On this episode we get a chance to talk with Vadim Belogorodsky from CANtrolls. CANtrolls is a company focused on using CAN interface hardware to make engine swaps easier… but it goes way beyond that! Vadim taught himself to program at age 13 and has since worked on medical devices, oil rigs (doing CAN-based Networking) and most recently with Zero Avia an electric aviation startup. Vadim is a standout in the automotive aftermarket for his ability to get things done. I know him personally to be an ambitious self-starter so I thought we could all learn what makes him tick, and maybe he’ll teach us some things along the way.
Reid has been very busy lately managing several businesses. He still has KSTuned which is the Honda racing side and then has Kaizen Speed for the domestic cars. But his new venture is a weatherproof. solid-state relay that can handle heavy current and is interconnectable. This makes it very easy to daisy chain additional relays without having to run more power wires. He also made it so that you can attach a CAN control module as an option. This gives the customer the ability to keep it very simple or more complex with the CAN module.
Reid has entered the relay into the 2019 SEMA Launch Pad Competition presented by the Young Executive Network. Reid needs your votes to move onto the finals. So, follow this link and go vote!
Voting link – http://bit.ly/VoteLunde
Johnny joined the military after high school, served his time, and then used the GI Bill to go to college. He really didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and began messing with cars and going autocrossing. He worked a short stent helping at a friend’s shop and then got a job at PFC Brakes doing sales and technical support. This job took him all over the world supporting various racing platforms.
His next job was at OG Racing selling safety gear and brakes. He was also making custom seat inserts for race teams. He began working with Elan (makers of the NP01) making seats and started looking at the extrusion they had for their wing. Eventually, they gave him one and he did some testing against a typical carbon wing. Turns out, the Elan profile added several MPH down the back straight and in turns at Road Atlanta. Right then, he knew he had something that works. He made a kit for the BMW M3’s and started making wings for all different vehicles.
Now he has 7 people and they help all sorts of teams with the aero needs. On top of creating wing kits, Nine Lives Racing can also do CFD analysis and provide information and parts to complete the aero package.
Jonny Mill grew up in a small town in California and moved to LA as soon as he graduated high school. He worked at a talent recruiter and had various jobs in the entertainment industry with advertising and marketing. He always enjoyed cars, but things really took off when he developed The E-Stopp (an electronic parking brake). It was intended for handicap vans but soon found an amazing niche in the automotive restoration market. He was approached by Bryan Harrison of SEMA to compete in the first SEMA Launch Pad competition and took first place. After that, he started an innovation company and then began doing marketing/advertising for various TV shows and networks.
He recently took a position at WheelWell.com where users can showcase their car builds. It has grown to an online hangout for car enthusiasts to share reviews, link to all the products used in their build, and even facilitate selling their vehicle. WheelWell’s latest push is their marketplace which allows users to purchase the parts they see on the user’s build. They have even introduced a “mod score” which rewards users for generating their own content and provides discounts in the marketplace.
To check out all the builds, or even add your own ride, check out WheelWell.com
Charlie Eklund moved down to Houston, TX to attend Tuner School in 2017. The people at Hennessey Performance saw something special in Charlie and offered him a job in the admissions department for the school. Since then, Charlie has been the face of Tuner School to narrow down the applicants and help them get jobs after graduation. To further help them out, Charlie helps students find part time jobs while taking classes and they even offer a house where the students can rent a room and not have to worry about furniture.
John Hennessey started Tuner School because he was getting multiple inquiries on how to work on cars and tune them. So, he just decided to meet that specific need and develop a curriculum with various industry experts. The classes are capped at 15 students to focus on providing the best education possible.
Richard Tomlin owns a paint, restoration, and fabrication shop south of Houston, Texas called Apex Auto Works. He made a name for his shop by building cages for Spec Miatas and was cranking out one a week. The shop is located on the way to a road course so he catered to the weekend racers and was able to do anything they wanted from complex fab work to paint and body.
He recently embarked on a new venture by developing an absorbent powder called White Pony Dry. It is far superior to kitty litter at quickly soaking up spills so that you can clean up and get back to work.
