In January 1957 Wayne, my father, bought his first car magazine. It was an issue of Rod & Custom. Featured in that issue were Cadillac engines stuffed into a wide variety of early cars and trucks. The idea of putting newer, bigger engines into older, lighter cars and trucks is still as fascinating to him today as it was in 1957. Wayne still has that first car magazine he ever bought. He is living proof kids never grow up. They just get better toys.
In the early 2000s Ken, Wayne, and Kenny were working at the same air ride suspension manufacturing company. Wayne and Kenny were both working on their own Big Block Chevy projects at the time. Wayne was building a 454 for his ’79 four door dually and Kenny was doing a 396SS Chevelle. Both were encountering the same issue, upgrading their engines to a serpentine belt system was an obscenely expensive proposition. And they agreed, it shouldn’t be. They both had been to salvage yards looking for 90s BBC OEM brackets, but they just couldn’t find any. So, the idea was hatched to take Small Block OEM brackets and adapt them to the Big Block. Once the theory was proven sound with some crude mock up, Ken (the engineer) became heavily involved in the refining the design. Ken made the appropriate CAD drawings and put the design through FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and they commissioned a machine shop to make the parts.
All good stories have a twist and here it is. The machine shop informed them, because of the type of material being used (6061-T6 aluminum, which is a sheet good), the cost would be essentially the same to make 2 (one for Wayne and one for Kenny) as it would be to make 4 sets. That wasn’t a tough decision, other people were encountering the same problem. They both got their projects on the road and took the other two sets to the Ozarks Antique Auto Club Annual Swap Meet and promptly sold them. Ken, Wayne (including) Kenny Performance was born, KWiK Performance for short.
Wayne has long had a soft spot for BMWs, both the cars and motorcycles. With a 45 min one-way commute to work every day, an interesting vehicle was a necessity. His commuter at the time was a super clean 1987 BMW 535is dubbed the “Red Baron.” It was perfectly suited to the winding country roads of southwestern Missouri for a “spirited” drive to work.
An opportunity presented itself when this BMW grenaded its automatic transmission. Like the boy in 1957, Wayne was inspired to add some modern power in his vintage steel. Chevy LS swaps were all the rage, but at this time it was still a little like the wild west. There was a great deal that had to be learned the old-fashioned way. But, a trip to the salvage yard and an all-aluminum LS engine and transmission later it was full speed ahead – damn the torpedoes.
GM made a fantastic engine with the LS design, but they didn’t always put the accessories in the best location for engine-swapping hotrodders. The AC compressor is down in the frame rails, which doesn’t work on too many projects.
Kwik Performance developed an AC relocation bracket that moves the AC compressor up and out to the side of the cylinder head. We also switched from the OEM compressor to an aftermarket Sanden compressor. This solved the AC problem without having the unnecessary cost of replacing the water pump, balancer, and Alt/PS system that many “all-inclusive” front drive systems can require. It meant savings for us and that means savings for our customers.
Kwik Performance is a family owned and operated company. These are a couple of the genesis stories of Kwik Performance. Every product that we make and sell has a story that traces back to family and friends working on their own engine swap and needing a well-engineered, cost friendly solution to their project. Hot Rodding is our family business. So, let’s pour a glass, get out in the shop and build something. Welcome to the family.