September '19

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54 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2019 R yan Thompson is the president and Chief Floor Sweeper of Thompson Racing Fabrication (TRF). One could say that part of his career involves saving lives. TRF is best-known for quality, one-off custom spec roll cages for a variety of race cars, but it doesn't stop there. Thompson also builds custom performance vehicles and has an undying passion for stage rally. He's often seen at sanctioned events sup- porting the teams and offering vehicle maintenance. It's not surprising Thompson's business started with racing his own cars, primarily in drag racing with a side of rally. "I was building most parts for the pride of a job well done, and because I could never get the quality or fit that I wanted from off-the-shelf products," he explains. As it turned out, he was good at it. Really good. His racing was successful and more people asked him to work on their cars. Soon he was spending more time holding a welder than sitting in the driver's seat. Unbeknownst to Thompson at the time, he was laying a path to his future. "When I started racing 22 years ago, I never thought that I would turn my hobby into a business," he reveals. BUILDING A PROUD BUSINESS When the recession hit around 2008, Thompson's job as a construction super- intendent ended, but the side business was budding. "After long discussions with my wife, we decided I would try to make TRF a full-time occupation," he says. "I would have never made it without her support. I'm 40 years old, and I can support my family while still playing with race cars! I feel blessed every day that this is my occupation." Thompson works many hours to keep his dream alive, having started out in an inconspicuous 700-square-foot garage nes- tled in peaceful Maple City, Michigan. He recently purchased Dave's Garage, a well- known, three-bay shop in nearby Cedar, Michigan, marking the beginning of what he expects to be a true growth cycle for TRF. Along with roll cage fabrication, TRF tackles just about any motorsports-related project. "If I have any one very standalone skill, it's welding," Thompson says. "Especially my multi-practice ability. I can weld darn near anything." TRF is well-known for aluminum fab- rication, such as intercoolers, consoles, plumbing, skid plates, etc. "I also do very well on stainless steel exhausts, custom chassis modifications (suspension, brackets, tubbing, etc.) and I also do a fair amount with plastic, espe- cially as it relates to rally cars," he adds. "From underbody, rock guards to poly- carbonate windows—we can build just about any of it." In fact, Thompson says he loves any project that poses a challenge. "I'm my own greatest critic, so I appre- ciate when a job makes me think hard or be precise," he explains. His motivation allows him to do the jobs that most shops can't or won't. "Regardless if I'm working on a Mark II Escort, a Lamborghini, Saturn, Rolls-Royce or an Impreza, I put the same effort and care into each project," he says. "They are all important, and nothing leaves my shop until I am proud of it." Thompson caters to the customer who wants an excellent product with super- One Life-Saving Shop It's roll cages & much more at Thompson Racing Fabrication in Michigan. By Tara Hurlin Ryan Thompson is president and Chief Floor Sweeper of Thompson Racing Fabrication in Michigan. As the sole employee, when the shop gets busy, Thompson turns to his connections in the industry to move projects forward.

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