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Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to today

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Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to today

Postby Carl Smith » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:41 am

by Troy Dillon

1.Ray Dillon started in go-karts & drag racing. Plus, he was the absolute area 'guru' on corvette engines as a teenager in the mid 60's. The business started out of my grandparents garage at the family farm. My Dad was doing both racing & mechanic work to make a living, and had a dram in his head!
2.Moved the business into it's first commercial location in the early 70's in downtown North Liberty, IN. My Dad was building farm & race trailers, and had involvement with Hoosier & Howe. 3 or 4 cars would be built over the winter for customers, then Dad would build one for himself to race.
3.I was not even a teenager yet when I started working for my Dad. The mid 70's we moved to the very large multi building location where his vision of the future was about to explode. Dad decided to hang up his helmet in 1978. That winter is when he worked out the deal to move a 'kid' named Mark Martin from Arkansas to Indiana.
4.With Ray Dillon & Mark Martin working together, the 'very first' all tube offset coil-over race car was designed & built. So yes, what we all know at all levels as all aftermarket tube chassis production cars started in lil ole North Liberty.
5.We built cars for every level of racing for asphalt and dirt. Plus doing east coast mods, road race cars, and Cup & Busch stuff. The same 3 1/2 ton jig plate we started with is what I still use to this day.
6.When I was just old enough to drive, I was sometimes hauling our cars around the country to races & car shows. One of my coolest experiences was an ASA weekend at IRP. I displayed a car Pancho Carter was driving for us at a show. Afterwards, Pancho took me to his home and we hung out at his pool for awhile, just awesome.
7.We built quite a few Winston Cup,Busch & Nascar Sportsman cars. Mark Martin's first dive into the Winston Cup scene was with us. Our first year in the early 80's, we went to five races & sat 'on the pole' twice!!
8.We hit our stride and it was just crazy busy with cars,parts & trailers. My Dad always liked & respected Ed Howe and we did alot with them for years, plus I deal their good products still. We sold alot to Lefthander in his early days & also alot to Harley at Port City. My dad always thought Randy Sweet had great products & would say that "anything from Randy didn't need burred or retapped to race it".
9.Dad was buddies with Frankie Grill. With Neil Bonnett's involvement, we set up Frankie to do Dillon kit cars & be a southern repair center. Thats what you know today as GARC, and I know they have great products. Hamke was also a large Dillon Dealer. Hamke's current 'go to' in-house guy for chassis building, design & all is Dean from Canada. Well, for many years, Dean & his Dad Terry were the Dillon car build/repair center & dealer in Nova Scotia Canada. They spent alot of time on the phone & dealing with us. SO, you could say with all their time learning & working with us on chassis and so on that it panned out somehow for them.
10.The front clip jig we used for some clip designs, I eventually sold it to Buster Cardien in Alabama in the late 90's. Those clips were sold by the hundreds to guys like Buster, GARC, BR Jones, RPM/Reno, Sandy Goss...and Il leave a few other obvious ones off the list.
11.A 'partial list' of many hot dogs thriving in Dillon Cars over history; you wont find a more hybrid list than this one EVER; Mark Martin,Dick Trickle,Rusty & Kenny Wallace,Bobby,Davey & Clifford Allison,Dale Earnhardt,Darrell & Mikey Waltrip,David Pearson,Neil Bonnett,Ernie Irvan,Rick Wilson,Morgan Shepherd,Harry Gant,Ted Musgrave,AJ Foyt,Tim Richmond,Joe Nemechek,Chad Little,Bill Elliot,Joe Ruttman(I was named after Troy Ruttman),Butch Miller,Bobby Gill,Jim Blount,Rick Crawford,Tony Raines,Pancho Carter,Tom Sneva,Hut Strickland,Junior Hanley,Sterling Marlin,Gary Balough,Mickey Gibbs,Butch Lindley,Alan Kulwicki,Geoff Bodine,Slick Yeomans,Robbie Crouch,Kevin Lepage,Jamie Aube,Dale Shaw......dirt; Larry Moore,Buck Simmons,Tony Izzo....
12.For many years, Dillon supplied a large amount of hood pins, lug nuts, hubs n rotors, and springs to the racing industry. We had a major wheel & body business. Dad sold off a few of the businesses, and a few others, the suppliers closed up. I built alot of the wheels for many years(even some cheater ones!!)
13.Many people may remember our Cobra Coil springs(white). No spring to this day is made like they were, the longevity was phenominal. The spring supplier closed its doors in the 90's, but is now partnered up in another state & Ive chatted with them recently. Oh so interested in bringing Cobra Coils back to life again!! My Dad had a partner help him get it off the ground originally, and it turned into a monster program(Mr. Moroso tried to buy it from us many times, but Dad turned him down). If anyone is thinking partner...hunt me down!!!
14.Another Dillon invention people may not be aware of; our extruded aluminum toe out plates. Used by racers all over the world,including Cup. Yes, you bought a set somewhere & it had a decal on it that said BSR, All Star,Stock Car prod,Coleman,Port City...well they came from us. When I moved to Charlotte, I sold the rights of the toe plate deal to Doug Lane. But, to this day they are still made 1 mile from my shop here in town.
15.We were also basically the first short track car buulders to do wind tunnel testing at GM(very cool). First to do testing with on board computer telemetry. The first business to do a legitimate national chassis seminar & first to put out a real asphalt chassis set up video. The first short trackers to put carbon fiber/kevlar into bodies,interiors & spoilers. We first brought actual aluminum driveshafts to asphalt short track racing thru the Dana Corp. And we possibly were the first suppliers of magnesium w-5 hubs. And the list goes on....
16.In Ray Dillon's mid to later years, we were doing over 100 trailers & 100 cars per year, and another pile of trailer kits & car kits. Along with tons of Dillon bodies,wheels & springs.
17.SOOO, why did Ray Dillon get out of racing???? Well, it was a combo of things. We had a Dillon Northwest that went under,& part of that was from a Hoosier tire program that didnt go as expected. We had a Dillon Northeast thru the Shaw family(but Dale Shaw was just the driver and a good guy), Dale's bro zapped my Dad for a very large chunk of money so it folded too. My Dad claimed the racing market was starting to get "too whored up" on pricing for his liking. And in his words, most of our heroes either moved south or were getting outta racing. Then once Bobby Allison got hurt in the Pocono Cup race to end his career, and that was while we had the whole B.A. and Miller beer house deal, and throw in the fact my Dad was going thru a divorce, he decided it was time to get out & try a new adventure.
