The History Of How The “New” Lunati Is Rapidly
Moving Forward By Returning To Its Past!
By Jim Hill
Even the most successful businesses sometimes find themselves adrift and losing
their grasp on the marketplace they previously prospered in. For such situations
the term "reinvention" is often used to describe the concept of revitalizing a company
with the customer base it serves. When properly managed, such a turn-around can
be achieved by returning to your roots to find what defined operation during the
Joe Lunati, Founder
This is the case with one of the performance and racing aftermarket’s most popular
companies, Lunati. Due to changes in ownership and management, Lunati did seem to
have lost its way in the market. Since the late 1960’s, Lunati had served racers
and engine builders as a well known source for camshafts and valve train components.
Memphis based Lunati had also added crankshafts, rods, pistons, piston rings, and
complete engine rotating assemblies to its product line, ready for assembly into
the customer’s prepared block. During its first 20 years, growth had been strong
and steady, anchored by the one-on-one, personal service and advice that became
a Lunati trademark. That prized service and expert advice was an intangible asset
that helped Lunati grow from a small "mom and pop" operation to a sizeable, successful
entity in the performance and racing aftermarket.
As a business, Lunati Cams mirrored the personal philosophy of its founder, former
drag racer Joe Lunati. Joe’s racing career began in and was centered around his
hometown, Memphis, Tennessee. Lunati began by running in NHRA’s A/Modified Sports
class, which ran in Street Eliminator. During his lengthy racing career Joe learned
that the secret to making power in any race engine could be found in the cylinder
heads, induction system and camshaft, and that matching each of these critical components
was essential. He was particularly intrigued with camshafts and in trying different
lobe profiles to gain an advantage. In those years he worked closely with Harvey
Crane, and he sent Lunati many different cams to test in his car. Joe would run
a new cam and on Monday call Harvey with the results, good or bad. This arrangement
helped Lunati win races and Crane sell more cams.
Lunati Company Headquarters
At the time Joe worked for a Memphis production engine rebuilder. Late in the evenings
he used the shop’s cam grinder and it was there that Joe ground his first cams.
Continuing his race career, he captured the 1964 Street Eliminator title at the
1964 NHRA Nationals and won again in 1966. In 1967 he stepped up to the still emerging
Funny Cars. Joe’s entry into the Funny Car ranks came about because southern tracks
were hungry for match racers. The money they offered made it possible to build and
campaign a Funny Car on a weekend racer’s budget. After successfully competing at
the Nationals in Indy, Joe realized his calling and headed in a different direction.
In 1968 Lunati made the monumental decision to open his own cam grinding shop. By
1970 Lunati Cams had created its own niche in the racing cam market, primarily with
weekend sportsmen drag racers and local Memphis area circle track racers. From the
beginning Joe insisted on producing the best quality products with personal, friendly
service for every customer.
By the mid 1990’s Lunati Cams & Cranks had grown to become a profitable, sizeable
operation with a shop filled with high quality machinery and a stable, highly skilled
workforce. Seeing the potential in Lunati, Holley Carbuerators made Joe an offer
he couldn’t refuse. The Holley ownership lasted for several years, but after weathering
tough times through over expansion within the market during the early 2000’s, the
financial managers at Holley decided it was time to divest of one of their holdings,
placing Lunati Cams on the sales block. In late 2007, a viable prospective buyer
had been located and a deal was struck. The investors are an exclusive ownership
group made up of industry and racing veterans who are dedicated to providing racers
with cutting-edge technology at affordable prices.
When asked for his view of the new Lunati, James Humphrey, (Product Manager) observed:
"Lunati was always known as a racer-friendly place where you could get honest and
qualified information on what it takes to make more power and go faster. Our goal
is to restore that trust between Lunati and its customers. We feel very strongly
that this is the right direction and so far, the phones have been ringing with racers
and engine builders eager to again work with "The new Lunati."
We're all stocked up and ready!
The new owners also bring with them the financial resources to enable Lunati to
immediately step up and acquire additional high-tech equipment and computer controlled,
numerically operated machinery. That means increased accuracy for all products plus
absolute repeatability, regardless of the quantity produced. The new Lunati has
already doubled the technical sales and customer support staff to bring back the
support Lunati’s former customers – racers and engine builders – came to rely on.
These individuals are far from being merely "warm bodies", but experienced, qualified
people with hands-on racing experience. As before, there will be an over-emphasis
on service and information support to those who compete at the all levels of sportsman
and pro racing.
No cam company, new or old, is more qualified to envision and implement such a revolutionary
advancement than the new Lunati. With its stellar past heritage, a dedicated new
management team and ample financial support, the future looks indeed bright for