VOLUME XIII,  ISSUE 2 - MAY- JUNE,  2018

mopar memos The latest news, rumours & Info!

FEATURES

Arrington Performance is Under New Management

 

 

Words by Richard Kratz

Photos by Arrington Performance/shopHEMI.com

We’ve written several stories over the years about Arrington Performance and their online store, www.shopHEMI.com. Our project car, the Mopar Max Maulin’ Magnum (affectionately known as Maggi) evolved over seven years from a stock 2007 Dodge Magnum SRT8 with a 6.1L engine massaged to output 500 horsepower, to an Arrington Performance built 6.4L running 10 pounds of boost via a Magnuson supercharger putting out 700+ HP, to its current form with a second Arrington Performance built engine, this time a bored and stroked 7.0L (426ci) running nearly 12 pounds of boost and outputting well north of 900 HP.

 

But, it’s not just about horsepower. Lots of folks can build an engine that can output a lot of power for a short period of time, or output lower horsepower for a long period of time. The trick is making lots of power, reliably for a long period of time. Well, our second Arrington engine, the 6.4L one, made over 800 WOT passes in competition down the quarter mile and we put over 15,000 street miles on it—hauling a loaded 6x12 foot two axle trailer behind it to race tracks all over the southwest US. We’re talking a street/strip car, never designed for towing, pulling over 2,000 pounds up the Baker grade in California in 113-degree heat. That’s a torture test if we ever did see one.

 

After three seasons, when Arrington tore down the 6.4L engine, they found that everything was still within brand new specification. The builder told us he’d have no issues putting it all back together and going racing for another couple of seasons. That’s a testament to Arrington and the parts suppliers they chose to work with. Arrington and their online store, shopHEMI.com, did a lot more than just the engine on Maggi, but you can read those stories for yourself. Google and Bing are your friends here.

 

So, we must admit to a bit of trepidation when we heard last year that Arrington Performance and shopHEMI.com had a change of both management and location. Diversified Creations purchased Arrington and moved it from Martinsville, Virginia, to Brighton, Michigan. Diversified Creations’ CEO is Mike Copeland, who has an extensive background in engineering and development as you’ll learn in a moment. Arrington is a 50-year-old company tracing its roots back to Buddy Arrington and his never-say-die Mopar NASCAR racing career.

 

We had a long conversation with Mike Copeland about his plans for Arrington and what the new Arrington can bring to the market. While we spoke on the phone we could hear the sweet sounds of a new Arrington 6.4 Whipple supercharged engine making dyno pulls in the background.

 

MM: Tell us about your background.

 

Copeland: I grew up in a car family; my dad was a big car guy. I remember being four or five years old with my hand up in the door a ‘56 Ford holding a nut for my dad to start a bolt. That’s how I grew up.

 

I couldn’t wait to grow old enough to get out of high school and go to work on cars. So, at 17 I got out of high school and started as an apprentice mechanic at a Ford dealer. I worked my up into management, at 22 I was running the service department with 25 technicians that I oversaw. But I always wanted my own business, and as part of that I wanted to learn more than just Fords. So, I left and worked at a big independent, 13-bay repair shop. I thought I was just going to be a mechanic, that that was my path. But General Motors came along.

 

GM offered me a job as an experimental assembler -- one of the guys that handle the prototype cars of the future. I went to work there for about four years and then they were looking for someone to start technical training for some of the advanced stuff. I applied for that and did that for a few years. Then I got promoted to salary and went on to management. I spent my last five or six years in the performance division. I was the lead engineer for any one-off performance cars. Anything that you saw that was a driving car that went to SEMA or in a magazine -- the Reggie Jackson Camaro, the Hot Rod Solstice, the Project X ’57 Chevy -- I built all of those cars. Crate motors, many of the parts in the catalog, accessory drive systems, and things like that all came out of my head.

 

I spent 26 years at GM. My last few years at GM my wife, son and I had decided to open our own business and that was Diversified Creations. We opened that in 2004 and this year is [Diversified’s] 14th anniversary. We opened that business in a small 2,000 square foot building. It was a performance and off-road shop. It was a tough economy, we went through ’08, the big economic downturn and all of that. But through it all we continued to grow. We grew to 7,500 square feet, then 16,000.

