ACS Composite is featured on the cover of the Gazette Business Section (August 8th, 2013). A great article written by Kevin Mio, ACS Composite has been operating in the Lachine for the past decade focusing mainly on the US Specialty Auto Market. The story covers our history, current projects and future plans…
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Owners of sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette or Camaro want to stand out, even within the community of passionate drivers. That usually means they turn to tuning companies to modify their rides.
And chances are, whether they know it or not, many of the parts they add or change on their vehicles are made in the small Lachine facility of Advanced Composite Specialties.
The company, owned by Joseph Taverna and Kevin Cuthbert, has been producing high-quality parts for these cars — and more — since 2003, but their involvement in the industry goes back even further.
The two worked together at SLP Performance’s Canadian operations, which supplied parts to the General Motors plant in Boisbriand that made, among other vehicles, the Camaro.
When the GM plant was shuttered in 2002, SLP also closed its Canadian division, and that is when the two decided to set up ACS.
“Basically, the company manufactures RTM (resin transfer moulding) components. We manufacture components for either the automotive, transportation or sign industry,” said Taverna, 37.
“We do specialize in niche automotive markets. That is really where we excel the most. The reason being is that we offer high-quality panels that are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) validated with a reduced tooling cost.”
Taverna, who has a background in mechanical engineering from the École Polytechnique de Montréal, credits the 55-year-old Cuthbert, who has more than 30 years of experience in the business, with developing the techniques that have made ACS so successful.
The process, which uses high-powered presses and heavy-duty moulds, combines a fibreglass mat and resin into seamless pieces that can serve more than just the automotive world.
“In downtown Montreal, you will find mega columns, a bunch of green columns along René Lévesque (Blvd.) and Ste-Catherine St,” said Taverna.
For the city of Toronto, ACS is now producing bus shelters. While they used to be made of aluminum or steel, ACS converted them to composite, Taverna said. “It gives a more durable product, less cost and they are more graffiti, or vandalism, resistant.”
But ACS relies mainly on automotive business, especially from the U.S. market. And Taverna says that despite the recent economic hardship south of the border, business has actually increased.
“Throughout the whole recession period, we have had a growth of between 10 to 20 per cent per year,” Taverna said. “We have actually seen a growth in the tuning business. So even though car sales were going down, we were witnessing that on higher-end markets, people were still modifying their cars instead of changing them.”
Some of the tuning companies ACS supplies include SLP Performance Parts, Lingenfelter, Callaway Cars and Nickey Chicago.
Taverna says ACS produces parts based on the specifications of their clients, and also warranty their products. Typical runs range from 300 to 1,000 units per year.
Despite that reduced scale, ACS did help save a major project by one of North America’s largest automakers when they supplied hoods for the Ford GT.
“When we met them, it was Canada Day 2005. They had produced 200 cars, and they had only delivered a handful with a reject rate of 80 per cent (for the hoods, which were made in house at Ford), I think it was. So it was a real disaster. We saw a hangar with over 200 Ford GTs with no hoods, just sitting there.”
Ford quickly gave them the specifications and asked how fast they could deliver.
“Within six to eight weeks, we gave them a turnkey solution and started producing parts. We basically saved the program, delivering all the parts with a 98-per-cent success rate.”
And while ACS, which employs 10 people, has been content to not take much credit for its work in the past, Taverna and Cuthbert are trying to change that with the company’s two latest projects: the Fiat Abarth Cavallino and the VUHL, a lightweight Mexican supercar.
“Our experience comes from muscle cars,” Taverna said. “The beauty of these markets is that they value quality and performance. Fiat kind of brought the same customer profile where people that were buying the brand were very enthusiastic of the brand and excited about it and wanted to make it special.”
What ACS did was develop a kit that can be delivered to certified dealers and installed on Abarth models to make the fun Italian vehicles stand out even more. The kit adds a large rear wing, a modified hood, decals and other parts to give the Cavallino models a unique appearance.
In Canada, the only dealer where you can get a Cavallino is Desmeules Fiat in Laval, while the only U.S. dealer for the time being is Fiat of Chicago. But Taverna says the plan is to introduce the brand to one dealer in each major metropolitan area in the U.S., with Los Angeles and New Jersey being the next likeliest markets. Toronto is the next market for Canada, but the focus first is on the U.S., Taverna said.
Since 2011, ACS has also been involved with VUHL, which was just recently unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
Taverna said the company met the VUHL engineers at SEMA, a tuner car show, and a deal was quickly struck to work together.
After two years of design and engineering work, in April of this year ACS finished all the tooling for the parts for the VUHL, which stands for Vehicles of Ultra- lightweight and High-performance.
“On April 18, the first body panel kit was completed and sent to Mexico. We basically helped the customer by going to Mexico and assembled the first official production VUHL car.”
Powered by a Ford 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged engine, the VUHL has 285 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque linked to a six-speed manual gearbox.
With the body panels from ACS contributing to its light weight (725 kilograms), the VUHL can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 245 km/h.
With the VUHL project under its belt, Taverna said ACS is now looking at international expansion.
“We want to use VUHL to reach the international coach-building market,” Taverna said, adding that with the plant running at only 60 per cent capacity, there is plenty of room to grow.
Credit : Kevin Mio