18.Dad started a major tire recycling business in the race shop location. He turned it into a multi-million dollar operation. He just sold it all about 4 years ago, and has been keeping busy still farming & selling produce by the truck loads to stores.(you'll see the name of it on a truck team; liberty tire recycling). I was so amazed at what my Dad did over the years & growing up around Mark Martin & others for me was irreplaceable!! Thorough preparation at its finest. Ray Dillon never earned Father of the Year. He taught me stuff more thru examples & providing me so many opportunities for on the job training. The ways to impress Ray Dillon was to work your can't use off 7 days a week, be a common sensed/respectable person, sleep with a caster/camber guage under your pillow, always have a tire tape in your pocket, and at the end of the day...enjoy the company of nice women & enjoy some cold beers with him while telling a few stories!!! Ray Dillon has multiple loves in his life; included are farming, women, animals, hunting & fishing. BUT, racing was both a Passion & a Love for him. There is nobody I respect more than my Father!!!
19.Now what most dont know, my Dad actually sold off most of the divisions of the business & most of the inventory. I actually "bought" the rest from him. Yes, thru some financial help, I bought a few parts and the main jigs,fixtures & some equipment. I didnt get an ounce from the family checkbook,period. Then, I bought a 3 acre property with 2 buildings six miles south from our N.L. location.
20.I had been racing for a handful of years and soon ralized I needed to prioritize. So as much as I enjoyed racing, I had to concentrate on business. I was selling quite a few parts for awhile, plus doing in the range of 45 to 60 cars each year.
21.I was working my can't use off trying to make things go & traveling to races alot...plus trying to be a Dad to my 3 young children as well. I just didnt have the budget for fancy house cars, glossy catalogs, or full page ads in Circle Track magazine. Things were starting to catch up with me some.
22.Over the years, it was tough working on new chassis/susp designs while trying to keep my mind right & keep my name in the hat for new cars to guys. Plus, I was wearing the hat of owner, salesman, fabricator, body installer, parts shipper...then in 1995 I decided to wear the hat of a single guy; divorce time.
23.Well, during 1996 I was remarried to a new one. She helped with paperwork & traveled to races with me at times. But, things were getting slower at the shop. Other chassis shops were getting all the hype & gossip, and all the Ray Dillon glory days were like a distant rear view mirror visual. Even tho customers were winning races, I couldn't afford to compete in the market with the bigger places it seemed at the time. One thing led to another, I let my help go, and in 2000 got my 2nd divorce.
24.The next year in early 2001, I had a crazy idea to sell off most of my inventory & sell my shops & property & move to Charlotte, NC. Worst thing I ever did business wise in my life!!!!
25.Within 2 years down south I had lost about 90% of my business, expenses were outta control. I had no choice but to start my deal part time & go to work for a Busch team as their main fabricator. Plus, I did setups at their shop & was the 'tire guy' at the race track which was neat but very stressful!!
26.I missed my own routine, so I packed it all up again & moved to Ohio which was my largest customer base for many years. I found new life again. It felt good being back in the midwest again. But, then some customers were hurting for dollars, then tracks thataway were cutting out weekly late model racing. As time went things slowed up some and I was getting very homesick.
27.In mid 2007, I moved 'again' back home to good ole North Liberty, In. Well all the moving just kept taking its toll, and within a year things were very slow again.
28.So, the next Troy Dillon chapter included alot of 2008/2009 part time work at my shop, along with doing alot of work for Scott Keyser at his Port City Racing/Integra business. Scott actually got his start in the industry as an employee of my dad's at Dillon Enterprises. Plus we built his cars when he used to race. I was Scott's go to guy for all asphalt tech & working at asphalt sales & getting Integra shocks n springs more successful in the asphalt market. It was a favor to me, and Scott Keyser is like a brother to me!! But, I was killing myself trying to do his deal & my deal. SO I figured it was time to just make a stand, roll up my sleeves, & come back full time to Indiana and bust can't use at Dillon Race Cars!
29.Working at PC/Integra somewhat put me back on the radar to alot of people. I helped alot of racers all over go faster & win races in all brands of cars. It eventually even landed me a few car sales. AND, here is some juice; Harley at Port City Race Cars was very aware of my work and helping guys and landing sales....so in late 2009 he made me a great offer to work both outta my shop & come to his place at times. Id be an asphalt tech/sales guy & he wanted me to develop his modified & stock clip programs & be inviolved in those sales as well & work it from ground up. I respectfully declined(plus my Dad may have taken me outta the will had I accepted???)
30.This leads us to now. The last year and half, Im 7 days a week in my Dillon Race Cars shop. I build any and all new cars from chassis to race ready. Il rebuild old cars, plus Il do work on any brand of chassis as well. Late model, sports,pro,stock railed,modifieds,road race...whatever. I can do a safe, clean,fast race car as good as anyone! There is NO magic pixy dust on any certain brand of chassis. I was the first one 20 years ago to do the taller type spindles which are now quite 'the norm' in the industry. Part of it all is getting racers to have the correct quality parts on a car to give them the shot at winning. Plenty of bells n whistles nowadays! Im just in a simple small building that has room to work on 4 or 5 cars, plus keep some stuff at my Dads place too. And, I still dont have a fancy glossy catalog..sorry. But what I do have is a building,property,all equipment & tools that are paid for, and a 'whole lot of determination'!! My 3 great kids are healthy adults & I dont have plans to get married again anytime soon. I realize that not only do I want your business in cars & parts...I need & am thankful for your business. Finally, contrary to what a few assholes may think,want, or say, Im not going anywhere. Thank You; I'm Troy Dillon and I'll see you at the RACES!!!!
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Re: Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to tod

