LANCASTER – Advanced Clutch Technology was awarded Manufacturer of the Year and their National Sales Manager, Rich Barsamian, was awarded Person of the Year by the Performance Warehouse Association at last month’s Specialty Equipment and Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
SEMA is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It is closed to the public, but attended by tens of thousands of industry insiders, from automotive manufacturers to the local aftermarket parts retailers.
While many awards for products, technology and vehicles are announced at SEMA every year, only a select few are as respected as PWA Manufacturer of the Year and Person of the Year awards.
These awards are presented during the annual Industry Awards Banquet that is attended by the who’s who of the automotive aftermarket industry.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO #1 IMPORT CLUTCH MANUFACTURER
Dirk Starksen founded Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT) in 1994 when he was the General Manager for Kennedy Engineered Products in Palmdale (KEP), a company that manufactures engine adapters and high performance clutches for VW and Porsche vehicles.
In the early 1990s, the import racing scene was just beginning, and KEP was receiving frequent requests to build performance clutches for Hondas and other imports. With the blessings of KEP, Starksen started ACT to make clutches that met the demands imports were experiencing.
By 1996, ACT had grown into a highly respected performance clutch manufacturer in the import scene. Starksen left KEP to run ACT full time. Within a few years, ACT outgrew their location in Palmdale, and in 2000, the company relocated to their current 16,800-square-foot facility in Lancaster.
Around that same time, Tracie Nunez joined the ACT team. With a staff of 12 people, they began to grow into the number one import clutch manufacturer in the industry.
In 2010, Rich Barsamian joined the ACT team, having previously worked for Grant and Edelbrock. Today ACT employs close to 40 full-time employees and features more than 1,300 clutch systems for most vehicles found on and off-road. With roots in import drag racing, they now sponsor drivers in most grassroots motorsports, including road racing, drifting and, of course, drag racing.
An automotive clutch assembly is made up of three major components: a flywheel, pressure plate and clutch disc, along with a number of supporting pieces, like the throwout bearing, pilot bearing, fork and the various engagement components of the pedal assembly.
Advanced Clutch Technology engineers and manufactures these three major components at their facility in Lancaster, while using a number of local suppliers for many stages of product manufacturing. They source pieces used in the pressure plate assembly direct from OEM suppliers; however, the majority of the parts that make up a complete clutch assembly are made from original ACT components from local companies.
Some of the local businesses used by ACT include Pacific Coast Powder Coating, for the famous yellow ACT pressure plate covers; National Metal Stampings, for clutch disc components; G & L Cutter Services, for broaching tools; Palmdale Heat Treating, for diaphragm tempering; and even Minuteman Printing and Spenser Packing, for various media and product packaging.
Generally, an aftermarket performance clutch is created by taking an existing OEM clutch and rebuilding it. The attention to how each piece is engineered and the materials used in the process of assembly is what ends up producing a product that can withstand the increased loads seen in modified vehicles.
The pressure plate assembly consists of the cover, the diaphragm and the pressure plate. ACT uses higher than OEM grade heat-treated ductile iron for their pressure plates to gain added strength and resistance to catastrophic failure.
The diaphragms used in the assembly are design engineered at ACT, stamped out by a local manufacturer and finished with a final heat treat in-house. Finally, pressure plate covers are either OEM pieces modified to meet the load requirements or, as in a number of applications, manufactured from billet CNC by ACT directly. ACT manufactures many pieces of the clutch assembly in-house, and in some cases the entire clutch assembly is built directly on site.
ACT engineers every product to meet the needs of the consumer through rigorous testing, both in laboratory settings and on the race track. This testing results in a product that outperforms OEM in both holding capacity and lifespan. With many options for pressure plates, discs and forged billet steel flywheels, ACT has a wide range of clutch systems that can hold anywhere from 30% to 150% more clamping load than original replacements parts.
ACT has continued to thrive in the automotive aftermarket industry for over 18 years. Even though the aftermarket industry has faltered over the last five years, ACT has forged ahead with innovative products and a commitment to the grassroots community that made them successful.