This week, AAA released its annual report analyzing the annual cost per mile to operate a sedan in the U.S. It’s up 1.17 cents over last year to about $0.61 per mile. And apparently, the main reason for the increase is vehicle maintenance.
The report kind of makes you giggle after taking a trip to Fabspeed Motorsports in Fort Washington, which dubs itself as a performance manufacturing company. Average driving costs are up slightly over a penny per mile? Parsing the difference in cost between gas and maintenance?
Not here. Fabspeed is a place for people who think their Ferrari 458s and Porsche GT2s are underpowered.
The company sits in a discreet building in an office complex a couple miles from Philadelphia. Other than the company’s sign and a white 993 parked inside, driving by, you could mistake it for any other vanilla operation ... like a paper distributor, or something.
It all started with a Porsche … and a Ferrari.
Fabspeed general manager Alex Kononchuk said the company really got off the ground in 1992 when Fabspeed owner and Upper Dublin resident Joe Fabiani caught the racing bug.
“In the mid to late ’80s, [Fabiani] picked up his first Porsche, an early 911 Carrera, took it to a couple track events, enjoyed it and had fun,” Kononchuk said. “Then he picked up another Porsche, a 993.
“He got into that and started traveling across the country, Kononchuk continued. “He went to [Virginia International Raceway], Watkins Glen, and Porsche club events, and what happened was, he wanted to make the muffler better. There were only a few companies doing it then — B&B, Borla, and some others — he used them, and was not happy with the results. He said it lasted three or four track events and then it started having issues.”
Kononchuk said Fabiani had a racing buddy in New Jersey who had a muffler shop and asked him to make a custom exhaust. Fabiani mocked it up, took it to a track event and, as it turns out, everyone else wanted one.
So Fabspeed — like all great rock bands and software companies — started in a garage, Fabiani’s garage. It later grew to a building in nearby Ambler, and, in August, the business moved to its current 38,000-square-foot location.
After creating aftermarket parts for Porsches, Kononchuk said Fabiani bought the Ferrari he’s always wanted. Now the company creates and fabricates parts for Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, McLaren, Aston Martin, and, to a lesser extent, BMW M cars and Mercedes-Benz AMGs.
It’s a tight, niche market for Fabspeed, which has about three in-house engineers and about 15 fabricators. Most people who buy six-figure cars are happy with the intake and exhaust systems already fitted to them … and most people keep those cars in garages.
But for those people looking to add some extra sound and power to their English, German and Italian exotics, the marketplace is limited and many companies are overseas.
“The market’s tight,” Kononchuk said. “But there are only four to five really well known aftermarket companies for these cars. They do a nice job, but we’re known for our variety. We manufacture intakes and exhaust systems — everything from the engine back — for Porsches back to 1976 all the way to the newest 991s and the newest Ferraris. By the way, people love it when you show love to the old cars.”
Kononchuk was quick to say that there’s nothing wrong with Ferraris and Porsches out of the box, but he said they’re always tuned to be quiet to appeal to the masses, and they’re usually strangled with emissions equipment.
“Usually, every car that comes out of the factory is pretty quiet, because they have to comply with all the sound and environmental restrictions,” he said. “But with us, an aftermarket company … it’s like open game. We take the factory part and we say, ‘OK, we know we can improve the sound, by improving the flow of it, and, by changing certain designs in it, we can make more power — which goes hand-in-hand, if it’s done properly. “We don’t like to say, ‘Ferrari did a horrible job designing this car.’ No way! They did an unbelievable job, they’ve got to stay within the limits.”
Fabspeed keeps some of its more commonly ordered parts in stock — usually parts for Boxsters/Caymans. But if a new car hits the market, that could mean months of in-house R&D. Kononchuk said when Fabspeed develops a new part, the OEM factory parts are x-rayed, the car is put on a dyno for baseline readings, and then the part is then designed … and then three to four designs are tested to see which one yields the best power and sound. In-house, the company has a CNC mandrel bender, Dynojet Dynamometer and a waterjet.
Currently sitting in the Fabspeed garage bays are two yellow 355s, a red 964, a red 360 Modena, a DB9, a 911 GT2 RS (one of 500 in the country), a McLaren MP4-12C (in McLaren Orange) and a lowly Bentley Continental GT — all ready and waiting to be made a little bit better.
155 Commerce Drive, Fort Washington, Pa. 19034
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