Inside GM Performance Parts – An interview with Dr. Jamie Meyer
Dr. Jamie Meyer has a fairly rich history in the automotive aftermarket, but it was an unconventional path for the long time automotive gear head to his current marketing position at GM Performance Parts. Meyer began his career wrapped in the folds of the blue oval, as a Mustang enthusiast, an announcer for the NMRA Drag Racing Series, and author for 5.0 Mustang Magazine. However, always aware of the prestige of General Motors, and the power and potential of the LS-engine platform, when the opportunity came to join the GM Performance Team, it was hardly a difficult decision.
Meyer and his fellow team members at GM Performance Parts have worked hand-in-hand to make GMPP a “major” player in the LSX aftermarket world. Their hard work has paid off. Between the LSX Shootout, L92 cylinder heads, and LSX block — a parade of hits has put the General back on the map to the true enthusiast.
You can certainly make the case that GM Performance Parts was slow coming to the LS party. Was the LSX block long over due? Should they have been fighting for a stronger drag racing presence sooner? It’s fair to be a little critical at how GM has been in the past, but that has all been changing. We visited the GMPP website and found aproject cars section. Thumbing through the selection there is certainly a bias toward LSX performance with four hot cars. The first eye catcher is the bright yellow GTO, outfitted with an LS7. Is GM staking it’s claim as the top player in the market? Is this just the beginning?
So, here at powerTV, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Meyer, one of the mangers with some serious input within GMPP, to ask him about GM Performance’s current and future LSX products and development.
Did you ever imagine your hobby of Ford Mustang racing would lead itself to a powerful position within GM Performance?
I was announcing for the NMRA on the weekends and writing for different magazines at night. Meanwhile I was doing cardiovascular research at the University of Cincinnati. I was offered a freelance gig to write the GM Performance Parts Catalog in 2006. I had a great experience and they offered me what is really a dream job to come and help GMPP sell crate engines and build fast cars.
What is it like working inside GM, helping to produce the future of the LSX engine for high performance?
For me personally to be involved with GM performance Parts it’s been just an amazing experience, because this company is coming right along with GM as we transform the auto industry. Enthusiast are going to buy performance cars, they are going to want to enjoy driving great vehicles. GM is certainly offering that and GM Performance Parts is right along trying to help hardcore enthusiast get the most the enjoyment they can out of their vehicles.
After the success of last years LSX shootout, why not more LSX events in 2008?
The LSX shootout was a complete success from our point of view. We really didn’t know what we were going to get into with a brand new event. We knew there were a lot of people living on the internet that wanted to race, or little pockets of experts that raced all over the country. For us the biggest success was just the turn out, and the fact that we had 15,000 people that wanted to come out and watch 130 racers go down the track and the quality of the cars at the LSX shootout was amazing. There was some very, very nice equipment.
So why isn’t GM sponsoring a full LSX shootout series in 2008?
I think that is a very fair question but we still feel that the LSX community is young in terms of experience. We didn’t want to go overboard and sponsor a big massive series where you had people maxing out credit cards to travel around the country for 5 to 7 events, we wanted to gradually get them into that. Then the other thing we have coming is this amazing 2010 Camaro and we want to make sure there is a nice solid home for people to race that car. So your going to see one more LSX shootout in 2008 and then ask me this question again a month after that show, and I will tell you what were going to do in 2009.
So what kind of ET do you think it will take to win the heads-up LSX classes this year?
We had mid 7’s to high 7’s on drag radials, I don’t think you’ll see guys go low 7’s but I think you’ll have probably twice the field in the mid to high 7 second range. You know what I saw from Tommy Kempf is a great driver can still overcome a performance disadvantage. So I think your going to see much sharper driving and that’s no knock against Paul Major it’s just that Tommy was clearly a better driver that day. I think you’ll see better drivers and you’ll see very consistent 7.50’s to 7.70’s to win the drag radial class. Heads up guys that are in the all motor class I think you’ll see those guys solidly in the 8’s, I think they’ll learn a lot from the pro stock ranks at NMCA and some of the Hot Street cars in the NMCA. So I see all motor cars in the 8’s no problem this year.
Do you think it’s time for the NMCA to do a heads up version of the Late model shootout?
Will we see a heads up class for Challenger, Mustang and Camaro? You guys certainly aren’t the first ones to ask me that. I think the interest is there, of course it’s all going to come down to a rule book that make sense for all of the brands. There are not so secret meetings going on between the big three about what we are going to do with these pony cars and where were going to race them in the future. Personally I’d love to see a heads-up series that would allow enthusiasts from each brand to come out and crack it off against each other.
What is GM’s involvement with Uncle Robin and Nova this year?
For 2009 GMPP is involved with Uncle Robin again, we had great success in 2007. Now if you were watching from the performance of the car you may not realize that, he had a few good runs, he didn’t run the whole season like we had expected but behind the scenes, the research and development with the LSX platform was amazing. It put us ahead several years so it was very fruitful in that sense. This year we have kind of scaled back his racing requirements, you are going to see him doing a lot more R&D, you will see that car running at some select events but we have got a lot of things in store for Uncle Robin this year.
Why didn’t Robin utilize fuel injection and distributorless ignition on the Nova?
We have had a lot of people ask us about the combination that Robin runs and why we went with that set-up with a carburetor and nitrous as opposed to fuel injected and power adders (boosting device). The answer is that there are a lot of baby boomers out there that still worship the small block Chevy, they’re not comfortable yet with the LS platform. Robin does a real good job, himself being a baby boomer in his mid 50’s to late 50’s and embracing that technology. We felt with a carburetor and nitrous, more people would understand what’s going on and really take some of those lessons learned and apply it to what they are doing at home.
