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L & R Automotive 2006

L & R Automotive 2006


Gone Racin’…to
L&R Engine Rebuilders

Vintage car collectors and hot rodders usually focus on events, races, and famous personalities and car models. They tend to ignore speed shops, garages and machine shops until they have a desperate need for the services that these places provide. Even automotive historians tend to overlook the great importance of these shops to our car culture. For any car enthusiast to understand why the car scene is so interesting and vibrant, skip a few shows and head to the nearest garages, for here are the universities where the experts are creating their art.
Roger Rohrdanz and I recently visited L&R Automotive in Santa Fe Springs, California. This is a family business founded by Larkin Ranney, and his wife Robbie, in 1976. Larkin left the Marine Corp in 1962 and went to work for Piston Supply Company. He honed his skills and eventually became the parts manager for five regional warehouses for Piston Supply. Larkin’s vision was to create a family business founded on quality and service. With his wife, sons Brent and Derek, grandson Derek, Jr, and 15 employees, L&R Automotive is well on its way to making an important impact on the engine rebuilding market. Derek Ranney, the foreman and general manager, showed us around the shop. The first thing that you notice about L&R is how friendly and courteous everyone is toward you and their willingness to answer all your questions. There seems to be a compulsion for neatness and cleanliness. Machinery of all description were in orderly rows. Engine blocks, equipment and supplies completely filled this large building, but they were neatly and symmetrically placed. Derek pointed out the work being performed for customers and then pointed to another area where they have stored nearly 200 engine blocks which L&R owns and keeps on hand as inventory for any emergency. Sixty percent of their business comes from garages, and the remaining forty percent from individuals. They can repair and service most blocks within three to five working days and guarantee their work for 12 months or 12,000 miles, although Derek was quick to point out that L&R tries to be very flexible in their policies. He pointed out the work they were doing on a 1937 Packard straight 8 block. There were Ford’s, small and large block Chevy’s, Buick’s and a wide selection of domestic and foreign engines on hand.
Jim Clark, L&R’s sales representative, explained that one of the strengths of the company, is Larkin’s ability to find and hire the best engine porters, rebuilders and welders, and create an efficient team. For a machine shop, L&R is remarkably quiet. Each employee concentrates on their task and there is a smooth transition as the block goes through stages of repair. Even my poking and prying didn’t interrupt Bob Jones as he polished a head, nor did Dave Hahn cease his work assembling the engine that he was working on. There is a lot of experience and loyalty here. These men take pride in their work and it shows up, not only in the product that they put out, but also in the fact that they stay together as a team.
  Brent Ranney is in charge of the Head department and he came over to show us some of the equipment in the shop. Kwik-Way provided the Wet Grinder and the Fly Wheel Surfacer. Winona Van Norman provided the Head Surfacers and Cylinder Head Seat and Guide Machine. There was the Blockmaster 85-B, Serdi S/4.0 Seat Cutter, Pro-Bal Balancing machine and Jet Wash hot tanks (chemical). Other machinery in the shop included a Sunnen Line Hole machine, Power Stroke Cylinder Hone 092, Roettler Boring Fixture, Sunnen Connecting Rod sizer, and various drills and boring machines. There was a Bayco oven that burns the carbon on the cylinder heads to ash, and then the heads are placed in the Steel-Abrader, where minute steel ball bearings knock off the carbon ash residue from the heads.

Derek introduced us to his boreman, Jesus Esteves, who has been with them for 15 years, Felipe Cabrera who has worked there for six years, and Robert Peru, who is L&R’s master welder. Jim Clark is working on new computer website and marketing strategies to increase the share of their business among the vintage, antique, performance and hot rodding communities. Their wide range of experience and knowledge in engine rebuilding is drawing more custom work. Derek went on to add that there are engine rebuilders who offer cheaper deals and that L&R doesn’t want to follow that market. They offer quality, service and experience and seek to fill that niche of the market. Even the way they deliver the engine and parts speaks of their commitment to customer satisfaction. They offer free local delivery, and use only direct delivery through trucking firms, such as Bullet Freight, though they are next door to a railroad spur. For $100-150, which is the maximum shipping cost per engine, nationwide, says Derek, they can have a rebuilt engine at their customer’s garage. They sell and use only quality parts, including, J&E, Iskenderian, Elgin, Melling and Competition, and other name brands as well.
L&R does business with a number of garages and performance enhancing shops. They handle marine and boat engines and pointed out the extra difficulty cause by sea water. Truck, cars and even fork lift engines each present their own special problems. I was amazed at how many racers do business with them, but was sworn to secrecy by Derek, as there is an honor code at this company to respect the privacy of those who bring them their engines. L&R can be summarized in two words; Larkin Ranney. This friendly, courteous ex-marine is the heart and soul and vision of L&R Automotive. He has controlled the growth of his company and trained his employees, and especially his sons, to put the needs of their customers ahead of all other concerns. He has delegated authority to others but he has never relinquished control over the paramount purposes of his company; quality, reliability and service. This is a company that is dependable and consistent. Patient to a fault, if they can’t give you what you want, they will recommend someone to you that will help you solve your engine problems.
Gone Racin’ is at