 

Come 2011, I decided to retire from GM. I was going to just do Diversified Creations. But the prior year we had built a truck for Lingenfelter Performance Engineering; Ken Lingenfelter hired Diversified to do that for the 2010 SEMA Show. That led to me getting to know Ken and he heard that I was going to retire from GM and he came to me and asked if I wanted to go to work for them. I was the vice president of Lingenfelter for just over five years. When I left there I intended to stay semi-retired and kind of just tinker on my own and do a little work at Diversified. My son runs the day-to-day operations here at Diversified; he’s been here since day one. Ultimately the goal was that the company would be his, it was one of the big reasons behind us opening that company.

 

I’m kind of a workaholic. Tinkering on my own, in 16 months I built three cars from the ground up on my own. My wife keeps asking me how many cars do I need and do I know how much I’m spending. [Mike laughs]

 

MM: So how did you end up buying Arrington [Performance]?

 

Copeland: I had known Kim Pendergast, who owned the company that owned Arrington, for a number of years; she’s a good friend. We had talked numerous times…she tried to get me to come to Virginia and run Arrington. But I didn’t want to leave Michigan, this is where my life is. She called me on Friday of Labor Day weekend [2017], just before I was going to go out and play with my 925 horsepower Jeep, and she said I know that you don’t want to live in Virginia and we just can’t get that together, but what do you think about owning the company?

 

I said that I’d never thought about that. I had already done all of my due diligence because I had looked at going down there to run it. We went back and forth over the weekend and on the drive home with my wife on Monday I told Kim that I’d buy the company. Two days later, on Wednesday, I was in Martinsville [Virginia] to talk to the employees, tell them that we were going to move the company to Michigan, offer jobs to some who wanted to relocate and that was what we were going to do.

 

Any time you have a 50-plus-year-old company there are huge advantages to that, there’s a lot of history. There is also a lot of baggage that goes with it. We did our best to maintain the good things that Arrington did, and we did our best to try to alleviate some of the baggage, overhead and things like that.

 

[Editor’s note: Arrington not only had its roots in NASCAR it was also the company’s bread and butter, as they say, up until 2012. Arrington’s facilities were built around its core competency in NASCAR racing. Arrington built all of the motors for Dodge’s four truck teams in the then Craftsmen Truck series in 2004/2005 when they won the championships. At one point, they built motors for four race trucks for 26 races and not one of the 104 engines failed during a race that year. When Dodge withdrew from NASCAR in 2012 it left Arrington with a lot of infrastructure that was no longer being utilized well.]

 

The company is now completely here in Michigan. We built a new building, opened a new warehouse full of parts, we have salespeople here, we own Arrington’s store, shopHEMI.com, we continue to build cars, engines, parts, all of that every day.

MM: Where do you see the new Arrington going, where do you want to take it?

 

Copeland: I’m a very analytical person so I look at everything in periods of time, one month, six months, a year and so forth as you go out. The goal during the transition was to take care of the existing Arrington customers and new customers that we got during this time. At the same time, we worked hard to develop a whole bunch of new parts that we’re working on, building out a new shop and a new chassis dyno. It’s a bit of struggle to do all of this but each step gets a little better. And there’s so much more available for the other brands. For example, do an LS swap compared to a HEMI swap. There’s everything under the sun for the LS swap. And HEMI stuff is really, in some cases, a struggle.

 

We here at Diversified did the first Hellcat HEMI swap in the world. That was for Roadkill and the General Mayhem Charger. That was the first ever one [Hellcat swap] and so far we’ve built five. My goal for Arrington is that we treat customers the right way, we give them a great product and we create new products. We have about twelve items, new products, right now that we’re working on and our goal is to have them available this year. We’re going to try to do some new things that nobody has ever done before and at the same time re-engineer and redevelop some products in areas where there are opportunities to make them better.

MM: OK, you’ve given us a tease here, “do some things that no one has ever done before.” Understanding that you don’t want to reveal trade secrets on new product development, can you give us a hint of what you’re doing?

 

Copeland: Um, not yet [laughing]. We have a lot going on here. I have an engineer on staff, one of the best engineers I’ve ever worked with in my life, and understand that I’ve had the opportunity to work with a ton of good engineers. He’s working on products every day.

