“Knowledge isn’t always knowing but knowing where to find out,” is a true axiom for our world. We can ask those in the thick of it, “How’s it going?” and learn. This month’s market roundup talks about current trends, fast moving products, late model performance and what’s popular today and in the near future.
The roundup is done by company, allowing a representative from several well-known and respected industry businesses [manufacturers and distributors] to express their opinions on the market. Here’s what they had to say.
B&M Shifter recently acquired Hurst Shifters along with McLeod Clutches and their goal is to become the leader in the shifter/clutch market. Their famous B&Ms are already known for automatic shifters so that’s a start. Nate Shelton sees current trends backing down, “We’re basically involved in the performance market and we’re seeing a general slow down. The import stuff is way down. Drag racing tends to be a little bit soft and the hardcore market is, too. The hot rod and muscle car markets are still strong.” Shelton says the last two markets are so similar, they are usually accepted in the industry as one.
On what’s selling these days, he says, “Our fast moving products are still automatic shifters. In the manual shifter, Hurst is still strong. The import market favorite is the short throw shifter and that’s a little soft.”
When asked how he sees late model performance, he says optimistically, “Well, there’s some of it still there. We’re looking for it with the new Camaro and Challenger when they come out and we’re looking to do some with that market.”
The problem, as Shelton sees it, is the many different products and applications vary too much. OEMs will typically use more than one item such as a transmission or shifter and that makes building aftermarket units tough. “We have to justify all the R&D work and development and that means selling X amount of shifters to justify the work.” He cites the previous crop of muscle cars as having less of an assortment of components to work with. On top of that, many of the older units spanned body styles and models – Not so with today’s cars.
So what’s hot these days? “Naturally the hot products we see are Mustang and Corvette.” And for the future? “Like we said, we’re really looking forward to the new Camaro and Challenger. We still see strong muscle cars, Camaros, Chevelles, Barracudas, Road Runners and Mustangs – all of them. I think it’s going to be more of the same. As Camaros and Challengers hit the streets it will be the same.”
Crane Cams is another high level company that has gone through some major changes recently. They were bought by Mikro Technologies and are already using the parent company’s products. Mark Campbell says, “We are using their new Mikronite finishing process on all our premium parts. It’s giving us tremendous advantages.” The process is much like shot peening but yields a much higher finish in both smoothness and hardness. Crane uses it on their MikroMax ring and pinion sets and have seen longer life for gears even in drag racing.
When asked about current trends, Campbell says, “It’s interesting. I’ve been in the industry 35 years and hard core racing is holding up right now. In racing, I would say our low end stuff is down. Our upper end items are up. The items we sell to marine and motorcycle users are affected by the interest rates. The person on the edge with disposable income is the person not buying. Our high dollar items are all up.”
So what’s flying off the shelves at Crane? He says it’s a mix of racing and late model, “Actually, it’s the LS stuff that’s really moving fast. Ultra-Pro mechanical roller lifters, a lot of LS1 engine family parts. Rockers and valve springs for the LS1s are moving extremely well. Hydraulic and mechanical roller lifters and cams. The Mod Ford stuff is being outsold by the LS1 by a significant margin.”
The popular items today are for today’s motors, says Campbell “That whole LS family. We’re hoping that Ford picks up.” What else? “The LSX powered Cadillacs are gaining popularity as Beamer Killers. You can fix one of those up and beat a BMW.”
Ryan Gebhardt of Nickels Performance says of current trends, “Well, definitely, we’re moving a lot of camshafts for the LS1. And street rods. Several different trends such as having a late model motor in something you’d say looks like Halloween. Yet, it’s got the dependability of a $100,000 hot rod. It’s great to see.”
Their fastest moving products are, “Tons of ignition and coil packs. Wires are 10 to 1 over coil packs. It’s just a large investment. The OEMs perform rather well and take a beating. The ignition upgrades we see include nitrous. When they bump up the ignition they want nitrous, too.”
Late model performance shows a separation, according to Gebhardt, “Anybody who will go inside the motor will definitely buy a camshaft. And then we will have another customer that will stay on top of the motor with just a shifter.”
What’s coming down the line? Gebhardt says, “There’s enough buzz about the 2008 Camaro that drives me insane. We’re hoping GM releases that because we’ll have some upgrades. We’re looking for GM to step up.” To that end, he says, “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve on high end LS1 valve train products.”
Nickels still is strong in the staples, small and big block Chevys for drag and oval. “Customers still embrace those,” says Gebhardt.
Vortech and Paxton
Vortech and Paxton merged in 2001. Gil Cormaci says, “It seems like current trends would be truck and sport utility. We would feel truck and sport utilities even though we do a lot of our business with Mustangs. That is because the Fox body is popular rather than the Camaro. If you ask me what we need to focus on, it would be truck and sport utility. Sport compacts are popular with turbochargers in Asia. Another current trend would be emissions legal.”
What’s hot? “Probably the Ford Mustang is our most popular, going through the range. Our Vortech Marine is more personal watercraft – Kawaskai, Yamaha and Sea-Doo are the ones we supply. Nearly 400 horsepower in race trim, non-consumer, 0 to 60 in under three seconds. An area that is exciting for us is on vehicles 1955 – ’69. We provide carbureted blow-thru systems adding about 7 lbs of boost and 100 horsepower. In some instances with a built engine, 150 horsepower. These are becoming quite popular with Mustangs ’65 to ’69 And they all fit under the stock hood and that’s nice.”
Cormaci goes on to say, “Our challenge in late model performance would be interfacing superchargers with factory computers; adding our own hand held computer with the factory computer. We’re doing this with smog certification. We’re able to produce the power, but interfacing with the factory ECM is the challenge. Then be able to go to market with a price that is socially acceptable.”
And the future? “I don’t have a Challenger or Camaro. The most popular would be Vortech sport compact. For the domestic market it would have to be Mustang. For Paxton it would have to be Dodge Viper. And Vortech Marine with Yamaha, Kawasaki and Seedo, number three.”
Holley is best known for their carbs. Their Matt Held says he sees,”Few trends. We’re paying particular attention to things made out of billet. But not the billet of past where things were shiny. It’s more like black, or industrial.”
What’s hot? “For LS1, I mean just anything LS1. GM has done a great job. When you get into the engine, it’s a turn key package. We offer a LS1 rotating kit. Now we have a multitude of stroker rotating kits. They allow you to turn that engine into any displacement.”
On the near future, Held says, “The other thing we see coming down the pike is the (Dodge) 5.7 hemi and the 6.1, now. There are new challenges now as they offer it as a new crate engine. We are offering an engine swap header kit in this case, the 5.7 (with) headers in a B body.”
“We’re trying to delve into what Ford has coming out. They have one (an engine) with Roush Racing. It appears that is the one they’ll bring out next. It might be reintroduced in 2009 when the Challenger comes out. My guess, and I’m only guessing, is that you’ll see it in 2009 on a Cobra Mustang.”
Held sees a huge resurgence in cubic inches and horsepower with the return of the muscle car and cites existing powerplants such as the Z06 and Viper. That, he says, could very well lead to the return of something like the 429 Cobra Jet for Ford and the Mustang.
Held also adds, “The diesel market has a lot of interest. He sums it all up with, “As far as the future, the OEMs keep it interesting.”
Yes, they do…