Postby kw75 » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:05 am

Very nicely written Troy.
Check out Dillon for any parts. He has been unbeatable on price when i needed something.

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Re: Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to tod

Postby dd94 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 8:41 am

I had 3 of your cars back in the day & enjoyed them & your help, miss it with all my heart but financial situetion is why i gave it up. GOOD LUCK & keep up the good work, miss the old days bud. Dale Wert
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Re: Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to tod

Postby babygrand38 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:27 pm

troy thanks for all you and your dad have done but you forgot the most important thing how do we get ahold of you for service and sales
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Re: Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to tod

Postby team21racing » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:38 am

Although we have had a couple differences, I always liked working (part-time) for you, and the 2 Dillon cars I had won me a bunch of races and 3 track championships. I have to give you credit for being the person that came to my shop and showed me how to set-up a race car. Knowledge I've used for years. Great story, good luck Jim Keefe
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Re: Dillon History of the race car business from 60's to tod

Postby Mariia » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:37 pm

Well, during 1996 I was remarried to a new one. She helped with paperwork & traveled to races with me at times. But, things were getting slower at the shop. Other chassis shops were getting all the hype & gossip, and all the Ray Dillon glory days were like a distant rear view mirror visual. Even tho customers were winning races, I couldn't afford to compete in the market with the bigger places it seemed at the time. One thing led to another, I let my help go, and in 2000 got my 2nd divorce. The next year in early 2001, I had a crazy idea to sell off most of my inventory & sell my shops & property & move to Charlotte, NC. Worst thing I ever did business wise in my life!!!!
25.Within 2 years down south I had lost about 90% of my business, expenses were outta control. I had no choice but to start my deal part time & go to work for a Busch team as their main fabricator. Plus, I did setups at their shop & was the 'tire guy' at the race track which was neat but very stressful!! I missed my own routine, so I packed it all up again & moved to Ohio which was my largest customer base for many years. I found new life again. It felt good being back in the midwest again. But, then some customers were hurting for dollars, then tracks thataway were cutting out weekly late model racing. As time went things slowed up some and I was getting very homesick.
27.In mid 2007, I moved 'again' back home to good ole North Liberty, In. Well all the moving just kept taking its toll, and within a year things were very slow again.
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