Q: Why did you stop racing?
A: When I got the Firestone franchise, I completely stripped that car – took the engine and transmission out and sold everything – because I knew that I couldn’t focus on racing and grow a new business at the same time. But I still own that car today. I always kept it.
For 15 years, I completely stopped racing myself and focused on growing the business. I’d build race cars for customers and assist them at the race track to maintain the car.
Q: How did you become interested in developing new emission control technology?
A: People would buy a brand new Corvette, come in and ask us to modify the car. We’d leave the emission controls on the cars but we’d increase the horsepower so much that the exhaust temperatures got so hot they would liquify and disintegrate the internal components. So half the cars didn’t have the emission controls on them but you didn’t know they were out until you went for an emissions test.
When Ontario’s Drive Clean program came out in 1999, we were up against a tough task to get the cars to pass an emissions test and it was impossible to buy a universal catalytic converter off the shelf. People were threatening to sue me because now they couldn’t drive their cars or sell them because their cars had no emissions control. ‘You made our car real nice but you also wrecked it for us.’
Q: How did you handle that?
A: Necessity is the mother of all invention. One of my customers was a chemical engineer named Ron Krentz who travelled all over the world treating industrial stacks – sulphuric acid plants with really high temperatures that needed systems to reduce the noxious emissions. I told him what I was up against and we formed a group with other chemical and thermal engineers he knew. Ron is a co-founder of Global Emissions, our chief science officer and a member of the board. He’d give us ideas and we’d work with them and take the pieces to a local fabrication shop that did race cars to build them. We’d test them until we got one that didn’t melt down and kept the emissions in compliance. It took us about three months.
We couldn’t afford to mass produce the product. I wasn’t thinking about that at that point – I just wanted to get all these cars on the road. But then we figured that we weren’t the only ones having to face these strict emissions regulations so we advertised in some of the car performance magazines, got a website going and started selling them. We adapted our emissions technology for major clients in Australia and in the United States.
Q: What kind of learning curve was that for you?
A: You need a team to conquer any business. I did a lot of sports in my life growing up and it wasn’t just the quarterback or the receiver, but the whole team who made the win. So I surrounded myself with successful, smart engineers like Ron. I’m not the only brain behind this. It’s the whole team that made the company. We filed for patents in 2001, so we have patented designs and technology.
Q: How did you finance the development of your technology?
A: I’m lucky I had an existing business, Redline Automotive, that actually made money. Redline kept the lights on. We used the same facilities and Redline already had the tools that I needed to develop and test the actual product. All the development for Global Emissions from 2001 to 2006 was done under the roof of Redline.
Q: What changed in 2006?