Customer Spotlight: Munssey Speed & Design
Automotive specialty products have become big business. According to the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA), overall retail sales for this niche—which includes automotive, truck and SUV, power sports, and RV markets—reached more than $33 billion in 2013.
That’s a lot of revenue—and evidence that vehicle owners are seeking the aftermarket bells and whistles that will give their ride a performance edge, or simply accommodate their own unique set of needs and desires. So, how do you introduce potentially white-hot products to this hungry market? SEMA’s solution: sponsor one of the biggest shows on earth, every year, in—where else?—Las Vegas, Nevada.
The SEMA show is billed to be the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to the Vegas Convention Center each year, attracting nearly 100,000 industry leaders from around the globe. Many consider it to be something of a Disneyland for the aftermarket enthusiast. And those who come to the SEMA event come to show-off, to gawk, to buy and sell, to attend demos and, most importantly, to network.
That’s where Munssey Speed & Design got our attention this past fall. They tagged us in an Instagram photo from the 2014 SEMA show floor: a couple of very happy guys standing with a C-10R Chevy racing truck featuring one, sweet-looking carbon fiber hood. One of those guys was Rob Philips, of PCHrods, owner of the truck. The other was Jeff Martin, Chief Designer at Munssey Speed & Design out of southern California—the fabricator responsible for that carbon fiber hood. That carbon fiber was, in fact, from FibreGlast.com, our most popular twill weave carbon fabric. So we called Munssey to see where else they were using our product—and that got the conversation started.
“All front-facing carbon fiber on our projects comes from FibreGlast.com. You can get a variety of the fabric from other companies, but carbon fiber from Fibre Glast is the very best for cosmetics, hands down,” said Martin.
Munssey Speed & Design is a fabrication shop based in southern California, specializing in custom carbon fiber and fiberglass bodywork. Chief Designer at Munssey, Jeff Martin, describes the shop as an “oddball, custom composite company”—oddball only because Munssey takes a very unique approach to the projects that it targets.
“When everyone else is looking at the Chevy Camaro, for example, I’m looking at what I can do with a 60s-era Ford Falcon,” said designer Martin. He drew an interesting parallel, based on the geographical nature of his business: “When it comes to aftermarket work, everyone wants to start with the wheels on a car. Wheels are like shoes. Out here in Los Angeles, people will build an entire outfit based on their shoes. And while everyone else is looking at shoes and talking about wheels, I’m thinking oddball, of course, like front bumpers. Think of it like another L.A. phenomena: plastic surgery. Your shoes are great, but putting a new front bumper on a car is like getting a nose job. Change what’s right up front and you can change the entire look of the car.”
For Munssey, this is where form meets function and why, according to Martin, composites suit the specialty automotive equipment market so well. “There are a lot of vehicles out there with beastly horsepower, but they have a 100-pound front bumper weighing them down. They need to shed the weight and composites are a good place to begin,” he noted. “Rendering artists are also now drawing these fantastic possibilities for body work. Car owners find these designs, want them, and take them to metal workers who can’t reproduce the part. Composites solve the issue. The possibilities are almost endless.”
Munssey got its start solving problems just like this for clients with off-road vehicles who were looking to shed vehicle weight. “I started with metal and then tried my hand at fabricating with fiberglass. When you don’t know that you don’t know how to do it, blind ignorance can give birth to the craft. I got help from a neighbor. I started using the video archives [available on the Learning Center] at FibreGlast.com, my techniques improved, and I moved on to carbon fiber. That’s how it all began,” said Martin.
“Once I’d completed the first piece, I posted pics on the internet (guys like to brag a little). Other guys started asking me for advice, then asking for my help on projects, then asking me to complete the projects. Munssey started rolling.”
In addition to the carbon fiber hood for PCHrods, you can see some of Munssey’s other work featured on its website (munsseyspeedanddesign.com). Martin, himself, is a fan of the vintage Ford Falcon, so you’ll see some featured bumper and apron options for that model. And he’s always exploring the options. He employs mold-making and vacuum bagging techniques, and has become a skilled fabricator with fiberglass and, of course, carbon fiber.
Ultimately, Martin is fan of the automobile itself, with a certain fascination for its form, beauty, and performance. Fabricating composites is a way to keep them in the spotlight, a form of “icing on the cake.” With regard to his own craftsmanship, he noted: “I hope someone else sees my work—or watches the videos [at FibreGlast.com] and will be inspired to try it…just like I did. It’s the only way to keep the fire lit, to keep hot rods alive.”
For now, Martin is doing his part on behalf of Munssey Speed & Design…with “The Orange Card.” It’s a movement of sorts, a way to spread the hot rod philosophy of Munssey Speed. He explains The Orange Card in two parts.
It begins with a compliment and, of course, a Ford Falcon. “When I got my own Falcon, I wanted to drive it for about a year before I started changing it. I wanted to get to know its personality first. I took it to run errands one day and, when I came back to where I’d parked it at one point, someone had left a handwritten note complimenting my car. I remembered that. Everyone likes to get compliments. That was part one.
“Part two. When I first started attending SEMA and other shows, everyone wanted my business card. I didn’t feel a need for cards, I didn’t want to waste the paper. But I started thinking creatively about how I could make something work. I remembered that note on my Falcon windshield.” The Orange Card was born.
“Nice Ride! Just wanted to say we like your style. Thank you for keeping the celebration of automobiles alive.”
Think bright orange business card with this printed on the front, stuck in the window of your car. This is “The Orange Card”—the signature calling card of the folks at Munssey Speed & Design. If you’re ever parked in southern California, you might catch Martin’s eye and receive one—particularly if you’ve molded some custom carbon fiber body parts onto your vintage frame. And just in case you’re reading this from frosty Wisconsin or the deep South, no worries. Munssey likes to share “#theorangecard” finds with followers on their blog and Instagram, so that fans all over can enjoy and comment. You don’t want to miss it.
Besides continued Orange Card love, I asked Martin what the future holds for Munssey Speed & Design: “More collaborations. We just enjoy putting creative juices in the bowl, mixing them up, and seeing what comes out. I don’t have much interest in mass production, but I’d rather be a part of contributing the smaller ideas and tweeks that make a big impact.”
He also mentioned that he’s got an upcoming Chevelle project and that he’s looking to build some aftermarket parts with carbon-Kevlar hybrids from Fibre Glast. We’ll stay tuned and, in the meantime, keep looking for more carbon fiber “wow” and an orange card on the windshield.