By Drew Hardin
Crystal Ball Gazing, Circa 1966
“What will the future hold?” That was the question Bob McVay put to several “leaders in the field of high-performance and custom equipment” for an article he wrote in the September 1966 issue of Hot Rod Industry News, Petersen Publishing Company’s aftermarket trade magazine.
“This high-performance and custom industry has come a long way,” McVay wrote. “It used to be ‘run-what-you-brung’ at the dry lake beds of Southern California and sometimes on the side streets. Now it has come to 220-mph-plus quarter-mile dragsters and factory hot rods that’ll turn over 100 mph in the quarter and run 130 mph without breathing hard, right from the showroom.”
Among those McVay interviewed for their insights into the aftermarket’s future was Phil Weiand, founder of Weiand Power & Racing Equipment.
“Phil traded a mandolin for his first Model T, and it wasn’t too long after that when he began fabricating his own speed equipment for runs on California’s dry lake beds,” said McVay. “His favorite hobby turned into a business when he set up shop in a small building behind his house about 25 years ago and made the first ‘Tall Weiand Manifold,’ a twin-carb setup for flathead Ford V8s.”
In the intervening years, Weiand’s business had grown into an operation with a “complete foundry, machine shop and shipping and catalog-order department.” He was also active in SEMA, then still known as the Speed Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, as a member of its Board of Directors and a recent vice president.
Weiand saw the aftermarket as “very lucrative” thanks to “great demand” for speed equipment, said McVay, even though Detroit was getting on the bandwagon and offering performance accessories of its own. “He doesn’t see this as hurting the business too much. The fellow with last year’s car wants this year’s improvements, equipment and accessories; and he usually has the money to pay for them.” Plus, Weiand believed that there was “a certain amount of romance (prestige, if you will) of having equipment on your car made by one of the ‘big name California outfits.’”
Weiand saw “great potential for packaged goods marketed through chain-store outlets,” wrote McVay, “but unless they can open up special high-performance divisions, they can’t possibly compete with the local, high-performance shops.” Why? “The personalized approach to the individual’s problems, needs and demands can only be handled by people who know what’s going on in the industry and in the racing end of the competition world.
“You just can’t put a price tag on personal attention and being able to talk with customers on their own level. There’s no substitute for technical know-how and that all-important aspect of personal attention to the customer’s wants, needs and desires.”
Great advice that still holds true 50 years later.