Talkin’ With Lou: Jamie Meyer

Jan 24, 2011

There’s no question these last few years have been quite a challenge for GM. Heck, they’ve been a challenge for nearly everyone I know in this industry, and nobody I know of had the benefit of a government bailout.

But GM has made all the right moves since then and it has quickly turned the government’s investment, er, “our” investment, into an inspiring turnaround story.

It occurred to me the other day as a new Cadillac CTS-V sport wagon passed me on I-75 like a suburban rocket, full of groceries, a supercharger, a dog, and 550-plus horsepower: the automotive industry is perhaps more alive than ever before. And nowhere is this more apparent than right here in Detroit at General Motors.

Dr. Jamie Meyer is the product integration manager for GM Performance Parts, the division of GM building some of the most remarkable crate engines as well as racing and performance parts available today. Meyer is a car guy and he knows what works and what doesn’t, but what sets him apart is his solid work ethic and the way he listens to the GM customers.

I’ve been with him at the track, most recently at the LSX Shootout in St. Louis, and I’ve seen the strong relationship he has with the GM Performance Parts customer. He spends hours upon hours listening to what the customers are saying, what they want, what they’d like to see and what needs to change. Then, he and his team follow-through on this customer demand.

A great example is the recently introduced LSX 454 R racing engine, the most powerful LS crate engine ever from GM Performance Parts. I had the chance to sit down with Jamie recently to talk about this new crate engine and to ask him what’s ahead for GM Performance Parts.

LJ: It was nice to catch up with you at the PRI Show. Tell me about that killer new LSX R crate engine you released.

JM: Thanks Lou. It’s always good to see you. The LSX454R is the most powerful engine ever released by General Motors. It’s really amazing: 750 hp, naturally aspirated from a crate engine. Our engineers are still finalizing some of the valve train parts, but they are actually seeing over 800 hp in some configurations of this engine.

The engineering team, led by Steve Felix and Rocko Parker, started working on the LSX D/R heads and intake about two years ago. Our goal was to offer to our LSX customers the highest flowing intake and cylinder heads that we’ve ever released. The D/R head is awesome: 430-plus cfm on the intake side with all of the “race” features that our top-level customers are looking for.

About a year ago, we decided that as well as launch the components, the team should put together an entire crate engine to showcase the potential of these parts. I shouldn’t be surprised at how well they performed-nothing about the LS platform really surprises me anymore-but this engine is amazing. It’s a race engine, requiring 110-octane fuel, but it is going to be a sweet piece in many drag cars once we start shipping them at the end of Q1 2011.

We’ve got a deal working with the Frank Hawley Drag School to get a few of these down there so that Frank can test them. He’s done an amazing job with our ZZ572, and his team is excited to sample the LSX454R.

LJ: When will we see it again?

JM: You’ll see the first publically available LSX454R offered up for sale at the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auction on Jan. 21. All proceeds will go to charity, and we are excited to see how that crowd reacts to the chance to buy the first of the most powerful GM crate engines ever sold.

LJ: So GM’s bankruptcy, the third largest ever, is behind us and the successful IPO has GM stock trading again on the New York Stock Exchange floor. Heck, it seems like it’s nothing but good news coming out of Detroit these days! And it’s performance-based news like Caddy’s return to racing with the CTS-V coupe, the crate engines, the popularity of the Camaro and inspiring cars like the Corvette ZR-1. (No, I’m not a fan of the Volt!) It’s gotta be pretty exciting to be in your shoes these days.

JM: Thanks for the kind words, Lou. The GM team is working very hard to keep GM moving in a positive direction. As you point out, the product is better than ever-especially from a performance standpoint. The hotter the cars get, the better our parts business is.

The LS9, LSA, LS7, heck, even the LS3 are stuff of fantasies just 10 years ago. Yet, here they are, making over 500 hp with a factory warranty. It’s just an amazing time to be into performance cars.

We really do appreciate folks like you who realize what it takes to build these cars and these powertrains and who are willing to rally around GM to help us keep going forward. Thanks!

LJ: Last year when we sat down you told me, “without question, the future of GM Performance Parts is based in the LS market.” You’ve proven this to be true with the various offerings including the older LS1, LS2 and LS6 engines as well as the newer LS3, LS7, LSA, LS9 and LSX engines. Why is the LS engine so popular all of a sudden?

