Scat Enterprises, Inc. Tom Lieb’s Take on the American Dream

Bookmark and Share

        Tom Lieb

Let it be known, whether you buy a hard part or vehicle seat from Scat, you’re doing business with Tom Lieb, a certified car guy, not some faceless multinational conglomerate, churning out everything from door knobs to toilet seats.

Since the mid ’50s, Lieb’s had close to 400 cars. Today he counts 20 in his possession, including an outstanding ’29 Ford Highboy roadster on ’32 rails, which he’s owned since high school. In 2010 it won the highly competitive Street Roadster Class at the prestigious National Roadster Show (formerly the Oakland Roadster Show). If you want something more upscale, he’s also won the Vintage Class at world-renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance three times with three different vehicles. Not too shabby!

Before you get your nose out of joint, this guy’s no silver spooner. Lieb’s just a SoCal kid from a large middle class family who was an entrepreneur at a young age. In the early-’50s he was cutting grass with an old push mower, but had his eye on a gas model, so he could increase business. He made a deal with a neighborhood gardener to repair one of his gas mowers, a task which he successfully completed. He soon discovered there was more money to be made repairing broken gas engines, including his friends’ Whizzer motorbikes.

At 15 he was working at a neighborhood Flying A gas station, now repairing his friends’ cars on the side. The core of auto repair in general and hot rodding in particular in the ’50s and ’60s was used parts, few could afford the luxury of new equipment.

Sections of the Los Angeles area were home to acres of wrecking yards. Tom developed a relationship with the yard owners and regularly scoured their properties for needed parts. L.A. was also home to several large engine remanufacturing facilities, including Montgomery Ward. He developed relationships with these companies and became one of their main suppliers of used parts for their rebuilding programs.

After graduating from high school in ’58, he bought a used Ford Ranchero pickup and rented a portion of the family garage for his growing automotive business ventures. The steady flow of cash allowed him to attend college in addition to running the business.

His customer base grew to encompass speed equipment manufacturers, including Isky and Racer Brown, who bought used cams to be reground. All the SoCal-based Performance transmission builders: C&O, Hydro Motive and B&M and a couple more, all had standing orders for used hydromantic transmissions and converters; the Spar brothers at B&M were good for 20 a week.

One of Lieb’s early major successes was making a connection with a Buffalo, New York, wrecking yard owner who had a contract with the state of New York for recycling state vehicles, including Dodge pickups, which were powered by 392 Hemis. Through this source he became one of the major West Coast Hemi engine suppliers, providing long-blocks for, among others, Ed Pink, Keith Black, Surfers and Tom Sparks.

The VW portion of Lieb’s business began in the early ’60s as Beetles became a big seller in the U.S. His engine remanufacturing clients expanded to include that market. Through the ties he nurtured with VW of America and the wrecking yards, he expanded into supplying VW parts. He also had the foresight to see the VW’s performance potential. In just a few years he’d become the first distributor for EMPI, who, at its peak in the ’60s and ’70s, produced some of the most sought after VW parts and accessories. Remember the EMPI Inch Pincher VW gasser?

By the time he graduated from college in ’64 Lieb was making more than $1,000 a month, big money for that time. In short order that year, Scat Enterprises was officially born and relocated from the family garage to a rental in Inglewood, California, which now included his newly formulated speed shop. More and more hardcore manufacturing equipment began showing up, including a crankshaft grinder and balancer. Soon the “crank shop” became part of his performance business, which supplied cranks to major performance crankshaft companies throughout the country. In ’73 Lieb expanded operations with the purchase of the well-respected Crankshaft Company.

In ’75 he built the facility where Scat is now located. The fabled Vic Edelbrock also owned a construction company and was responsible for the project.

Through the years Lieb became friends with Mose Nowland, who had been a key player in Ford performance engine development since the early-’60s; before retiring, his final project was John Force’s Ford nitro Hemi engine.

In ’80, when Ford “officially” returned to motorsports, Nowland recruited Lieb to build cranks for Ford’s race engines. But in order to take on the job he needed to purchase a crankshaft milling machine costing three quarters of a million dollars, quite a sizeable capital outlay. But the investment paid off handsomely. The newly acquired machinery allowed Scat to turn a 400-pound piece of metal into a 65-pound crankshaft much quicker and more accurately than the competition. For the next 15 years Scat provided crankshafts for all of the performance crankshaft companies. They sent their raw forgings or billet material to Scat where Lieb’s crew would bring the cranks through two thirds of the process and send them back for finishing. Scat also developed into a private label manufacturer, building cranks that were repackaged and sold under other company’s names.

Scat’s Ford connection developed into relationships with all of the major domestic and Japanese automobile manufacturers. It became the go-to company for pre-production crankshaft development, including the LS Chevy, Dodge Viper and Ford V-10 pickup engines. One of the most interesting projects was a straight eight-cylinder engine developed for Chrysler’s two-seater Crossfire sports coupe. Unfortunately it didn’t see production.

In the ’80s, for a variety of reasons, the forging houses, those producers of steel castings and forgings in the U.S., started closing down. Crankshaft manufacturers began scrambling for new sources. Scat turned to British Steel for billet, and as the rest of the industry did, to China for castings and forgings. Without China the performance crankshaft industry would virtually have been out of business.

Reams of articles have been written on the pros and cons of the “China Connection,” but Lieb maintains China is home to the most modern facilities in the world and excellent steel mills, noting most of the manufacturing equipment and training comes from America and Europe. The key is to control the entire process. For the past 30 years he’s made regular visits to his Chinese suppliers, constantly evaluating all of the steps in the manufacturing process. And perhaps the most crucial steps in the manufacture of crankshafts, the finishing processes, are all done at Scat’s facilities in Southern California.