Bob grew up working on Fords by building engines and going drag racing. He got turned on to the Buick Grand National and became obsessed with going faster! After some frustration with trying to fine tune their setups, Bob decided to start diving into the actual electronic tuning. This opened a whole new world of going faster and picked up a bunch time at the drag strip.
He had a couple computer businesses and a shop but was always helping people tune. So, he decided to make it a real business in 2007. The demand for their services kept growing and they focused efforts on the teaching side. They offer online courses and in-person teaching. They also provide support to past students to make sure they can be successful in tuning whatever platform they choose. They currently rent a 5,000 sq ft facility in Florida and have 15 people on site and around the world. They specialize in teaching students how to use a particular tuning software and give their students experience in tuning a stock car, basic bolt ons, and forced induction. This gives the students real world experience on the platform they want to tune.
Be sure to check them out at car shows and trade shows as they look for helping more individuals and businesses learn to tune!
Dave grew up in Austin and has lived there his whole life. During middle school, he played in a punk rock band (look up The Snobs – Schools Out, Let’s Skate) in the early 2000’s. They organized a tour on the east coast and recorded a couple 7” records. While touring and playing shows, he got turned on to street racing. Having no affinity to school, he dropped out of High School and decided he wanted to play music and race rally cars. After some coaxing, he convinced his dad to “invest” in an Integra Type R rally car.
Eventually, Dave decided that this was his future and started instructing others on how to drive a rally car. There have been a lot of hiccups and various partners, but he has finally settled down and got things figured out. He now leases 140 acres outside of Austin and holds various types of classes. He has 1, 2, and 3-day classes, personal training, and group events. And there are various types of vehicles including FWD Hyundai’s, side-by-sides, Evo’s and STI’s, and even Ford Raptor events. Dave runs the place on his own but has about a dozen instructors who help when needed.
Dan lived in a house of car enthusiasts in southern California. Both his dad and grandfather owned their own businesses, so Dan was kind of groomed to have his own business as well. In high school, Dan bought a 1968 Mustang Fastback and spent 2 years restoring it with his dad. Once they finished it, Dan went out and took some “professional” pictures of the car, wrote an article, and sent it to every magazine he could find. He was able to get this car featured in some magazines and even on a few covers! Being a true entrepreneur and knowing what he wanted to do, he took classes in journalism and photography, so he could create better content.
Purely by chance, his neighbor ran a business that had several small niche magazines that included a couple car magazines. Dan took the job there during college and worked his way up the ladder to become the editor. He worked at several other publishing jobs in cars and tech. He started to see an opportunity with the new social media growth in the mid 2000’s. So, he pitched a large proposal to his boss to begin changing how they do marketing and focus on the new social side. Well, things didn’t go to plan, so he made the calculated risk to go out on his own and do it himself!
Since 2008, Kahn Media has grown from his spare bedroom to a 7000 square foot office space and 20 plus people. They offer a full suite of marketing and PR and can cater the package to fit your needs and budget.
Joe grew up in Oregon and stayed there through college and went to Oregon Tech for Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business. He never really saw himself owning his own business, so he spent several years working for other companies as an engineer. He spent all his extra time playing with and modifying offroad trucks. He soon realized that he could take a pretty good tax write off if he created a business to research, develop, and sell various parts he was making. In 2008, he made a simple web page and began making wheel centers to utilize the Hummer H1 wheels on other vehicles. 2 years later, he was shopping around for a tube bender and couldn’t find anything he could afford that he liked. So, he decided to make one himself!
He slowly transitioned out of a full-time job by moving to part time contracting. This allowed him to ramp up Rogue Fabrication while tapering down the time at his other job. He continued to do consulting part time until finally doing his manufacturing business full time. They continue to bring more operations in house and currently employ 6 people. Their product focus is for chassis fabrication tools that include the tube bender, notcher, dimple dies, drill press reduction kit, and a press brake for taco gussets.