JM: In a word, efficiency. You get an all-aluminum-”in most cases-”small-block Chevy with heads, valve train and induction parts that are “racecar stuff” of just 10 years ago. We are now close to 15 years into this engine architecture, and the end enthusiast is just now catching on to these things. We love the GMPP LSX Shootout and the Holley LS Fest that it spawned. These two events alone show what an amazing platform the LS engines are for enthusiasts at any level of the budget ladder.

The latest issue of HOT ROD has a wonderful article by Mike Finnegan that outlines their favorite LS swaps. My favorite is the RX7 build by Hinson Motorsports. I’m not an RX7 fan per se, but this car goes a long way toward bringing the so-called “sport compact movement” back to reality.

You can take a crate engine (or junkyard) LS engine, add a basic power adder, and go run 10s or 9s, or even 8s for a very reasonable amount of money. I’m just fortunate to work for the company that invented the LS engine and continues to refine/perfect it.

LJ: Tell me about the new LSX 454 R engine you released at this year’s PRI Show and where can I get those killer LS valve covers?

JM: The LSX454R is a great crate engine because of the superior components that GM Performance Parts puts into it. Nothing in our portfolio is rebuilt or re-manned from “seasoned” components.

The LSX454R continues this tradition. From the D/R heads and D/R intake through the custom valve train and forged rotating assembly, this is a class act engine all the way through. And, we top it all off with a set of valve covers from our friends at Proform. They have done a great job of helping us make our new engine look as good as it will perform.

LJ: It’s important our readers know GM Performance Parts are available through most major WDs and thus available to performance retailers. How does GM Performance interact and get the message out to performance retailers when many of them still think these products are only available through a GM dealer?

JM: GM Performance Parts are available from any GM dealer. They are also available at our industry’s big performance-oriented WDs like Atech Motorsports, Keystone, etc. These WDs work with our top GMPP dealers to get parts to their customers.

For the most part, we are a “draw.” The end-consumer reads about a GMPP product, and they come into a store or call a retailer, and they ask for that specific part. We are fortunate in that our consumers are fiercely loyal to GM. That has come from five decades of superior products, but we do not take that loyalty for granted.

LJ: One popular magazine editor recently told me the future of hot rodding is in the E-Rod. What exactly is the E-Rod and what are the future implications?

JM: The E-ROD is, in general, a brand-new LS crate engine that is packaged with all of the emissions equipment necessary to make that engine emissions-compliant in California and those states that follow CARB guidelines.

We were very proud when we recently received a CARB EO number on the LS3 E-ROD package for 1975-’96 vehicles. This is a huge market opportunity for this industry, opening up an estimated 20 million vehicles for modification. We are also very close to gaining a CARB EO for all Specially Constructed Vehicles-Cobra kit cars, re-popped muscle cars, etc.

In states with strict emissions requirements, that editor is right-E-ROD is the future of hot rodding. And, depending upon how widely accepted CARB guidelines go, E-ROD has already paved new ground for the rest of the industry.

LJ: You know the drill…I ask everyone I interview what’s one thing they would do as a performance retailer to differentiate themselves from the competition. If you were going to put this magazine down and make one change, what is it? So, let’s say “Dr. Meyer’s Speed Shop” is open for business on Woodward Avenue-¦ 

JM: I still think that this industry has only scratched the surface of social marketing. I’d have a live feed in the shop with multiple cameras so that customers could track the progress of their car-or their competitor’s car. There would be hourly updates going out via email, Twitter, Facebook and multiple discussion forums on new projects, new parts and where you could see my customers racing their cars.

There is so much content in this industry-I’d guess we are, collectively, only capturing 5 percent of it.

LJ: That’s good advice and I’ll be coming back to you on a follow-up piece on how to make social networking sites profitable. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you at the track next summer.

JM: Sounds good, Lou.

More with Dr. Jamie Meyer

Last book read? “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience” by Carmine Gallo.
What’s on your iPod? Glee, MagPul videos, Angry Birds
Person you’d most like to have lunch with? Jesse Kershaw
Favorite place to drive? New York International Raceway Park, Leicester, N.Y.