About

Hello, I’m Scott Tucker.

I have dedicated the last 33 years of my life to automotive enthusiasts who love their cars and take pride in keeping them in pristine condition.  I have been very lucky to have had such a long and successful career.  My career  includes being a highly recognized and award-winning troubleshooter and mechanic, a calibration engineer for the largest BMW Tuner in the country, working as service manager for the bucket-list destination for any car lover – Canepa Design, to being a published author, to being a college instructor teaching classes on high performance engine design and much more.

I love solving difficult problems on rare cars such as this brake pump motor from a Porsche 959. Customers are updated with detailed pictures, often annotated as in this example.

I have a specific passion for classic cars and believe they were meant to drive as well as the day they were new.  There is no one more qualified in the bay area to keep your classic running like it should.  I was undeniably luckily to have started my career during a big transition period in the automotive industry and have garnered experience no one in the future will get.  It was the period during the phase-out of carburetors, breaker points, and distributor caps and the phase-in of electronic fuel injection.  I learned both systems and excelled in a time when cars seemed un-fixable.

At the age of 13 I began working for a friend of my parents’ Corvette Restoration Parts business in Cupertino, Ca. stocking shelves with NOS Corvette parts with labels with descriptions – this enabled me to ID a wide variety of parts. I was hooked.  I was the last of the fortunate few who were lucky enough to have high school vocational classes in automotive technology.  I took classes at DeAnza College in Cupertino in their automotive technology department my senior year.

I thought the classes would be easy but they weren’t.  The school was unlike anything I had experienced.  The teachers engaged me, they challenged me.  I ended up top in the class not because I worked hard but because they made me want to work hard.

1989 Plymouth/AAA Troubleshooting Contest

1989 Plymouth/AAA Troubleshooting Contest (Scott on the right)

I was selected to be a competitor in the 1989 Plymouth/AAA Troubleshooting contest, a now defunct competition that ran for over 65 years which pitted thousands of high school students against the clock troubleshooting difficult electrical and drivability problems on identically bugged cars.  Our team finished ten minutes faster than the next team to troubleshoot and repair all problems!  These strong troubleshooting skills have been a facet of my career ever since.

High written score trophy

High written score trophy

My first ‘real’ job turning a wrench was when I was 20 at a Japanese car repair shop.  I was nervous as I thought the seasoned mechanics would run circles around my knowledge – which was all I had since I had little real experience.  It turns out I was far more prepared to be diagnosing difficult problems on the cars of the ‘dark ages’ (1979 – 1996) we call OBDI where there were no standards and every manufacturer used different technology.  I quickly became known as the guy who could fix anything.

Computers were new in the eighties and even before I became interested in cars I was interested in computers and electronics.  I took my first computer programming class when I was 12 – in 1983.  This was important later down the line because the ‘if-then-else’ structure of programming became a foundation of my troubleshooting prowess.  Computers and cars became my thing especially when they were combined.

Twin Dinan turbocharged cars

Twin Dinan turbocharged cars

This proved to be beneficial when I applied for a job in the engineering department at Dinan Engineering, North America’s largest BMW Tuner run by eccentric engineering genius, Steve Dinan.  A lot of my work dealt with myriad calibration files for existing products.  I mined the calibration files for maps and built them into a performance tune.  I worked with some brilliant engineers who recognized my talent and spent time to teach me how to disassemble code down to the machine language level.  I now really knew how engine control units ‘think’ – to a depth even the college couldn’t reach. I didn’t spend all of my time in the lab.  Much of it was spend out on the road calibrating Dinan’s latest offerings as well as doing ‘tune-ups’ on the software of our legacy products.

I was in the passenger’s seat many times with Steve tuning cars.  We didn’t have a fancy GUI, we used a HEX editor and had to do hexadecimal math in our heads to richen or lean, or advance or retard timing.  We’d make a run to 140 mph while I marked off air fuel ratios on a notepad by hand while watching an air fuel ratio monitor sitting at my feet.

A Weber 2-barrel carburetor

A Weber 2-barrel carburetor

Ace Fuel Systems is a small carburetor shop I worked for which has persevered due to the high quality of their rebuilt carburetors and knowledge of troubleshooting.  At Ace, I learned to tune just about every carburetor imaginable and mastered my skills on both the gas analyzer and the Sun scope.  Little did I know this would prove so valuable in the future.  Carburetor tuning and diagnostics are an area few people have expertise in.  I have been lucky to have tuned thousands of carbureted cars from several Yugo’s to the six Weber’s of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Canepa shop while under Scott's management

Canepa shop while under Scott’s management. It was not unusual for Scott to drive more than $5 million worth of cars on an average day.

I came to Canepa Design from Ace Fuel.  I loved Ace but was looking for a new challenge.  I was hired for my tuning, electrical and diagnostic skills.  I restored many Concours winning cars including the last Shelby Cobra (CSX-3360) while at Canepa and garnered some amazing experience working on the world’s most valuable cars – Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Shelby, and every rare car you could imagine. I did all of Canepa’s technical work including tuning carburetors, fuel injection, custom wiring harnesses and more during my time as a tech.

Simultaneously in the evenings, I was attending the University of San Francisco studying for a Bachelors in Information Systems (a project management degree).  Although the degree was intended to be applied to IT, the structured project management principles I learned allowed me to manage the critical path of my restoration projects thus make them more efficient with higher quality.  Bruce Canepa recognized this and promoted me to service/restoration manager. 

Scott posing with a 959 at Canepa

I took on 5 techs and within a year I had hired 5 more, many of which already had impressive resume’s.  I developed a project management system and iterative quality control system to ensure that all systems in the cars worked as designed and cars that were truly ‘better than new’.  Every car my guys restored was test driven and signed off by me before being handed off to Bruce Canepa (the toughest measure of quality you will ever find!).  It was not unusual for me to drive $5 million worth of cars in a single day – or sometimes a single one worth $30 million!  The picture was taken about a year before I left the company.   

