May 13, 2008
Mazworx, a shop that rebuilds engines for racing, fabricates custom parts for racing upgrades, and works on compact cars to prepare them for racing, is also involved in racing. The belief is that it can build up its reputation for racing parts through appearances at NHRA sport compact races throughout the Southeast.
Mark Mazurowski is armed with his main tools during a business day: the cordless phone and a cup of 7-Eleven coffee. The phone keeps him in touch with the orders for engine rebuilding, custom racing part kits, and automobile upgrades; the coffee just keeps him going.
"I don't get anything done around here until 6 p.m.,"he said, laughing.
But such is the life of an entrepreneur, especially one that has a business dedicated to all aspects of sport compact racing.
Mazurowski's company, Mazworx, is now in its fourth year of operation. Three full-time employees, a part-timer, and Mazurowski work long hours in a 5,000-square-foot shop in Orlando, Fla., reworking engines so they are capable of handling more horsepower, retrofitting cars for racing, and fabricating parts for those endeavors as well as orders that come from all over the world.
Selling those parts is a big goal, according to Mazurowski. The company has sold about 120 kits over the last two years to people looking to squeeze more horsepower out of their Nissan compacts. If Mazworx is able to sell more parts, a consistent revenue stream is created, and perhaps everyone can ease up on the race schedule.
Oh, yeah. These guys don't just fabricate for other racers and would-be racers. They hit the track as well.
It's not too unlike the old NASCAR® saying, "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday."For Mazurowski, he knows he has to hit the National Hot Rod Association Sport Compact Drag Racing Series if he wants to build awareness for his products and business. If someone sees him shooting down a straightaway in his Nissan 240SX look-lalike, pushing his tachometer to the red line with each shift, and not blowing up his transmission with a strong finish, that someone might want to know just what is under the hood. He also might want to purchase what he sees under the hood.
"Racing is advertising,"Mazurowski said. "It looks like a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work too."
First, the schedule can be a killer. The 14-race season began in April, and the schedule gets hectic right off the start—six races in the first two months. And you just can't call in sick because Mazworx is not the only company interested in advertising itself.
"Sponsors are expected to see you at the next race. They are paying for advertising services,"Mazurowski said. There's no calling in sick in racing.
Second, the race preparation can be a killer. The shop has to prepare the car, which means final assembly, such as installing wire harnesses; last-minute motor work; and fabricating spare parts for all of the just-in-case nightmares that can happen when you are pushing a vehicle past its designers' original intentions.
So here's the rundown: Travel to race site, usually somewhere in the southeast U.S.; race car; travel back to Orlando; spend close to 24-hour days in the early part of the week making repairs and preparing for the next race; and work on Mazworx projects until the team is ready to head off to the next race.
This year's racing season is especially nervewracking in that Mazworx fabricated its car from the ground up, starting with a 2005 Nissan S15 Silvia® shell. The Silvia, complete with a right-side steering wheel because it's available only in Japan, is similar in looks to the Nissan 240SX model that was sold in the U.S. until 1998. Last year Mazurowski raced a factory car with all sorts of modifications, like many of the upgrades he makes for customers at his Orlando shop.
Why does a kid who grew up wanting to own customized Novas® and Chevelles® choose to work on Nissans? Blame the Marine Corps.
When Mazurowski joined the Marines in 1996, they asked him where he wanted to go. He said Japan sounded good.
When he got there, he said it was another world. Everything was really foreign, including the car technology.
Luckily, working as a machinist for the Marine Corps gave him the opportunity to dive into the garage culture. In many instances, his fellow Marines in the machine shop where his guides.
"These cars were something that you've never seen before,"he said. "And once you are excited, you just jump into it."
When he finished his commitment, Mazurowski went back to Florida and spent time going to school and working as a machinist. One stop in 2001 found him working for a race shop that specialized in prepping Toyota Supra® cars for drag racing.
Around 2003 he was growing restless, and his wife, Kathy, encouraged him to open his own fab shop. He knew a need existed that he could fill after racing his Nissan 240SX since 2001.
"One of the biggest problems with the Nissan 240SX is broken transmissions,"Mazurowski said.
That sort of thing happens when factory-built four bangers were being pushed past the 260-HP limit of the original engine design. In fact, that led to Mazurowski's first adapter kit—fabricated parts that allow a transmission designed for a Nissan six-cylinder to be installed on a Nissan four-cylinder engine. When Mazworx is done with its modifications, some of these engines are capable of delivering 1,300 HP.
Mazworx opened in 2004, and after a short lull during which the shop took any jobs it could—including a government contract to fabricate buoys—it is now dedicated to automotive work and fabrication of parts. Despite the business meeting all of his original expectations, the 30-year-old Mazurowski is still appreciative of the stakes involved.
"When you lose a race, you lose a race. When you are in business, everything is on the line,"he said.
With those high stakes, Mazurowski is developing a solid game plan:
He has brought in an investor who now owns the racing team. The investor has deeper pockets and allows the team to make needed investments—such as a $3,500 piece of equipment for resurfacing clutches—without waiting for business to generate enough revenue.
Not only has he given up the role of team owner, but he also has retired from driving. Shop foreman Jason Greenawalt has taken over driving, and Mazurowski is now a full-time crew chief. "My position—I know the car better than anyone else,"he said.
Equipment investments have made in-house machining and fabrication possible, eliminating the need to coordinate some outsourcing and actually cutting lead-times for projects in general. A three-axis mill allows the shop to apply holes to engine blocks for new bolting patterns or to new rims for the race tires in a matter of minutes, and a plasma cutting table enables Mazworx to cut parts that used to be outsourced to a laser cutting shop.
"I look at the bigger business,"Mazurowski said. "I want to get to the point where it's all organized, and people have their own specific jobs, like at Orange County Choppers."
That's a pretty big plan, but small plans don't make for successful businesses or race teams.
In the meantime, Mazurowski interrupts the interview to take a phone call. Someone wants to know if it's possible to put a transmission designed for a twin-turbo engine on a Nissan four banger. Mazurowski reminds the caller of the difficult nature of the job, but he relents that it's possible.
Time for another cup of coffee.
The FABRICATOR® is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971. Print subscriptions are free to qualified persons in North America involved in metal forming and fabricating.