Q&A: Bill Mitchell Sr. discusses World Products Engine Builder Program
Undoubtedly, anyone who considers themselves a “car guy,” especially one with a love for big horsepower, is familiar with World Products. If not, you’ve seriously been barking up the wrong tree. World Products was formed in 1987 by noted engine builder Bill Mitchell Sr. in an effort to fill the performance void. Working to develop and produce an affordable cast iron cylinder head for performance enthusiasts, Mitchell offered the Dart II small block Chevrolet cylinder head.
Since then, World Products has churned out countless lines of successful products including complete crate engines for performance machines. Big block Chevrolet enthusiasts were targeted next with World’s Merlin series of cylinder heads and engine blocks. Today, the line has expanded to include both aluminum and cast iron blocks and cylinder heads, followed by a line of intake manifolds.
Since it’s humble beginnings, World Products has successfully created a trusted and valued name for itself thanks to its broad range of performance engines and associated components for nearly any make and application. Blue Oval loyalists were wowed by the Man O’ War replacement blocks for Ford 302/351 engines, while late-model GM enthusiasts were entreated with the Warhawk line of blocks and cylinder heads for GM LS1 ad LS7 engines. Recently, World Products turned its attention to the Mopar enthusiasts by casting iron, aluminum and composite HEMI and Wedge blocks.
“We have put about 4,000 engines into the system out of our own shop, and we have more than 10,000 dyno pulls on those combinations,” explained Mitchell. “So particularly when you get into some of the more popular ones, some of them have had 400 dyno pulls. So the numbers are there – we know what they do.”
In 2009, World Products announced a completely new approach to conducting business with the announcement of the World Engine Builder Program. For years, Mitchell and crew heard the complaints of fellow engine builders that World Products and Bill Mitchell Hardcore – which served as both a supplier and a competitor to them – was simply too big for them to compete with. In response and after much consideration, they turned over the consumer end of their business to a nationwide network of engine builders that purchase World Products parts. The program allows all selected engine builders access to all of World’s resources to build any of World’s listed crate engines.
We spoke with Bill Mitchell Sr. to learn more about the Engine Builder Program and what it offers their customers.
PowerTV: This is a huge change in how you do business, can you explain exactly what is the Engine Builder Program?
Bill Mitchell: “The program is the last 20 years worth of engines that we’ve built, the bill of materials, and so forth, that we’ve turned over to engine builders that buy parts from us. We stopped competing with the customer and we gave the customer the work. We still promote the business as usual, but everything that we have is available to the engine builders. I guess you would say the business side of an engine is more difficult than the mechanical side.
“There are about 85 line items in an engine, so the average engine builder has to sit down and order 85 different parts. What we’ve done is set up a group of warehouses that have the same bill of materials that are made available to the engine builders in the program, and the builder, so he chooses, can call any of the warehouses and order all 85 parts on a single invoice.
“We got tired of the engine builders at the trade shows coming up and telling us we were too big of a competitor to them. Which, I’m going to say we were. We were selling 600-700 engines a year.”
PowerTV: OK, so how does an engine builder to become a part of the program?
Bill Mitchell: “He has to buy casting packages from us. Meaning, if you just buy engine blocks, you don’t qualify. If you buy engine blocks, cylinder heads, and manifolds, you qualify. How many packages you buy determines your rating. There are several different ratings, One-, Two-, and Three-star. Right now there are about 38 engine builders in the program.
“We create the demand, but the deal that an engine builder creates, when a customer calls and shops a builder for price, he’s got to be competitive on the pricing. The response from the engine builders has been awesome. We’ve really tried to analyze this a lot, and the only thing we can come up with is that the consumers will shop locations, because there are just an ungodly amount of quirks from engine builder to engine builders. And everybody in the program is getting sales. I mean everybody’s happy with it.”
PowerTV: How does the program benefit racers out there? I mean, these are a lot of options to build and assemble engines.
Bill Mitchell: “The customer now has choice. He has choice of location and price. When we were building the engines, we didn’t deviate whatsoever on the combination. Every engine was exactly like the one from the catalog, and we could build them for you ahead of time and put them in stock at places like Jeg’s and so forth. Whatever it said in the catalog, that’s what you got.
“If you wanted to put a different piston in or something, you couldn’t do that. But now you can. The consumer now has lots of choice on the combination, he can positively shop price. I mean so far, to the consumer, it seems like a home run.”
PowerTV: Is there a universal sort of tech support for customers amongst the builders in the program?
Bill Mitchell: “Well, we have one guy that was our lead assembler, he’s on extension 35 and all the engine builders have his extension and that’s who they talk to. So the same guy that ran the shop is available to the engine builders. If you were an engine builder, ever bit of tech that was available to our employees in the shop when we were building an engine would be available to you, and the consumer has the same amount of tech that he’s always had. We’ll refer a guy to an engine builder near his location, but we don’t prefer any one over the other.”
PowerTV: Is there an open dialogue on your products between the engine builders?
Bill Mitchell: “You know I really don’t know. Whether they are speaking to each other, I really have no way of knowing that. Knowing them and being in the engine building business myself, none of them speak to each other. They all think that they know everything. That would be great if they did, but you and I both know that they don’t; they are all competing with each other.”
PowerTV: Can the engine builders stray off the beaten path and perform any modifications to the engines?
Bill Mitchell: “Absolutely! We know that there’s a couple of builders that build them exactly to a ‘T’ as our bill of materials, and to be honest, they are the smarter ones because people have run thousands of them and we know what they do. But most of the guys all think they are better than anybody, and they all modify them. As long as that’s between them and the customer. Once they get the sale, it’s a relationship between them and the customer. We’re just helping them get the sale.”
PowerTV: Do you monitor in some way the work of the engine builders in order to maintain a positive quality level?
Bill Mitchell: “We try and urge the customers to send in pictures of their rides and tell us who is building the engines. The program is pretty new so we don’t have enough feedback yet, but when we do we are actually going to add feedback comments on the website. But we want to make it where for the engine builder, its in his best interest to get the guy to send in the pictures of his car and brag about the engine and the engine builder. If any breakage were to occur with our engines, we’d probably be hearing about it the second phone call right after they call the engine builder. And so far we haven’t had any of that happen.”
PowerTV: What do you see in the future for this program and for World Products?
Bill Mitchell: “I think we’ll just see where it goes. I’ve been listening to engine builders for 15 years tell us that we’re competing against them, well now we’re giving them all the business. So we’re giving them what they ask for, let’s see where it goes. So far, so good.
“We have had literally hundreds, maybe thousands of consumers call and ask for the bill of materials that is only available to the engine builders, and we are going to print the bill of materials and put them on the website for sale. We think if we can sell those, it’ll inspire them to go to the engine builder even more. So that’s something will be available in the next 60-90 days.”
So, if you’re a self proclaimed “car guy” and more specifically, a high performance enthusiast looking for a powerful crate engine for your ride, project vehicle or restoration, you have now have more options than ever to get your hands on World Products’ reliable and proven line of engines and components. Through your local racing engine builder, you can have access to famed engine builder Bill Mitchell Sr.’s years of racing experience to provide you with the best power combination imaginable for your project. No guessing. No wasted time and effort. This is the nation-wide, customizable powertrain service that you’ve been waiting for!