The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 27, 2014

Service for the miles

Horsepower Unlimited in Sophia is expanding to service just about everything that rolls

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

— Whether you’re riding over dunes and dirt tracks or rolling on blacktop, Horsepower Unlimited will be able to service it all.

The business, based out of Sophia, has been working on expanding the building and the services that the shop provides.

“The shop recently purchased two 10,000-pound lifts, a spin-balancing machine and a new tire machine to do car and truck rims,” owner Richard Blackburn said. “A spin-balancing machine is something that keeps your car from shaking when you’re out running 55 or 65 miles an hour.

“Once you mount a new tire, you put the tire on the machine and it spins it and simulates it being out on the road. It has a light that points to a spot to hide the weight to put on the wheel to balance it perfectly.”

The new rim machine is designed to keep your rims looking brand new through the process of getting new tires, Blackburn said.

“When you do car and truck rims they’re much more expensive,” he said. “When you do an ATV rim, they’re beat-up or banged-up most of the time and you can just clamp them down. The tire machine we got to do car and truck rims doesn’t even touch the rim. It actually rolls the tire on.

“Let’s say you brought in a Corvette with an $800 wheel on it. We can break it down and put a new tire on it without putting a scratch on your rim.”

The expansion is an effort to give the people what they want, Blackburn said.

“I’ve been constantly getting people coming in and asking why we don’t do cars and trucks and why we don’t do lift kits and things like that,” he said. “As we kept having more and more people ask, we said ‘We’re one of the largest ATV and UTV (Side by Side) tire distributors in the state. Why not add that to it?’

“I had a friend of mine who put me in touch with their distributor and it turns out that they needed a distributor in our area. It really worked out good for us. We’re going to be selling 14 different brands of car and truck tires.

“We’re also going to be working on cars and trucks,” Blackburn added. “We’re not only going to be doing car and truck tires, but we’ll also hit the lift kits, leveling kits and all other car and truck accessories. We’re also going to start working on them and doing service to them and we have two service bays being installed right now.”

Blackburn says the deal through the distributor means he’ll be able to stock a tire for everything that has a wheel on it. They now have over 4,500 tires in stock and will have access to 5,000 rims for cars and trucks at prices cheaper than you can find online or in magazines, he says.

As of two months ago, Horsepower Unlimited bought the machines needed to do crankshaft work.

“When this machine puts a crankshaft together, they’re perfect,” Blackburn said. “They’re not a single thousandth out of index. They’re perfect.

“With a crankshaft in dirt-bikes and ATVs, a crankshaft is pressed together. When this machine does it, it indexes the two counter-weights of the crank absolutely perfect so you don’t get any vibration or harmonics that will shake you off the bike.”

A month ago, the business started an exchange program on crankshafts and cylinder assemblies for all popular brands.

“Let’s say you have a 450 Yamaha,” Blackburn said. “That’s one of the most popular ones out. They are bad to eat through the nickel of a cylinder, which seizes an engine up.

“Instead of having to send that off and wait three weeks to a month to get it back, we’re going to have a cylinder sitting here that is pressed and ready to go. You bring your cylinder in and pay for the work we’ve done to the new one and we exchange the two. You’re right back out the door the same day.”

The shop also started offering something you can’t find anywhere else, Blackburn said.

“We are the only people in the United States that can do it,” he said. “We have contracted a company in Texas that puts nickel in our cylinders for us.

“It’s the hardest grade of nickel that they make. Factories use the softest grade. We put it in 0.012 thick instead of 0.002 thick to 0.0025 thick.”

The last bit of the store’s expansion will be done in about two months, Blackburn said.

“The expansion to the top of the building will include a unique elevator system that will take customers to the top floor without having to go up or down steps,” he said. “When we get it done, even before the top part is done, when we get the tires in here and get the equipment up, we’re going to have a grand opening.

“That should be in about two weeks. When we have a grand opening we’re going to get Super Duper Sonya Cooper from 103CIR down here and we’re going to have door prizes and things like that.

Since it opened in 1986, Horsepower Unlimited has gone from the size of a single-car garage to over 30,000 square feet of space.

“We’re the largest non-franchised dealer in the tri-state area, which means we don’t sell the ATVs themselves like Yamaha or Kawasaki,” Blackburn said. “We’re an independent without a franchise to fall back on.

“We’re also larger than 80 percent of the franchised dealers going by square footage. When the new parts department is done, it will give us one of the largest in the United States, covering some 17,000 square foot for the parts department alone.”

Blackburn said the business passed the $1 million mark of inventory last year.

“With over a million dollars in inventory, Horsepower Unlimited provides parts for all brands as well as service,” he said. “We do Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Arctic Cat, Yamaha, Can Am, Suzuki, and all other brands. With the agreement of another shop last month, Horsepower Unlimited now does machine work for nine other shops.”

When everything is finished, Horsepower Unlimited will be made over inside and out.

“We’ve never had a business sign or had the business dressed up from the outside, but it keeps growing by leaps and bounds, customers traveling as far as Charleston and Summersville to get work done,” Blackburn said.

“Customers come in on a weekly basis saying they would have come in all the time if they knew we were there.

“During the new expansion, we’ll be adding siding to the building and a large sign that can be seen as soon as you turn into Sophia.”

For more information about Horsepower Unlimited, call 304-683-5500. The expansion is being handled by James Construction.

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