How committed is GMPP to the future of actually making parts and products for the LSX community?
I would say that GM Performance Parts is extremely committed to the LSX community, there is no question about it. That is our future at GM and we want those folks to have all of the toys they can dream of to put on their cars. I think that the LSX shootout was the start of us reaching out to that community. You’ll also see us involved on different message forums, and you’ll see areas of our own website dedicated to the LSX lifestyle. That’s our future, were going to be there.
What does the LSX block mean for GMPP?
The LSX block is really the foundation of a lot of things to come. You know we started with a block, an affordable block that brought race car technology to the sportsman level drag racer or street car performance enthusiast. For us it becomes a foundation for a lot of crate engines we look forward to launching. We’ve got some exciting things coming with the LSX block itself; we revealed a tall deck version at SEMA 2007. Then we also have an aluminum version that’s in the works. Now that’s quite aways off so I don’t want people to get too excited about that. Were still getting use to the standard deck LSX block and some of the applications, but that block becomes the foundation for an entire new family of LSX crate engines and you’re going to start seeing those at SEMA 2008.
So what will the new boosted LS engines mean to GMPP?
We are just as excited as the everyday car enthusiast about the LSA, which has been announced to be in the new CTS-V, and the LS-9 which is coming out in the amazing ZR-1 Corvette. We will have both of those as crate engines, we are developing stage kits for both of those things as if 625 horsepower isn’t enough. We are very excited about that and I will leave you with I’d love to see some of the top end components on an LSX bottom end that could take a lot more boost. So yes, we are very excited about those components and the enthusiasts out there should be to.
Ford Racing and Mopar seem to offer a greater variety of products for late model vehicles. Is GMPP planning to offer more non-powertrain products?
So there is a question out there about how much vehicle based performance GM performance does. Typically we are a crate engine and engine parts company. Our teammates down at GM performance division though have done a spectacular job of integrating powertrain into vehicles that were not planned that way. The Trailblazer SS is a great example putting a Corvette engine in an SUV I think that’s brilliant. But for us we do have some vehicle based performance stuff out there, a lot of cold air intakes a lot of cat-back exhaust. You’ll see that from GM accessories you can get those at any dealer, they don’t affect the warranty on the vehicles. We also have stage kits out there for the Cobalt SS. You are going to see more of that especially with the Camaro coming out, we have a huge portfolio coming for that car.
The industry is buzzing with fears of $4+/gallon gas and impending 35 mpg CAFE
standards, what do you think that will mean for all the GM V8 performance cars…and what will that mean for GMPP?
There certainly are a lot of economic, political and environmental factors that affect the performance industry and its going to get really tough with gas prices going up and the new CAFÉ standards congress has passed. It certainly is a challenge; I guess I would say that the hot rod community has met those challenges before. The mid 70’s were not fun for people and as we came out of that we had a resurgence of late model performance in the late 1980’s that still goes on today. So I think the technology will be there, performance parts the crate engines will still be a solid part of our business strategy because people are still going to race cars and they still are going to have hot rods that they drive on the weekends and they will rely on more fuel efficient hybrids or electric vehicles to get to work.
Do you feel the independent rear suspension of the Camaro will handicap it’s ability to drag racing enthusiasts?
So a lot of people out there that are looking forward to the new Camaro, are concerned about an independent rear suspension platform and that’s how every Camaro is going to come. I can tell you that some of our friends at GM Performance Division have had prototype vehicles out and actually started drag testing them on the independent rear suspension and they haven’t had a failure yet. Now obviously knowing the audiences that are going to watch this, it’s very easy to make 7 or 800 horsepower from an LS engine. Will the independent rear end hold up to that, I really don’t know but we are looking into that, looking at heavy duty components to offer as an aftermarket opportunity for GM Performance parts. I won’t be surprised to be talking to you in a year about our straight axle conversion, were looking at straight axles for really hardcore drag racers that want to go in a straight line with that car.
It was truly a pleasure to talk to Dr. Meyer about the future of GM Performance Parts and the development of the LSX performance parts program. From his roots as a “Mustang” guy, to his current position within GM Performance Parts, he truly has the perspective and the pulse of the automotive enthusiast. GM Performance Parts is back, making a name for themselves as a true innovator. And with programs like the LSX Shootout, they seem to be investing in a bright future for all of us.
A few GM LSX projects….
Taking it back 35 years is a ‘69 Camaro built for Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. In addition to building a cool Camaro, the project was an opportunity to show off the 454 cid displacement potential of the LSX bow tie block. With some help from NHRA Pro Stock Legend Warren Johnson, the crew turned the LSX block, a hand full of parts from the GMPP catalog and a few more from Lunati & Mahle into a 600+hp N/A torque monster.
Aimed straight at the heart of LS performance, the F-body crowd is represented by a black ’99 Camaro upfitted with another LS-7. This time the crew used a less sophisticated controller from the GM line up, the MEFI-4b. What the controller lacks in sophistication it makes up in simplicity, making it a simple programmable option which works well with virtually all GMPP LS based crate engines.
Uncle Robin’s Nova is a story in it’s own right, starting as a HorsepowerTV built bracket car, sporting a 572 big block. After Uncle Robin took delivery, the project took a new direction, preparing to compete heads up in the NMCA Nostalgia Pro Street class, turning in the 572 for a carbureted LSX. To handle the 7 second range it needed to compete in the new class, the Nova needed some serious upgrades to the chassis and roll cage. It’s inaugrual 2007 season was not terribly successful, so what will 2008 bring?