Technology in Motion
Fifty years. Wow! Back when I was a kid, 50 years seemed like some far-off age for the history books but here we are in 2021 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Art Morrison Enterprises. Working long days and nights in my garage back in 1971, I would never have dreamed that we would be where we are today.
All through school, I was always tinkering with cars. Whether it was getting my Model A running with a junkyard Buick engine to making a straight axle hot rod out of my 1954 Chevy. It was this love of cars that led me to a meeting with Chuck Poole and an opportunity to drive a wheelstander. Campaigning my single cab VW “American Flyer” I met a lot of great people and drove at tracks across the United States and Canada. Piloting Richard Schroeder’s AMX at Puyallup Raceway I went off the track and spent some time in the hospital recovering from my injuries. It was at this time that I had time to reflect on my racing career and passion for fabricating. There had to be a better way to be involved in drag racing and not risk my life behind the wheel.
It was then in 1971 that I took what I was doing in my garage and make it official. Art Morrison Enterprises was born. In the early years I would take on any job that brought money in the door. Custom headers, oil pans, engine builds, roll bars installed. A local northwest racer by the name of Tom Turner brought his Modified Production Corvette to me and had me install a 4-link kit. This was the first big time car I worked on and Tom proceeded to set several NRHA records with it after I worked on it. Because of that car’s exposure my name got out and soon more racers were bringing their cars to me for chassis work.
In the 1970s and 1980s we built many door-cars and dragsters and would do repair work on existing drag cars. It was also in the ‘80s that we became involved with the NHRA as part of their contingency sponsor program. While we were still doing general fabrication projects, they eventually were phased out as we were just too busy with building race cars. At the same time as our involvement with the NHRA, we also started to market our chassis components in kit form. Spring kits, ladder bars, four-links. Everything we were installing in our own shop we were now shipping to home builders so they could put them into their own cars.
The timing of this was just right, too. Enthusiasts were looking for hard core parts to emulate the look of cars at the drag strip. Pro Street was born. Lots of new builders were turning to us to install our drag parts on their street cars. Listening to our customers we began making parts that were more suited to street applications. Our first mandrel bender let us build 2” x 3” chassis and roll cages for both drag race and Pro Street applications. Our wildly popular “Super Car” chassis kit was a great way for drag racers to build a tube-chassis car at home and was chronicled in the Super Glass ’55 project in Car Craft magazine.
With the added ability to mandrel bend 2” x 4” tubing we were able to start building street chassis without the need of a roll bar or roll cage to stiffen things up. Custom chassis could now be made for just about any project from 1935 to present day. Once again listening to our great customer base the GT Sport line of chassis were designed that featured all the necessary mounts that enabled builders to simply bolt their bodies to our chassis. It was an instant home run!
From the late 1980s through today it has been a pleasure to be able to work with my son Craig. He started out sweeping floors and worked his way through each of our departments. He has been able to gain a lot of hands-on experience with our parts. After graduating from the University of Washington School of Business, his impact on the company has been significant. The GTSport chassis line was his creation and an integral part of his business plan. Working with Super Chevy Magazine we built and tested the “GT55” shoebox Chevrolet. It was an instant success and we have sold an incredible number of bolt-on chassis since that project in the early 2000s. Since then, Craig has moved into the role of Vice President, doing much of the marketing and overseeing the direction of the company. Our offices are right next to each other and it is a lot of fun being able to work with him on a daily basis.
In recent years, our focus has been on refining the dynamics of our front and rear suspensions and bringing our Multi link IRS to market. We were the first —and still the only aftermarket suspension company— to have a multi-link design available. As more projects get finished with this amazing suspension people are realizing just how great a classic car can ride, drive and perform.
Then there was 2020. We have had a lot of ups and downs over the years, but this has had to have been one of the craziest ones around. Thankfully, our state has classified manufacturing operations “essential” businesses, and we have been able to stay open this whole time. Our staff has remained healthy throughout this whole year and we look forward to a better 2021.
COVID has delayed one of our anniversary projects, though. To celebrate our 50th anniversary we are in the process of re-creating my “American Flier” wheelstander. While we have not canceled the project, it will just be delayed. Instead of having it done in early 2021 it probably will not be until later in the year. An unexpected result of COVID is that parts and material are extremely volatile right now as factories shut down or work on reduced staff levels. Thankfully, the price increases have been minimal at this point and we have been able to hold for this year. With the potential for supplier shutdowns in 2021, we could see a dramatic change to our raw material costs. If this happens, we may need to do a mid-year price increase. Please keep in mind that we do try to hold to the prices listed in this catalog as best as we can but if we must change prices we will be as fair as we can be on the increases.
As we head into our 50th year of business I want to thank you all for the support over the years and trusting us to be part of your projects. The feedback we receive from our customers does help us decide on new products, refinements, or directions that we should go. If you do not see something listed in our catalog for your car give us a call and let us know what you are looking for.
We are hoping to get back to a normal show schedule in 2021. Please come by our display, have a look our products, and let us know if we can be of help on your next build.