Think about muscle cars and you think glossy paint, elegant curves, an engine that roars like a lion and Detroit, right?
Depends. For some people, the place to go for some of what keeps their heavy metal on the road isn’t the Motor City. It’s the Moshannon Valley.
UMI Performance has about 30 people on the payroll in its Rush Township facility, but that isn’t how it started.
Ryan Kirkwood kicked it all off on eBay. His dad owned Utmost Machine, and Kirkwood started making muscle-car parts in that shop and then selling them on the Internet auction site.
That was May 2003. In less than 10 years, his company grew to its own plant, its own employees and a roster of customers looking for good-quality parts.
“We sell worldwide,” product engineer Ramey Womer said. “In one week, we might send 90 percent of our orders to people around the United States, a few more percent to Canada, and then we send something to New Zealand or Cypress, or some other country you might not have heard of.”
Kirkwood’s first part turned into 10 different parts and then into about 100. The current list of parts produced support Ford and Chevrolet cars. The specialty is in muscle-car suspension and modern muscle suspension.
“What that means is, if you have a new car or an old car, we have good suspension parts for it,” Womer said.
The company also appreciates keeping the American-made aspect of an American automotive specialty.
“It’s nice to have something hometown made, with U.S. steel, and having it go all over the world,” Womer said. “Our claim to fame is building everything in hours and using U.S. materials.”
Moving forward, Kirkwood wants to focus on continuing to develop new products, but also to expand the number of platforms it supports. According to Womer, they hope to grow into building products for Dodge vehicles in the future.
UMI Performance is also focused on supporting the community.
For three years, the company has thrown an annual party in the form of a hugely popular cruise-in car show, inviting muscle car and other automotive enthusiasts to strut their stuff and share their polished, purring beauties with the crowd.
“It’s just a good way to come and show your car or come and see the cars people bring, just a time to show and have fun,” Womer said.