Beginning with the November '07 issue, the department known as Classic News became Classic Life. We changed the department title to better reflect our shift in focus from prewritten (boring) canned releases Cody could cut and paste to individualized industry tours that provide us the chance to give Custom Classic Trucks' valued readers a behind-the-scenes look at the people who have parlayed their passion for vintage tin into a business that allows them to live and breathe customizing classic trucks.
On a recent drive (as in banzai run) to Mesa, Arizona, we took the opportunity to swing by AIM Industries and visit with Joe Morrow, the company's founder. We showed up at 7 a.m., and Joe took the time to give us a tour of his manufacturing plant, which was cool, because he had no idea we were coming. Inside the first building-a historic old monster that must be at least a city block long-Joe showed us the mechanized assembly line that carries the components for AIM's Plug & Play air-management kit to each worker's area, where a bare compressor eventually becomes a totally self-contained unit that eliminates the need to wire up eight different switches and valves into an air compressor and then plumb it to a tank.
From there, Joe walked us past a 2,000-square-foot area that housed assembly jigs for probably every kind of custom tubular upper and lower control arms anyone would ever need. Beyond that were numerous work stations where welders (as in guys who weld stuff) laid bent tubing parts manufactured elsewhere in the building to precision-weld and then ultimately arrive at AIM's in-house powdercoating booths and bake ovens (now you know why AIM's parts are so many different colors; they can use any color they want). All in all, AIM consumes over three acres of Arizona real estate; it's truly an amazing sight.
After walking past what we believe Joe said was a total of 103 40-foot containers (we should probably write this stuff down), we arrived at the airbag plant. In one large room Joe showed us bins containing 15,000 airbag bellows destined for the crimping room, where Jose inserts each and every airbag by hand into a crimping machine and then passes them on to the next process. After the airbag manufacturing, we walked over to their billet grilles. While we were there, they were custom-building a billet grille for a '40 Chevy sedan delivery.
In addition to suspension components. AIM handles a lot of cool sheet-metal, like custom C-10 steel hoods and their signature Phantom front end for late C-10s. Another building housed rows of CNC lathes and mills, but the coolest thing had to be the water jet. It was just like the one on Orange County Choppers' TV show-maybe even better.
Drake-OffenhouserThe Chain Goes Unbroken
By chain, we are not talking about cam chains. In fact, an Offy engine uses gears to drive its double overhead-cam setup. Our story is about the legacy of Harry Miller's twin-cam racing engines. While attending Americruise last summer, we had a really interesting visit to Speedway Motors' museum, where we got a good firsthand look at a room full of Drake-Offenhouser racing engines. One can't miss it; it's the first room on the left as you walk in.
Upon our return to Southern California, we got wind of a highly specialized machine shop in Huntington Beach that was manufacturing the Drake-Offenhouser high-performance water pump for small Ford and Chevrolet engines. We tracked the shop down and discovered that Van Dyne Engineering has been the new home of Drake-Offenhouser since 2002. The place is filled with not only Offy motors, but every kind of rare engine imaginable. Van Dyne is the next link in the chain of the Drake-Offenhouser legacy. Before opening Van Dyne Engineering, Stuart Van Dyne worked for Drake Engineering, and before that TRACO. Needless to say, we'll be returning to Van Dyne Engineering and looking into what kind of neat tricks can be applied to the high-performance engines found under the hoods of classic trucks. In the meantime, if you want to find out about a Drake water pump for your Ford or Chevy engine, give Van Dyne Engineering a call at 714-847-4417.