Although the word “mopar” technically stands for Chrysler motor parts, any enthusiast will tell you they’re referring to the classics: A 1970 Dodge Challenger, ‘69 Plymouth Road Runner, ‘68 Dodge Charger, 1964 Pontiac GTO and the ‘69 Chevrolet Camaro, to name a few.
These time-tested muscle cars define the 1960s and 70s for fans and collectors. Owners are as particular about the parts that keep their babies purring as they are about their own children.
That is why an “old school” business like Firm Feel in north Vancouver is such a gem. Since 1997, the Ross family has been supplying hobbyists with an exhaustive inventory of steering and suspension parts for an alphabet soup of body styles. Their mission stems from a multi-generational racing family.
It all began in the early ‘50s when Rod Ross caught the racing bug, built his own salt flat racer and set the Bonneville Salt Flats land speed record in 1955 at 199.46 miles per hour. He passed his love for racing onto his sons, Dick and Bob, and opened Performance Welding and Automotive in 1972. When Dick took over the business, he dropped “welding” from the name and began to specialize in rebuilding 1960s and 1970s stock mopar boxes, which led to Firm Feel. Dick’s contagious interest has rubbed off on his son, Matt, who works alongside his dad at Firm Feel.
The Ross family knows a thing or two about the steering and suspension they sell because it’s in their blood — and their own high performance vehicles. Dick, 61, and Matt, 34, are currently both working on approximately the same vehicle in their off time, a 1964 Dodge Polara 500 and a 1964 Dodge Polara.
“We’re going to race one another and see who’s the ‘baddest’ when we’re finished,” Matt said.
During the weekdays, these car-obsessed men can be found at Firm Feel and their decades of knowledge garner high praise in the industry and on racing forums such as Slant Six. Their reputation has spread as far as Canada, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Australia.
“These classic cars, just like any group, have a dedicated and loyal following,” Matt said. “We really specialize in mopar and have been doing it for so long, and the same guys have been doing it for so long, and my dad’s really respected in the community from drag racing to road racing to engine building. Old school guys like that and word travels.”
Recently, Firm Feel has added a Portland urban winemaker to their list of loyal customers. Barnaby Tuttle, owner/winemaker at Teutonic Wine Company, spent his winter holiday restoring a 1962 Dodge Lancer.
“I bought a complete suspension upgrade — steering component, sway bar, strut rods, torsion bars,” Tuttle said. “Being able to talk to the people who make the parts is the difference. I just went there and sat down with Dick. We rapped for about an hour and I left with the parts. That’s pretty amazing, old-fashioned customer service.”
Matt said that a good percentage of their parts are manufactured on-site thanks to machinery that they own, superior steel suppliers and a strong relationship with a modern-day blacksmith who worked for Dick when he owned Performance Automotive. Firm Feel also has the capability to reinforce and/or rebuild stock components such as k-members, sway bars and torsion bars to suit the needs of their customers.
“We can really control our research and development,” Matt said. “We know our stuff down to our products really well. People, more and more, want more detail and someone who can filter through internet research with them.”