The Repro Man: Scott Drake
MM: Is it difficult to compete against the reproductions made in Asia?
SD: Many times, they come in at a cheaper price. But there’s a difference in the fit and finish. Does the product fit the original Ford part that you’re trying to fit it to? Will it last? It costs a little more to get it right. I like referring to the ’68 steering wheel emblem. For years, the Asian importer made a blue, white, and red tri-bar logo. And I would talk to them about it but they would never fix it. I mean, how easy is that to change? I finally got fed up and made it the right way.
MM: How complex is the process of coming up with a new reproduction part. Does it depend on the part?
SD: It really does. Some things are simple, like my first rubber extrusion. That was like the Play-Doh machine you had as a little kid and you pressed the Play-Doh through the little die. I think die-cast and plastic injection are the most difficult. Probably thin-walled die-cast is the hardest.
When I look at a part and see how it’s made, it’s fun to dissect it and understand what processes were done to make it.
MM: Has new technology helped?
SD: Very much so. That has been one of the coolest things since I’ve been in the parts business. Our engineers can take a Ford blueprint or original samples and recreate them three dimensionally in a Solid Works program. With an actual part, we can do that with a variety of measuring and scanning equipment to create the part on the screen. Prior to sending the 3D data to a mold shop, we produce a rapid prototype piece. For example, if we’re doing an outside door handle, we’ll produce an exact plastic version. Depending on the complexity, it might take six to 12 hours. Then you can bolt it on to see if it fits. You can even put threads inside a hole. We’ve done our job when you can’t tell the difference between our product and an original Ford product. We rapid prototype everything that we do before giving the go-ahead to cut tooling.
MM: You obviously have a lot of pride in the products with your name on them.
SD: It’s not just a sales thing; it’s how I feel. It’s the pride in the product we make. There have been many times when I’ve been beaten to the marketplace because I wasn’t happy with the third or fourth sample. I held off and let somebody else come to the market first because I wasn’t satisfied. And we still run it that way today. We don’t run production until we’re happy with the prototypes.
MM: Is there any particular part that you’re proudest of?
SD: Wow. There are literally thousands. I think the product that I am most proud of was my first, the extruded trunk seal. That showed me that I had the ability to create something that the Mustang market needed and would support. It led to a second, then a third product which has now snowballed into thousands of parts for the Mustang community. As they say, the first step is always the hardest one to take and I’m happy that I have been able to take many.
MM: In the last few years, you’ve made the move into the late-model Mustang arena. What’s that been like?
SD: We really like the late-model market but there are so many people doing it. It’s different, in some cases I think because technology was more advanced, so the parts are more difficult to manufacture than with the 1960s cars. But we’re good with that. It’s certainly an area we’re expanding into. Of course, our little stint with Shelby Performance Parts got us very much involved with the newest Mustangs. We’re still a supplier to Shelby.
Scott Drake was 16 years-old when he spent $300 for his first car, a ’65 Mustang fastback, in 1975.
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“I had saved $1,200 but paid $300 for the Mustang thinking I’d bring it back to life,” Scott recalls. “I remember it had baby moon hubcaps painted green, about 12 shades of paint, and shag green carpet for the headliner. It was just a disaster, but my Dad and I worked on it, repainting it in our garage in Canoga Park, California.”
Scott still owns the Mustang, which was repainted again, in red, when it was restored as a Shelby clone in 1995. Over the years, the fastback has served as a test-bed for many Scott Drake restoration parts. “We’ve tested all kinds of products on that vehicle,” Scott says. “Whenever you see it, there’s usually a part or two off of it. Right now, it’s missing the radiator because we’re working on some cool radiator coolant tanks.”
Like all first cars, Scott has plenty of stories to tell, like his first date with his future wife. “The Mustang didn’t have a heater motor so cold air was blowing through the firewall onto Suzanne,” Scott remembers. “She must have thought I was a real loser. She married me anyway, so I lucked out.”