DeAnza College has a state of the art automotive engine machine shop.

DeAnza College has a state of the art automotive engine machine shop.

 I have an Associates of Science degree in Automotive Technology from DeAnza College in Cupertino.  DeAnza’s program is considered one of the top in the nation.  I have always been involved with the school over the years since I graduated including guest lecturing and hosting fund raiser car shows at Canepa.  I was also able to raise $10,000 in scholarship funds for students interested in careers in classic cars. 

The classroom in which Scott teaches his high performance engine design class.

The classroom in which Scott teaches his high performance engine design class.

I now teach a class called High Performance Engine Preparation which focuses mainly on modifying the powertrain on street vehicles but also covers other things such as suspension, history, parts suppliers, and high performance/restoration business management.  I took a keen interest in high performance engines early on and was taken under the wing of famed camshaft designer, Dema Elgin (who taught my class before me).  Dema himself was mentored by Ed Winfield who is known as the founder of the automotive aftermarket.  Much of Ed’s teachings are still used in my lectures.  Steve Dinan was one of Dema’s first students.

The school teaches classes covering the mechanical systems of a car bumper to bumper. The complete program consists of three 1-year programs.  They have programs in engine machining, engine performance and electrical systems, and chassis and suspensions.  The complete program takes three years of full-time study to complete.  This results in three certificates.  If a student wishes to receive three associates degrees in automotive technology it takes and additional year and a half to complete general education.  This program is producing mechanics and technicians with more training than someone with a bachelors degree.

 

While at Canepa, I grew itchy for a new opportunity.  I had heard of an up and coming performance shop called Borelli Motorsports decided to send the owner, real estate developer Ralph Borelli an email to see if he wanted to talk. After a few brief meeting I was named General Manager.  My challenge was clear.  Try to take a business which was originally positioned to help sell real estate in the luxurious automotive complex, Club Auto Sport, and make it profitable.  The company had struggled in an industry known for being very difficult.

The company was a landmark in the Bay Area for high performance cars.  We had a Dynojet Eddy-current loadable dynamometer that was in constant use for custom tuning of wild engine combinations. We built 1150 horsepower Dodge Hellcats by overdriving the supercharger and installing nitrous kits.  We had twin-turbo big block Chevy’s.  We installed hundreds of supercharger kits on Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, Corvettes, and much more.  If speed was your goal, we built it.

Borelli Motorsports shop in the Club Auto Sport complex

Borelli Motorsports shop in the Club Auto Sport complex

Unfortunately, the high performance industry is notoriously unprofitable.  Steve Dinan taught me that no high performance business would do well unless they also had a shop that provided normal automotive service – that was where the profit was made.  I was hired to try to change the business model of the company to one more geared toward restoration and high-end cars rather than domestics.  This was a monumental task considering the business had a firm client base.  From a manager’s perspective, being the fourth manager in a year was a terrible predicament to be in.

Borelli Motorsports dyno room

Borelli Motorsports dyno room

The cars we were working on were better than ever.  60’s Ferrari’s and Corvettes, a 950 Horsepower Nissan GTR built for Shift-S3ctor – a half mile racing event. We built a 950 Horsepower Corvette for the Gumball 3000.  I continued my love of ‘sorting’ classic cars and had aquired some good talent.   We  reduced expenses and increased revenue, but the big challenge became the building itself.  There were too many restrictions that prohibited a business like ours from operating.  Noise ordinances and parking became a big issue.  You can’t blame them when we would have open exhaust supercharged Mustangs blaring over and over again from a few thousand RPM up to redline at wide open throttle.  The options to stay alive were not good.  Instead the decision to wind the business down was made.  Over a 3 month period we finished all our already-started projects amicably and dissolved the company.  This was a sad event for Silicon Valley as what is left over does not compare to what we had.  I’ve got to give props to Ralph Borelli for deciding to roll down gracefully and to err on the customers side – also for teaching me business management and spreadsheets.

A 1987 Porsche 959 with only 2500 miles was in for a very complex hydraulic brake failure. Having made less than 300 of these cars, parts are very hard to come by. Repairing rather than replacing is necessary and requires a lot of skill and knowledge to get the job done.

I met Carlos Costa of Exotic Auto Works because they had done the bodywork and paint on a 240Z restoration that was commissioned long before I ever started at Borelli.  My main concern was that the doors did not latch absolutely perfectly.  I was used to demanding only perfection and went down to personally test the door latches to make sure the tactile experience of opening and closing a door was perfect.  It was and he was more than willing to make things right as he too strove for ultimate perfection.

Checking an ignition misfire on a 32 Ford Coupe. The Sun oscilloscope was made in 1971 and was top of the line. Having this equipment, and even more important, knowing how to use them is why we excel in drivability diagnostics of classic cars, stock or modified.

We talked a lot over the weeks that ensued and he offered to hire me for trial period to see if I could fit in and we could build an environment for my pursuit of perfecting classic cars.  When I broke from Borelli I began working for Carlos as his shop manager the very next day,  I had never run a body shop and there were complications such as the shop moving buildings literally the week before.  It was chaotic but I found a crew that I could work well with.  Although I didn’t normally manage collision repairs, they were simply projects I could manage with my project management experience. I attribute the success of my taking on this roll to having real in-the-shop experience for 25 years.  When there is a challenge in the shop, I am able to motivate those around me to contribute ideas for a solution.  We always win.

I began bringing in my private client group, my top clients who always treated me well and respected what I did.