Huntington Beach, California, is, and has been for decades, a hotbed of activity within the automotive aftermarket. Eibach Springs in the U.S. began there, as did Mothers Polishes, Modern Image Signworks, Catz Lights, Surf City Garage, Art Carr Racing Transmissions, Classic Industries, Camburg Engineering, Dan Fink Metalworks, Budnik Wheels – and the list goes on and on. It has also been home to JET Performance Products, and while a number of other companies have relocated elsewhere JET has remained in this Orange County surfside community.
We recently caught up with Dan Nicholas, the Vice-President of sales and marketing for JET Performance Products. This is no easy feat, as Dan travels extensively to sell and promote their computer chips and tuning products and the subject of our in-depth discussion: carburetors.
From Quadrajets to Holley-style carbs and Rochester carburetors, JET has carburetors for almost every application. Their carburetors are a mainstay on the street and in many types of competition, from the drag strip to circle tracks and even off-road.
Whether you need a new carburetor or to have yours rebuilt, JET is the source for carburetors. Despite manufacturing them for nearly a half-century, carbs are a lesser-known entity at JET and we wanted to find out why.
Street Legal TV: How long has JET manufactured carburetors, and was this a business that Bryant (Seller, JET’s owner) started from the ground up?
Dan Nicholas : Bryant purchased Jones Fuel Systems in 1985, but we are actually in our 47th year of building carbs, so it started a long time ago. The company began as an engine building and carburetor shop specializing in drag racing applications. The company ran many of its own drag cars and held both IHRA and NHRA national records in three different classes. Over the next several years as the company continued to grow it was apparent that carburetor tuning was the company’s future as they had established themselves as the ‘go to’ guys if you wanted a carburetor tuned right. This led to the company being named Mike Jones Carburetion after the company’s founder and for the next 17 years the company developed and tuned carburetors and fuel systems for some of the top names in drag racing, NASCAR and off-road racing in addition to performance street applications.
SLTV: Are all your carburetors built in Huntington Beach? Is there a little sand included with each one at no additional cost (just kidding)?
Nicholas: (Laughs.) Yes, all of our carbs are built right here in Huntington Beach. We also do restorations and rebuilds for customers here as well.
SLTV: When it comes to usage, what percentage of your carburetors are for street, competition only, or marine?
Nicholas: Well, 99% of our 2-barrels are for competition use. The majority of the Q-Jets are for street use, and it’s about 50/50 on our custom stuff.
SLTV: While JET is probably best known for your chips and other EFI related tuning products, are carbs this sort of unknown side of the company that continues to pay for itself?
Nicholas: Carbs, up until a few years ago, just paid for themselves. Over the past few years, with Edelbrock discontinuing their line of Quadrajets, our business shot up. This allowed us to make our own fuel lines and filters, and branch out into a Marine carb division. From there, we’ve grown our fuel division into a higher percentage of our overall business than it’s ever been.
SLTV: What are you most popular carburetors?
Nicholas: It’s about 50% Quadrajets, 20% Rochester 2-barrels, and 20% Holley style custom carbs, and around 10% Marine carbs.
Our Quadrajets are available in a wide range for your particular vehicle or application, including an 800 CFM Q-Jet for big block, 396 cubic-inch engines or larger, and a circle track dedicated Q-Jet that are built exclusively for this type of racing.
Nicholas: We offer Holley carburetors, Dominators, HP Series, 4-barrels with vacuum or manual secondaries, and 2-barrels, in various stages that have been inspected, aligned, calibrated and in some cases modified in Stages 1-4, the Stage 3 or 4 being for full race, high RPM applications where you need maximum horsepower and torque, plus unmatched throttle response and consistency. The Rochester 2G carbs are 500 cfm, modified for circle track use.
SLTV: Some of your competitors had added different types of finishes to their products. Are JET carburetors available in different colors and coatings?
Nicholas: On our custom stuff, we can do powder coating in a variety of colors. We can also chrome the float bowls and throttle shafts for a show quality finish.
SLTV: When you mentioned restoration and rebuilds, is this solely for carburetors manufactured by JET?
Nicholas: No, we can modify and restore most Holley style 2-barrel or 4-barrel carbs, and we do a number of them for racing use with alcohol. For example, alcohol engines require 2.2 times the amount of fuel of a gas engine, requiring extensive modifications to the fuel metering circuits and a custom stainless .150 needle and seat assemblies.
We also package and sell our most popular rebuild kits, which comes with everything you need to do a complete rebuild on your carburetor, along with the instructions.
SLTV: Is there a difference between rebuilding and restoration?
Nicholas: With restoration, all the parts are re-colored and replated, where in a standard rebuild we clean the parts and make sure they operate properly. For most applications, standard rebuilds are fine and that will ensure it runs like new again. Of course, if you’re restoring your car and you need that new OEM look, restoration is the way to go.
During the rebuild, we disassemble, clean and inspect each carburetor, which is done by a single technician, not on an assembly line. In this way, we know if the core itself is in good shape and can be rebuilt or restored. If the core is damaged, we can usually get or have the parts that need to be replaced, or can supply you with a core that can be rebuilt.
SLTV: Can JET build or tune my carburetor for a specific application?
Nicholas: If your engine has been modified, we can calibrate or modify the carburetor to meet your needs, whether it’s for street, strip, circle track, pulling or marine use. With 47 years of experience, our technicians are the best when it comes to correct calibration.
When you think of carburetors, it’s difficult to imagine that a company known for performance chips is a huge source for new and rebuilt carburetors, but as Nicholas mentioned they have over 47 years experience doing just this sort of thing. When you know how to do something well and the market calls for your expertise, it makes sense to be one of the major outlets to answer those needs.
You can find out more about JET Performance’s line of carburetors, chips, and other performance products on their website; but don’t be thrown off by all the electronic technology because when it comes to their roots, JET Performance Products remembers theirs – and keeps both feet planted.