Colin grew up buying and restoring pedal bikes and really enjoyed working with his hands. When his dad took a job in Washington with Boeing, Colin bought a 1940 Ford which was quite a step up from the bicycles. He went to college at Washington State University and preferred to look for car projects instead of studying. Having to haul dead cars all over the place, Colin began looking for better solutions to tie them to the trailer. In 1993, he made the business official and started to sell his products. In 1994, he met Tim Foss of Street Rodder Magazine and took a job working for them in advertising and sales. He spent 5 years there while still doing Mac’s Custom Tie Downs on the side.
In 2003, he moved the business from Washington to Idaho and was done for personal reasons not business benefits. His new facility is 17,000 sqft which houses all their manufacturing machines, assembly equipment, shipping supplies, inventory, and even Colin’s collection of project vehicles. He employs 16 people and have been steadily growing over the years. They make all sorts of products for securing your gear including the Versa-Track systems, ratchet straps, wheel tie downs, tow straps, wheel chalks, and many more!
Chris has been in California his whole life and used to have a job at a company that developed vehicle care products for professional body shops. This gave him intimate knowledge about materials and products for the car care market. One weekend, they were out an event demonstrating some car care products and caught Jay Leno’s eye. He invited them out to his garage to test out their products and shoot a demo video for JayLenosGarage.com. A few months later, Chris get a call that Jay’s detailer had moved and they were searching for a new person to clean the collection. Chris and his partner, Jeremey, jumped on the opportunity and began going out to Jay Leno’s Garage once a week to detail the cars.
After being at the shop and helping for a while, they decided to take the leap and pitch their cleaning products to Jay for branding. To their amazement, Jay was all for it and wanted to be an investor! So, they created a legitimate business for the car care products and Jay became the spokesperson for the brand. Jay became the president of the company and put up his own reputation and money to help make the business be successful. The guys are currently gearing up for their second SEMA show and are excited to keep growing the business!
Will grew up in California and has always had a passion for cars. After high school, he started an apprenticeship at a machine shop working on engines. He went to college, but it just wasn’t for him. He was much more interested in racing than he was in going to class. After a few years, he began working at Centerforce Clutches via a recommendation from a friend of a friend. He started as a machinist and worked his way up the ranks over many years. In the mid 90’s, Centerforce decided to move from California to Arizona to allow the business to grow without the cost burden associated with operating in California.
They now have around 30 employees and make clutches for all sorts of applications. They have re-entered the sport compact market as it continues to grow here in the US. They hold 9 different patents and continue to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. They strive to keep the OEM feel for the clutch pedal while increasing the holding capability and not sacrificing driveability and longevity. That is a complicated balance to achieve! They customized an old bread delivery van on a modern chassis with a diesel engine to carry around the large amounts of Centerforce candy that they make. It is a unique marketing goodie that helps bring potential customers to their display and remember their product.
Tony started his car passion by contributing and participating on the LS1.com forum back in 1998. He wasn’t happy with the support of that forum and decided that he could do it better. So, he started LS1Tech.com in 2001. All the while, he was working in the Oil & Gas industry. He continued to teach himself various software systems to allow him to create websites, design graphics, and model parts. He eventually sold LS1Tech.com and started DV8 Motoring to continue to sell parts via relationships he made with the forum.
His new venture is called 365 Driven and was created to help aspiring entrepreneurs and spread his wealth of knowledge. He shares a lot of content on a couple Facebook pages and just released his book called The Side Hustle Millionaire. He spent a whole year attending Toastmaster events to help him become a better public speaker. This has been extremely helpful in helping him clearly articulate information about his book and get his message across to current and potential clients.
Bret grew up in Jasper, IN and dabbled with cars during high school. After high school, he worked various jobs in Jasper and then took a job in Florida as a tech rep for the NHRA Drag Racing circuit. A few years later, he started working for a company in California to work for Blower Drive Service. He had been traveling about 300 days per year and decided to settle down back in Jasper with his new wife. He worked a tool truck and was building his own pro-street hot rod. He wanted to be able to adjust the ride height so he could drive the car to the track and then lower it to race. He took inspiration from semi-trucks with their air springs and sourced one small enough for his project. He built a few more of these systems for his buddies and incorporated Air Ride Technologies in 1996.
