Under Pressure Power & Performance

Dec 1, 2009

Flanked by the U.S. Air Force Academy to the north and Fort Carson to the south, Colorado Springs, Colo., can be considered a military town. For Under Pressure Power & Performance, local servicemen and women make up a strong customer base-and half of its employees-for its dyno tuning and custom work.

Offering internships and entry-level jobs to workers fresh out of the Army or Air Force is a priority for Casey Field, 28, owner and operator of UPP, “because they are looking for basic jobs when they get out.” It also helps his company connect with those performance enthusiasts among the town’s young soldiers and airmen.

In a down economy when business everywhere is tight, UPP had its busiest month ever in February when a division of Army personnel came home from Iraq with big checks and a need for speed. He and his staff were happy to oblige with a full menu of offerings including performance upgrades and full engine builds/swaps, oil changes and even some custom paint and bodywork.

Pressure to Perform

Field, who goes by CK, caught the performance bug early in life at the knee of his father, Bill, who builds and restores 1957 Chevys. “He’s been a huge influence and idol,” says CK. Mesmerized by the process, CK’s first job in the automotive field was working with his brother in an auto body and paint shop.

He was later hired as an assistant manager at a performance shop, and in 2004, he and a partner started Under Pressure in a tiny 1,000-square-foot facility with a lift and little room to expand.

By 2007, CK had bought out his partner and moved the business to its current 3,000-square-foot facility with four bays in the front and double-deep pull-in doors. The back area includes the dyno bay, lift bay and the dirty room, and 500 square feet is dedicated to a showroom, which displays one completed vehicle.

The company acquired a Dynocom Industries dynamometer, and CK calls tuning services UPP’s “main forte.”

The company customizes a wide variety of vehicles, with Hondas, the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO being the current hot properties.

Along with CK, UPP has three employees-two full-time and one part-time. Jon Bryant is the certified technician, Dustin Smith does most of the Honda work and the part-timer, Andrew Dean, is the gopher. Smith and Dean both served in the military before coming to UPP.

The shop’s labor rates are simple and by the numbers, designed to be competitive with other local shops and “a lot lower than the dealerships,” CK notes. He charges $80 for machine work and $48-an-hour for body work.

“Labor is where we make most of our money,” he says.

Customers pay for parts in advance, while labor is charged when the project is finished, CK explains, because he believes “there’s no incentive to work when all the money for the job is paid up-front.” Most jobs are finished in a week or less, he adds.

But, even with such careful planning, the recent economic downturn has to be affecting business, right? After all, the town in the shadow of Pikes Peak hasn’t been immune to the recent recession.

“Oh, hell yeah,” CK says of slower sales, noting that UPP views itself as a survivor after 10-15 other local performance shops have gone out of business in the last five years or so.

Marketing Vehicle

UPP employs a wide-reaching marketing strategy that involves its website (www.uppcos.com), the occasional advertisement on local radio and consistent word of mouth.

But the company’s true marketing machine is CK’s Mitsubishi 3000 GT. It is stacked with a supercharger, twin-turbos and nitrous, boasting 700-plus-hp numbers; by far CK’s favorite project. And it attracts plenty of attention.

“It’s basically a giant business card,” CK says, noting that people who see the car around town on the weekends often end up visiting the shop soon thereafter.

But even with those marketing efforts, business has been somewhat streaky of late-one week the shop’s slammed with customers looking for dyno work and turbo tune-ups, and then the next week everything slows down.

CK sees the economy as a road block, but not the only one he’s keeping an eye on.

Government regulations are becoming more stringent on emissions and deposits, and there’s talk that in the near future Colorado might adopt some of the same policies and procedures for emission regulations that California has.

Despite those dark clouds on the horizon, however, CK believes the future is bright for his business and the performance world in general. So much so that he is even looking forward to expanding the business nationally.

He would like to someday have shops in Florida, Texas and California, and while admitting those markets are tough to break into, says that in the proper city or county, anything is possible.

His advice for others considering a career in the performance industry is to keep moving forward and never give up, do things ethically and treat people the right way.

It’s all there on the website:

“Unlike other ‘shops,’ we get it done, do it right, and back up everything we do. We offer everything from bolt-on performance, turbos, superchargers, nitrous, fully forged race engine builds, custom fabrication, suspension, brakes, body kits, collision repair, custom paint (with a lifetime warranty), and complete stereo systems with custom fiberglass enclosures. We carry all of the major brands and do our best to get you the best prices possible.”

In a military town where new customers are constantly arriving, it’s proven to be a winning formula for UPP.