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Machine shops a Dying breed

3467 Views 44 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  kso
Does anyone care that most Mom and Pop Machine shops are disappearing?

Las Vegas has lost many in the last few years, No one is taking over for these Old timers Sad really.

I am not looking forward to the day when I need something machined and have to ship my stuff hope I never see that day.
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Ok. 5 reasons below.

First reason is that the modern engine can't be machined/sleeved or it is more cost preventive to buy a new block/shortblock.

Second reason is that most junk since the 90's is designed to run for 10 years and be crushed. You have things like thin frames/unibodies, "never need to be serviced" transmissions, and just ton of plastic failure prone parts that will send that thing to be crushed far before the engine needs to be machined.

Third is the cost and space required to run a old school shop. Even a well organized setup is going to take up around a 20x20-30 space. You need to set all those blocks somewhere. You need the power required and unless you have the contracts it is a big gamble how long till/if you see a profit.
Then you have things like foam structured 3d printed metal right around the corner(getting cheaper). This combined with 3d cnc machining allows for limitless options as far as blocks are concerned. Want a 16 cylinder auto union engine from the 30's or a v4 engine for your triumph? Stuff is crazy expensive currently. But the prices are coming down allowing much more then just a old school engine machine shop can do for a similar investment while using less floor space.


Forth reason is all the junk cams, lifters, electronic parts, variances in tolerences in things like rocker springs, and just "made cheaper" stuff that if you/the person putting your engine together is not comparing the old to the new to check if the new stuff is hardened etc the new stuff can go in and wear out or destroy that engine in a short time.


Last reason is that it often is cheaper to get a good used engine then build one. I am stockpiling LM7's currently and will be for several years.

I could build one LM7 have the thing all machined for new bearings and get a few goodies added along the way bumping up the compression to make it a 100,000 mile engine capable of 550hp on e85. Cost me around $3500 and 3 months downtime most days of the week.

OR

I can run one $350 180k engine for 20,000 miles pushing that thing to 550hp with a bit of boost until a ring closes or rocker explodes then grab another $350 engine and after a weekend/week to gapping the rings and slapping on some new gaskets be back to driving the thing.

I am choosing the 2nd much cheaper, much faster, less need to baby the engine option. Most people choose this option or a crate engine then building a engine.
 

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There are specific tools for boring, milling, plaining meant and designed just for machining engine blocks. Then there are tools that will do other things that may be more profitable.

If I threw 50k in your lap and said "Build me a shop on this property, fill it with equipment, and I want to see a profit in 3 years with a minimal 50k in profit each year after that 3 year point for the next 15 years". Would you invest in equipment that would only do engine blocks or invest in equipment that had a wider range of applications?

The guys that have the 60-80's equipment and setup already with everything paid off have more work then they can handle. But for someone looking to start up a shop from scratch today even with used equipment they are going to have second guesses about what the future holds and if the investment is better spent on different equipment.
 
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