Within a couple years, things were really starting to take off. Bret’s wife was able to quit her normal job and come work with Air Ride Technologies and they quickly grew to 20 employees. The company continued to grown until the economic downturn in 2008. Through hard work and streamlined business practices, Bret was able to keep the company open and survive the tough times. He did have to lay off some employees but has been able to bounce back strong and now employs 60 people. They have made a big push in the last few years to engineer and build new products and bring them to the market. Now, they are working on marketing and demonstrating the products.
Steve has known he was going to work with cards since the first grade. His dad was an engineer and his mom was a pianist and they encouraged Steve and his siblings to pursue any passion they wanted. This even includes Steve attempting to build a submarine as a kid. He ended up getting drafted to the Vietnam War and worked as an electrical engineer supporting the airplanes. Once he got out, he went to college and got an engineering degree. While at school, he worked at a BMW repair shop. It was then that he started doing performance and aftermarket installs in his free time.
He quickly went out on his own and grew the company constantly over the years. Within 5 years, he had several employees and was manufacturing many parts specifically for BMW’s. He gained a reputation worldwide as the go-to engineer and tuner for BMW’s and even caught the attention of corporate. They came and visited his shop and Steve hoped they would begin sharing engineering data, but that wasn’t the case. But, they did allow him to sell his parts through the dealerships as long as he personally warrantied all of the work. He continued this relationship with corporate for many years and raced for them as well. At it’s peak, DINAN employed 70 people, did $1 million in revenue per month, and built 3,000 cars each year.
In 2015, he sold DINAN and went on to work for Chip Ganassi Racing to head the Ford GT racing division. He then started on his next venture, CarBahn. It is a service, repair, and modifications for high end vehicles that he plans to expand nationwide. He currently has two locations in northern California. He also has a racing division and a street car engine development division. He has invested a lot of his own money into the business to get it going and will be looking for private equity funds in the future to eventually open 100 locations across the country.
Jason grew up in upstate New York and spent his childhood around cars. For college, he went to Clarkson University and got his Mechanical Engineering degree. He had every intention to go work for an auto company in Detroit but he just couldn’t commit to the cold weather. So, he moved south to work for Home Depot as a mechanical engineer. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually moved on to work for Newell Brands (makers up Rubbermaid and other household items) as a product engineer. While working there, he relocated from North Carolina to Atlanta.
By chance, he was approached by Lund’s recruiter using LinkedIn. He was excited for the opportunity to work in the automotive industry again so he took a job as a Product Manager. He has worked in Sales, Supply Chain Management, Marketing, and now as the VP of Branding and Products. Lund International is a holding company that is comprised of about 1200 employees and they focus on manufacturing through 10 companies.
Brent is a first generation American and his parents immigrated to the states after WW2. He spent a lot of his childhood playing with electronics. During high school, he practically took over the computer lab in the mid 80’s to code and tinker however he liked. He went to college to get a Computer Science degree and worked for Microsoft after graduating. He then moved over to GE Capital to do software support for them. At this point, he discovered Autocross and fell in love immediately!
He ended up buying an MR2 to race and wanted to turbo charge it. The MegaSquirt was available to control fuel but could not do ignition advance. So, he took it upon himself to build a controller himself and called it the Mega Jolt. He used the archaic Yahoo mailing list to post up about his idea and began selling them very quickly. To help ramp p production, he began purchasing electronic assembly equipment and installing them in the garage.
They eventually moved out of the garage to a real commercial space to house all of their equipment and parts. While working on their next project, the Race Capture Pro data acquisition system, they utilized a crowd-funding service called IndieGoGo to raise funds. After the success of this first campaign, they decided to do it again for their RaceCapture Track which was more affordable for the weekend enthusiast.
To continue to expand their offerings, they changed the product line name to Podium and began to offer live telemetry data that can be streamed over the cellular network. Their Podium Connect system allows you to transmit existing data acquisition system information back to the pits (and anywhere else) so that others can monitor your car.
