The automotive industry is a close-knit community, but Factory Five Racing takes it one step further. That’s because whether you own a Factory Five car, are looking to purchase one, or just share the passion for building your own project vehicles, you are family in the eyes of owner Dave Smith and the rest of the Factory Five community.
On the last day of the SEMA Show, we were lucky enough to be welcomed, as always, into the Factory Five family with open arms, having the chance to talk to Smith, as well as legendary Factory Five Challenge Series racer Karen Salvaggio and Australian car builder Chris Canning, at the company’s booth in Hot Rod Alley. But instead of a simple friendly conversation, it was more along the lines of a homecoming all of us could relate to.
When Factory Five was founded back in 1995, it wasn’t just about providing the automotive community with a comprehensive kit car. Rather, it was about providing the car, the support and advice needed to build it and the community to back it up. Eighteen years later, Factory Five Racing continues on in this family-oriented way. “This is a lifestyle and it’s personal, so you put your whole self into it,” Smith explained.
In addition to the help that Smith provides through his own personal brand of automotive passion, there’s also the Factory Five Forum, dedicated staff and other Factory Five owners in which to turn to if there are questions while building a Factory Five vehicle, a major reason Challenge Series racer since 2006, Karen Salvaggio, told us she will never, ever leave the Factory Five community.
“Anyone is able to buy this kit and get the support they need,” she explained. “These cars are so much more than racecars. When you’re in here, you’re family.”
While everyone in the Factory Five family has different design tastes and ultimate goals for their cars, Salvaggio tells us that everyone in the family shares the passion for all the iconic vehicles that the Factory Five fleet is based off of, wanting to pay tribute to the late greats of the early car community. “These cars are good for people,” Salvaggio concluded. “This IS the good side of life.”
Echoing Salvaggio’s passion for Factory Five is Australian car builder with Component Cars Australia, Chris Canning. Being vital in Factory Five’s movement into the Australian market, Canning has worked with the company for the last two years and just recently saw his 30th Factory Five car sold Down Under. “You don’t have to sell this product,” Canning told us. “Most people reach out to us about getting a Factory Five.”
In working with Factory Five, Canning has seen a major improvement in the Australian kit car market, telling us that the American-born company is about 20 years ahead of the kit car game in Australia, offering full car packages and the support necessary to complete the build vs. a simple body and frame suggestion. The kit car market is so different in Australia, in fact, that Canning would guess about half of the kits bought from other companies are quit partially completed or never started. Those that are started are taking builders anywhere from four to eight years to complete. On the contrary, Factory Five cars are only taking a year to a year and a half to build, Canning told us.
“Word of mouth and reputation are priceless back home,” Canning explained. “I’ve never met a more passionate and talented group of guys than those at Factory Five.”
Smith, Salvaggio and Canning talk a good game, but they also believe in the Factory Five products whole-heartedly that each has a number of Factory Five cars of their own. Currently, Smith owns 17 Factory Fives, including the No. 5 Daytona Type 65 Coupe, a car Smith told us he truly wanted to build and offer his customers.
Having started racing in the Challenge Series since 2006, Salvaggio has five Factory Five vehicles, including three MK4 Challenge models and two Type 65 Coupes. Behind the wheel of her Challenge Cars, Salvaggio has been able to take first, second and third-place positions in Southern California Regional Points as well as first place in the 2009 California Cup. Down in Australia, Canning also owns a number of Factory Fives.
For nearly 20 years, Factory Five has been offering automotive enthusiasts build-it-yourself project cars, but its not just about the what and how of the business that Smith or his company focus on. It’s also about the why and there is one simple answer to that question. Factory Five does what it does because they are passionate about their jobs and are in the business of building relationships, not just cars. FFR partner companies like Toyo Tires, Koni Shocks, GM Performance Parts and Ford Racing make this even more rewarding.
Smith also prides himself on making a difference in people’s lives through Factory Five. And still to this day, he tells us he loves his job. “I like everyone I work with,” Smith expressed, “And I really do something I absolutely love day in and day out.”