The Repro Man: Scott Drake
MM: Would you say that you were in the right place at the right time when the Mustang hobby took off?
SD: It’s funny you say that because I refer to that a lot. People ask, “Well, how did all this happen?” It took a lot of hard work, of course. Part of it was knowing how to manufacture product, but also being at the right place and choosing the right car. With Mustangs at a million and half by mid 1966, there’s a tremendous volume out there. It was the right car at the infancy of the industry. We ran ads in Mustang Monthly.
MM: You’re one of Ford’s top licensees. How did the licensing program affect things?
SD: Early on, Ford didn’t have an approval process. Ford actually referred business to us but I was always fearful to disclose that we made emblems because while the right arm helped us, the left arm might shut us down. Ford eventually came out with a licensing program that brought it all into the light and we pay a royalty for using the trademarks. It also allowed licensed suppliers to get original blueprints, which are very helpful. I’m told that we pay them more royalties than any other vendor when it comes to reproduction parts.
As a side note, we’re a direct supplier to Ford Motor Company as their manufacturer of the shift ball for the Shelby GT 500 and Boss 302. We’re Tier One at Ford, and I think that’s really cool because there aren’t many small companies that sell direct to Ford and meet their manufacturing requirements.
MM: You’ve already reproduced so many vintage Mustang parts. How do you decide on new products?
SD: We look at what’s needed, we listen to our dealers, and I talk to people at car shows. We’re still working on Mustangs ourselves, so when we need a part that’s not available, we consider it. The only things left to make are some of the more obscure parts. We just made the little plastic bushing in the upper end of the steering column and the ’69-’70 Shaker hood trim retainer bracket.
We’re also constantly improving parts that we’ve made in the past, sometimes offering two different quality levels. For example, the original ’65 GT emblems were real Cloisonné, a process that’s basically powdered glass put into an oven until it turns into a liquid, then the top surface is polished. The early reproductions were painted and filled with an epoxy type of plastic, which cracked and chipped. Now we’ve done the real Cloisonné reproductions too.
We also just came out with concours windlace. All you used to be able to buy was generic windlace with sierra grain, which was used on some Mustangs but not all. Now we’ve made the original basketweave pattern for ’66-’67 cars and we’re working on the pebble finish for ’70s.
Another example of raising the bar would be our new 289 fender badges. When we did the first ones, we injected them out of zinc die-cast. But if you look at an original 289 fender badge, it’s not zinc at all. It’s aluminum. Zinc die-cast is easier to work with; it’s kind of the standard today when you want something chrome-plated. But if you look closer, the 289 emblem was made from a stamping process. And it’s not chrome-plated either. It’s anodized. So that’s three things different on the reproduction from the original. Currently we offer both the original concours stamped anodized aluminum version and the die cast chrome plated version.
MM: We’ve noticed that you’re now producing parts with a concours look but improved performance.
SD: Yes, you ran an article about our Halogen sealed beam headlight with the FoMoCo script (“How to: Install Halogen Headlights,” April 2012). That’s been a great product. I like it because it’s concours correct but modified a little to turn it into a Halogen. So you’re taking that tungsten product that produces okay light and you make it safer. With older parts, I personally like to upgrade them to the new standard, whether it’s electro-luminescent gauges, or Halogen headlights, or better taillights so people can see them a little better. They look identical to the original but the performance is improved.
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MM: How much of your reproduction line do you actually manufacture at your facility in Henderson?
SD: That’s a tough one because there’s so much. With the Halogen headlights, we own the tooling but use an outside vendor to make them because headlights are not our specialty. As far as zinc die-casting and steel stamping, my belief has always been to let the professionals run the equipment. I could do some of that, but I would be a novice at it. So we own the tooling manufactured to our specs and control the engineering and how it fits, but we let the experts run the die-cast and plastic injection operations. After it goes through the die-casting, we send it out for chrome plating.
We’re involved in so many things – cold forging, hot forging, aluminum die-casting, plastic injection, steel stampings, deep draw stampings. We also do a lot of machining with billet aluminum. Of course, that’s more for the restomod market but we do a lot of that type of product as well.
MM: You manufacture the ’65-’67 styled steel wheels, right?
SD: Yes, we have automated robotic welding equipment for our styled steel wheel line. That’s a huge stamping. It takes about 10 dies, half the size of an office desk, just to make that wheel. We machine the inserts and send them to California for chrome plating. Then we align, weld, and paint them in-house. We have a pretty sophisticated clear-lens department where we paint the hub cap lenses, along with gas cap and other lenses.