The Scat operation, utilizing the most modern, high tech equipment available, employing cutting-edge design and product control, manufactures a wide variety of crankshafts. They’re available in billet, forged or cast designs, for almost every Big Three engine: Chevy and Ford small- and big-blocks, Pontiac, Chrysler (including early and late Hemis), Ford Flatheads, As and Ts, foreign, sport compacts and VWs.

Scat also uses its equipment, talent and materials to create custom-forged and billet cranks for almost any application. All race cranks are nitrided.

Attached to those cranks, Scat also produces connecting rods featuring the same high quality materials and craftsmanship that is featured in its cranks. The rods are made from two-piece chrome-moly steel forgings in I- and H-beam designs for a wide variety of Big Three and foreign engines and applications.

Additionally, Scat is a one-stop source for rotating assemblies available for more than a thousand GM, Ford and Mopar applications.

Tom Lieb has seen his dream grow from literally a backyard operation to the current 42,000-sq-ft facility, using the finest equipment and design techniques available. Even though much has changed, he’s still a hot rodder at heart, with the desire and focus to provide the best product possible.

Scat Goes Racing

Since he was a kid, Tom Lieb has loved midget racing. In the mid-’70s this class was dominated by 200-hp Chevy II-based engines. His familiarity with performance VWs led him to believe they’d make great midget race engines.

He teamed up with SoCal legend Red Caurthers to build a new-from-the-ground-up designed midget to house the air-cooled alky-powered engine. It was driven by hot shoe Bobby Olivero. Lieb’s intuition was correct, and a winner was born.

Business for the VW-designed engine soared from ’79 through ’82, and this design dominated until the mid-’80s. The VWs eventually starting making so much power, the stock engine cases and heads couldn’t take the pressure, necessitating Scat to begin manufacturing aftermarket VW aluminum cases and heads.

The VW-engined midgets dominated the USAC series from ’79 through ’85, until Cosworth and GM finessed their way into the series with their Iron Duke. All was not lost for Scat, since it provided cranks for both engine programs.

After sitting on the sidelines for a few years, Scat jumped back into the USAC Midget fray with a truly unique engine. Mickey Thompson had seen to the construction of aluminum Chevy small-block-type engines for his ’63 assault on the Indianapolis 500. Later, Milodon acquired the patterns and eventually they became the property of Scat. For several years in the mid-’80s, Scat produced the aluminum engines primarily for the sprint car market, until turning its attentions more fully to the crankshaft business, but it held onto all of the manufacturing processes.

Lieb reasoned that a V-4, basically the rear half of his aluminum Chevy block, would be just the ticket to up the ante in midget racing. It held many advantages over the dominating straight fours, including engine weight and weight distribution in the chassis. Many existing V-8 Chevy parts could be used, which was also a pro.

The engine debuted in a brand-new, untested race car at Ascot Speedway’s final race in November ’90 and was an immediate success. From ’90 through ’96, 350 of the V-4s were produced. Their race win record was very impressive, including a handful racked up by a young Tony Stewart. Once again, Lieb elected to turn his full attention to Scat’s core business—crankshafts—and his mighty mite V-4s were relegated to an illustrious chapter of USAC Midget history.

Take a Seat

Scat’s love affair with VWs led to its very successful Procar Custom Seating Systems. In the ’60s Lieb wanted to create a complete package, including seats, for those wishing to redo their V-Dub’s tattered interiors. This led him to VW of Brazil, the German parent company’s South American subsidiary. The Brazilians had been building a sports car for native consumption, and the seats they manufactured were a perfect replacement for American Bugs. Scat came to an agreement with the Brazilian operation and was in the seat business.

Today Procar’s seats are manufactured by a company affiliated with Subaru. The frames, foam and upholstery used are all manufactured to stringent Original Equipment standards. One of the key components is the seat foam: It’s high density, injection molded, automotive (not furniture) grade, ensuring years of comfort and superior wear.

If you’re looking to replace the seats in your street rod, cruiser, pony car, muscle car, jeep, off-road buggy, truck or sport compact, Procar has a model perfect for your needs. One of the keys to a proper vehicle fit is the seat adapter. More than 3,000 are available, so no matter what you’re driving, you’ll be able to plant your rear in a Procar seat.

Scat Enterprises
Four hundred pounds of steel about to be turned into a 65-pound Scat custom crankshaft.

Scat Enterprises

Cranks awaiting their next step in the Scat precision finishing process.

Scat Enterprises
A trail of detailed paperwork follows every Scat crank. Each order is carefully monitored. Pls. place this photo with the crankshaft on the bottom.

Scat Enterprises
Vintage Bugatti Type 57 cranks (at $15,000 each) awaiting Scat’s craftsmanship.

Scat Enterprises
Scat connecting rod on honing machine. Diamonds instead of stones are used for the process; they’re more expensive but they create a better finished product.

Scat Enterprises
High tech computer design ensures a high quality finished product. Pls. crop right and left of photo to take out unnecessary items.

Scat Enterprises
Tom Lieb’s award-winning ’29 Ford roadster. Not a trailer queen, Tom regularly drives this beauty. He’s had it since high school.

Scat Enterprises
Scat’s revolutionary and highly successful aluminum V-4 USAC Midget engine.
Pls. note, if possible place by Sidebar 1

Scat Enterprises
Scat’s Procar Custom Seating Systems Elite Lumbar model is one of many designs available. Custom seat adapters allow for placement in almost every vehicle.

Text by Pete Ward and Photos by Pete Ward and Courtesy of Scat Enterprises

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>