Dave grew up in Melbourne, Australia and has always been a petrol head. He knew from an early age that he wanted to work with cars and left school at 15 to get an apprenticeship at a local dealership. During that time, he began racing go carts to satisfy his need to race. Once he finished his apprenticeship program, he became qualified to be hired as a mechanic. He then got a job at a shop that focused on motorsports and he began racing cars himself. After that, he took a job at MoTeC in Melbourne for 5 years before being transferred to MoTeC Europe for 8 years. He then transitioned out and started EPS (Electronic Performance Systems) to be his own boss.
He started the business in his garage and continue to operate that way! He uses a couple rooms as an office and for building looms and then uses the garage for injector testing and installs. He sells MoTeC hardware, builds custom looms and travels around the world to tune cars for various customers. Be sure to check out his immaculate Audi Quattro car that he has built and is racing up Pikes Peak again this year!
Lance is from South Africa and he grew up working with his dad at his dealership and salvage yard. When he grew up, he took over part of the business and spent years growing it. Eventually, he decided to make the move to America and attempted to continue with the auto salvage business. He came over on a holiday visa and quickly discovered how hard it is to become an American citizen. After 3 rejections, he was able to finally make it legal and he and his family got their citizenship. Along the way, he started in North Carolina, then Abilene (in Texas), then went to San Bernadino. After many failed attempts, a friend convinced him to become a dealer for the Superformance cars in southern California. Being that Superformance is located in South Africa and Lance having dealership experience, this was a logical fit so they went with it!
Superformance provides a “Turn Key Minus” vehicle which consists of a body with suspension and a rear diff. The EPA allows this because it only contains 1 of the 3 components required to be considered a car (the other two being the engine and transmission). This allows for customers to choose whatever engine and transmission they want to complete their car and make it their own. After a long legal battle, Superformance became the only manufacture that is licensed by Shelby to create the cars. They have also expanded to offer different models recently including a modern Ford GT40 and a special edition Bondurant car.
Lance purchased Superformance USA back in 2007 with the goal of creating more cars and expanding the business. While the Cobra is still the biggest seller, he is pushing development and production to continue to grow the business. They have leveraged the expertise of Kahn Media to take on the task of marketing their company. This has helped raise awareness of their brand and bring in new customers.
The Ring brothers grew up around their dad’s fueling station and spent their time tinkering with whatever they could get their hands on. Jim moved around a few times and eventually moved his family back home to Spring Green, WI (2 hours west of Milwaukee). He saw a 1969 Camaro Indy Pace car for sale in the paper and had to get a loan from a bank to purchase the car. He fixed it up and ended up selling it for a profit. This was the catalyst for starting his own shop. Jim found a vacant car dealership and bought the building with a friend to begin working on and restoring cars. Several years later, he sold that building and bought a piece of land with his brother to start Ring Brothers.
They were doing collision repair to pay the bills and bring in steady revenue. But their passion has always been for the customer and restoration side. On each one of the restorations, they would find more and more products that they didn’t particularly like. So, they would make these pieces in house! They built another building to house all of their CNC machines and now manufacture around 1000 SKU’s. In total, they have 3 buildings that take up about 15,000 sq ft to house all of their jobs and machines.
Kris grew up in Chicago and stayed there to go to college. His family has always been enthusiasts and he grew up tinkering with anything he could get his hands on. He got a degree in Aviation Flight Management and got his A&P License. He never worked in the aerospace industry because he got offered a job at a fuel management company. This company was buildings components of Holly’s EFI throttle body. His next move was over to AMS Performance as their 4th employee. He helped them grow the business.
He decided to make a career changed and moved to Las Vegas to dabble in the fitness and then finance industry. He even lived in China for a while! Then he moved back to the states and bounced between Las Vegas and Chicago to help with web development and marketing. Totally shifting gears again, he partnered with a friend and started an app development company in Austin. Sadly, their product didn’t make it and Kris had to switch gears yet again. This time, he headed back to Chicago to do photography with a friend. This is where he got introduced to Powerstop Brakes. They were shooting Powerstop’s catalog for a while and learned that Powerstop wanted to grow their social media presence.