 

Yes, actually, I can give you one example. One of the things that Arrington had done was to develop a full roller rocker setup for the Gen III HEMI. They only built about six sets and never really went into full production. There were a number of reasons for that, they were very expensive to make and very difficult to machine. So, we’re in the process of redesigning the complete system. We have the designs done and we’re working with the people that cast parts for us, and stuff like that. Our goal is to re-release the product and make it across the board available. It will be a great upgrade for the Gen III HEMI. In our testing so far we’ve been able to pick up about 40 horsepower with the new rocker arm system. This system is a true bolt-on, no removing the heads, no machining the heads.

 

MM: Well, if you were going to give us a tease, that was a good one.

 

Copeland: And truthfully, this isn’t even the one where people are going to say, “Oh my, God.” We’re working on every front. Every day we’re doing another project. We just did a Hellcat swap into a ’67 Belvedere. We developed a number of parts to support that; we’ll release those parts in the future. We’ve built three HEMI-powered Jeep Wranglers, a cammed 6.4L to a supercharged 6.4 to a supercharged 426, all in Wranglers. You’ll see us do more in this market, no doubt.

 

We’ll have all of the different products and parts to support all of the swap market. Pro Touring cars or retrofitting a Gen III HEMI into anything, you’ll see a lot of product from us there. Arrington’s main focus was the Gen III HEMI engine and they did a great job with that, arguably the best in the business there. They built great engines and they made a lot of great parts. We’re continuing all of that. And we’re looking for places to improve, to help solve other issues. The challenges people face, we’re out to solve them.

 

From a product standpoint, Arrington had about 35 outside manufacturers that they worked with. They focused on a very narrow spectrum in the market and they did a great job with that. But it was a focus on a narrow band. Diversified Creations has over 900 manufacturers that they work with and carry. We’ll bring a lot of those manufacturers into Arrington.

MM: Great. Look, we’re Mopar, we’re used to being last [when it comes to new product and existing product application]. We see new things at SEMA, PRI, and we ask if it’s available for Mopars. They tell us, “We’re coming out first with the Chevy part, and then the Ford and we’ll be ‘working’ on the Mopar. As an example, what you just talked about, the roller rockers. Seems like such a simple thing; we hate friction, roller rockers, should be available without extreme measures. People will come up to our car [the Maulin’ Magnum] at the races and ask why we don’t have this and that on our car. We have to say, because that’s easy to do on an LS, but not so easy to do on a Gen III HEMI. The parts aren’t there, the vendors aren’t there.

 

Copeland: Right. Yeah, there is some stuff out there [roller rocker solutions], TD and Jesel build them. But they require anywhere from a sizeable amount of machining to a ridiculous amount of machining to the cylinder heads. The intent of ours is to drop in with no machining required. The biggest problem with Arrington’s design was that to produce it took so much machining and was so expensive that the price point, the tradeoff of how much is it worth to have that, well, it was past that point. We’ve redesigned a few things and we’re making progress.

 

MM: So, is it fair to say that because of your work with Ford, Chevrolet, Lingenfelter, and with Diversified Creations, you’ve worked outside of the Mopar ‘bubble’ as it were, and are bringing in some ideas and perspective from that?

 

Copeland: Yes, and a step further, we have a relationship with [FCA] and Mopar, we work with them on projects. We’re designing parts and systems to areas where we see challenges and opportunities. We’ve been the only company in the world that has able to make the eight-speed transmission work behind a late model HEMI engine in a retro application. Whether it’s a Hellcat fuel system or an eight-speed transmission, there are many fronts where there are opportunities.

 

I want to make it so that Mopar fans don’t have to be in third place any more. I want Arrington to be the company that makes the products that deliver and focus on what they’re doing. We have some new camshaft profiles that we’ve completed for both naturally aspirated and boosted applications. They’re in stock right now. We’re adding to the inventory, actually huge expenditures. Our goal is to have product in stock, when people need it, when they want it.

 

MM: Anything else you want to tell our readers that we haven’t talked about?

 

Copeland: I want people to know that we’re standing behind the Arrington brand. People that were Arrington customers before didn’t get dumped when I bought the company. We’re taking care of people that were Arrington customers and we hope they’ll stay our customers in the future.

 

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We thank Mike for his time and for being so open with us. As fans of the Arrington brand, we’re happy to see the brand in competent and caring hands. We look forward to what the ‘new” Arrington is going to bring to the late model HEMI world as time unfolds. And Mike, we’re volunteering to review and test those new roller rockers on the dyno and at the track. Maggi is always excited to show our readers how pioneering new parts work in real world. 

 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Arrington Performance

Website: www.shopHEMI.com

Phone: 866-844-1245

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