Competition muscled out via the Web

Jan. 1, 2020
At Proformance Unlimited, "where insanity is completely normal," Doug Mascaritola and his assistant Paul Lucasiewicz build high-performance V-8 engines and ship them to customers all over the world.
At Proformance Unlimited, "where insanity is completely normal," Doug Mascaritola and his assistant Paul Lucasiewicz build high-performance V-8 engines and ship them to customers all over the world.

The day we visited the shop, Lucasiewicz was building a 540-cubic inch Chevrolet engine for a customer in Dubai. On the test stand was a Corvette engine Mascaritola had just completed for a customer in Illinois. They've shipped engines to Alaska, South America, Africa, Nova Scotia, England, Ireland, Europe, Asia and Australia. In a world where powerful, reliable and attractive American V-8 engines are not hard to find, how did a tiny specialty shop in Monmouth County, N.J., end up doing business in such far away places?

"Every engine we build is ordered through our Web site," Mascaritola says of one of the three pillars of his success.

Proformance Unlimited has almost no capital tied up in inventory. There are no finished engines on pallets waiting to be sold, and other than a small supply of "commodity parts" like gasket sets, there is no warehouse full of parts. When a customer orders an engine, the order form becomes the parts list, and the business manager then orders the parts.

The second pillar of Proformance Unlimited's success is an equally up-to-date business model. In late 2001, Mascaritola was working at an older, established engine rebuild shop in New Jersey that services local and national accounts. When the company relocated out-of-state, Mascaritola and co-worker Stevie Lejda started their own rebuilding business. Though Mascaritola knew he wanted to focus on just the high-performance market, it was Lejda's business vision that made the company different.

Internet sales were just becoming a viable way to shop for almost anything anywhere in the world, and Lejda quickly figured out how to sell on the Web. By April 2002, they were up and running, shipping high-performance racing and street engines to customers nationwide.

Lucasiewicz joined the team in 2005, originally to do custom engine installations, but after only a few jobs, Mascaritola decided that wasn't a good fit with his business. Besides, there already was enough engine-build work to keep them both busy, so installation is now left to the customer. Today, Proformance Unlimited ships 250 to 300 engines a year with just two builders (and one dresser). They typically have a five-week back order.

Although Proformance Unlimited builds short blocks and long blocks to order, its reputation is built on turn-key "crate motors" that consistently outperform their customers' expectations. That's due to the third pillar of the company's success: Mascaritola's experience building engines. A member of the Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association (AERA) for 20 years, he started in his family's engine-building business at age 13 (not necessarily by choice) cleaning and grinding valves after school. By age 15, he was rebuilding engines for a fleet of local delivery trucks.

When he started building complete racing engines, that's when he began developing his own knowledge of what works and what doesn't. "I've learned a few things" he says.

Lucasiewicz agrees. "In this business, you can't lie. You know it or you don't."

Since all engines are built to order, Mascaritola starts every job with bare castings. "How do you buy a 'head-in-a-box' when the customer tells you what they want?" He grinds every valve and seat and matches all the valve springs. Every crankshaft is reworked by an outside supplier to his own specifications.

Mascaritola also helps the customer choose manifolds and carburetors or fuel injection systems, based on how they plan to use the engine. Rocker arm ratios also are customized for the application, and this is one of Mascaritola's trademarks. Often he will use different rocker arm ratios for the intake and exhaust valves. He says this actually reduces the loads on high-lift, high-duration cams, and it also "gives an engine that special sound."

Ah, that sound. At least once a day, a newly-completed engine roars to life on the test stand, and the deeply satisfying rumble and roar of Detroit Iron that fills the shop is both familiar and fresh. Mascaritola and Lucasiewicz hear it every day, and it still makes them smile. "It never gets old," says Lucasiewicz.

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