provide him with all the right data he needs.

Kilgore uses profit margin and costs to determine the pricing for his shop. For tuning and computer work, he charges $150 an hour. He also charges $65 for three pulls. While he often works long hours himself, Kilgore mentions the dyno’s work shift, “Is becoming all day long.”

Kilgore says his Mustang dyno is a dependable machine, and it is there whenever called upon.