Provo-Based Custom Sports Car Manufacturer Driving Forward Through Pandemic
PROVO, Utah — With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a major toll on livelihoods across the country, sometimes the least an employer can do is stay focused on the road ahead and keep on driving.
At Kirkham Motorsports, owner David Kirkham said he remains resolved to support his employees although the coronavirus has taken a toll.
“I think we all have to do our part and keep people going, keep them on the payroll,” Kirkham said. “One of the people here I hired right before this happened and we’re fortunate to keep her on as well and she’s moving in and doing really well, so we’re happy with that.”
Kirkham said as of late last week that out of 10 employees at his warehouse, four were “out”— three on a precautionary basis with one worker confirmed to have contracted the disease 10 days earlier from what was believed to have been an outside source.
“We practice social distancing — as you can see — really well because it’s such a big building,” Kirkham said. “We don’t even do six feet — it’s more like 60. That’s just how it is.”
Kirkham’s business has manufactured classic replica sports cars and custom builds for over 25 years and began with a dream to restore the 427 Shelby Cobra.
“I was studying manufacturing engineering,” Kirkham recalled. “On my way to med school out of BYU and in my last semester, I came home and told my wife I had heard about a MiG factory — MiG fighter airplane factory — in Poland. This was 1994 and I said, ‘I think I’m going to go make cars.’ And so I left school. I walked out.”
His creations now commonly sell in the $190,000 range, but Kirkham said other models fetch between $300,000 and $400,000.
“There are custom cars that are over a million dollars,” Kirkham said. “I can make pretty much anything you want. If we can dream it up, we can make it. I’ve got really good guys who can figure just about anything out.”
More vexing has been the reality of the pandemic.
While Kirkham said his business remains occupied with existing orders — with each car taking anywhere from two months to one year to complete — he acknowledged new orders had slowed amid trying economic times.
“I think that’s concerning everybody right now,” Kirkham said.
He said many of his longtime customers have told him about their efforts to keep workers and renters in place.
“One of them forgave rent for four months for people in his buildings — his tenants,” Kirkham said. “I know another one who set up a daycare. He’s in the health field, so he’s obviously essential. He’s in California as well. He set up a daycare in his office so that (women) could come in—some of them are single mothers and could come in and have their children with them, especially because some of their spouses are not working now.”
After challenging Governor Gary Herbert for his job in 2012, Kirkham commended Herbert’s “prudent” handling of the pandemic to this point.
“Governor Herbert has done a good job,” Kirkham said. “Granted his situation is not the same as California or New York or somebody else, but I think he did an exceptional job for our state in Utah and our circumstances — cautious yet let everybody alone as much as he thought he could, so I’m very grateful for that.”
He encouraged any employer or anyone else who has the means to help at a time like this to do so and hoped the pandemic might be a distant memory by the end of the year while underscoring the importance to be prepared if it comes back.
“I think it’s wise and prudent that we have more than one supply chain,” Kirkham said. “That’s not a comment on China or the United States or anybody else — any business would be wise to have more than one supply chain just in case something goes down. You’ve heard of ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing, I’m sure? Well, maybe we should go to ‘just-in-case’ manufacturing because stuff happens.”
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