He has helped grow their online presence by creating videos, taking pictures, and attending events around the country. And right when Kris came onboard, Powerstop was working on their TrackDay product line. These products are geared towards the enthusiasts who drive their track car to the track. They teamed up with the Bondurant Racing School to develop pads for their cars and have been using Powerstop Brakes exclusively for a few years now. They also sponsor the GridLife Time Attack series, the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge, and the new Spec Corvette series.
The off-road market is another segment where Kris is pushing heavily. They organize an event called The Trial where they travel from Chicago to Las Vegas for the SEMA show.
Gary was born in Panama but grew up in the United States. His father had a machine shop and Gary was always around cars. He worked at his dad’s shop at a very early age and learned the importance of hard work. His parents ended up getting a divorce and Gary moved to Panama to live with his mom when he was 9. In his early 20’s, he bought a truck and began modifying it immediately. He increased the power with a supercharger and did basic tuning adjustments. He went to law school and became a lawyer but he never lost his passion for cars. So, he began installing parts and tuning in his free time.
He eventually teamed up with MAPerformance to get parts to Panama and worked with tuners and engine builders from the US to grow his business. He also took tuning classes from EFI University to expand his knowledge. Race Lab Motorsports now occupies 8000 sqft and has a dyno, a fab area, a marketing department, and parts sales. There is a second floor in the building where he will be teaching classes on fabrication and installs. He employs 8 people to keep the business going.
John was born in Florida but moved to Philadelphia when he was 10. His dad and he were always tinkering and fixed things rather than replacing them. He stayed in the area and went to college at Penn State to get a Mechanical Engineering degree. Even though his passion for cars never went away, he got a job at a beverage company and ended up in California managing a facility.
During that time, he had a side hustle of selling other people’s parts online. It became more and more difficult to make a profit and he wanted to take the company a different direction. He had a list of parts that he wanted and needed personally for his 05 Mustang GT which he road raced. The first one was to deal with an overheating and front-end lift problem he was experiencing. So, he came up with the Track Spec hood vents by using Magnahelic Differential Pressure Gauges to find the optimum location to evacuate heat and equalize pressure. He now operates the entire business out of a 2-car garage! He has found companies to manufacture his products and focusses his efforts on R&D, sales, and customer support.
Onto his next adventure, John was talking with a racer friend who was reminiscing about racing C5 Corvettes when they first came out. Within a 3-hour drive, they had formulated a plan to create a Spec Corvette series! The idea was to have a very reliable and available car that can be race-ready (including the car) for around $20,000. They have had a few races so far in 2018 and plan on expanding to areas outside of California. They teamed up with a race coordinator called Speed Ventures to actually conduct the race and now have 27 drivers in SoCal and 10 others spread across the country.
Scott grew up in Minnesota and enjoyed tinkering and making stuff as a kid. He played with dirt bikes and 3 wheelers anything else he could get his hands on. His dad got transferred for work and ended up in Colorado. After high school, he enrolled in an automotive program while working at a construction job. After graduating with his Associates Degree, he went hunting for a job. He had bought a Mitsubishi Galant VR4 and fell in love with imports and turbos. During this time, he meets Nick who’s dad ran the performance shop in Denver and they were going to get the first AWD dyno in Colorado.
Scott spent the next few years working at another shop and begin honing his fabrication skills. He built a turbo Eclipse and took it to Mac’s for tuning. They were really impressed with Scott’s work and offered him a job. After working there for a few years, Scott decided he wanted to go it alone and started MoFab. He would do any fabrication work he could get his hands on. He moved the shop a couple times as the work increased and was making a good business at it! But, he was still sending customers to Mac for tuning.
Scott really wanted to grow the business so went through the process to get a loan for a dyno and look for a bigger space. At this same time, Nick said he wanted to join Scott in this new venture. When Nick told his dad about this, Bill offered up to sell him Mac’s equipment. Through a few rounds of negotiation, they decided the best and easiest option was to have Scott just acquire Mac’s and run it as MoFab. He moved into Mac’s space and kept all of they guys. They changed the name over to MoFab and pointed the phone, Facebook, and website to his business. After overcoming a few growing pains, the business is thriving and growing!