SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 19, May 14, 2009

SEMA Members Lead With Experience—Eaton Detroit Spring Member Visit

Eaton Detroit Spring Facility
Housed in the same building since 1939, Eaton Detroit Spring's longevity is surpassed only by its product knowledge.

One city in particular seems to have become a focal point for the current economic crisis: Detroit. As the car-production capital of the world, Detroit has suffered greatly as a result of the downturn in the economy. Not only has it continued to be the home of domestic automakers, but it, along with the surrounding areas, is also home to many SEMA-member companies.

Recently, while attending the annual SAE World Congress in the Motor City, members of the SEMA market research and information staff had the privilege of visiting three member companies. This week, the visit to the Eaton Detroit Spring facility highlights the heritage and history of SEMA manufacturing members.

Frank and Grace Eaton founded Eaton Detroit Spring in 1937 when they decided to purchase the aftermarket division of Detroit Steel Products for $11,000. Since 1939, Eaton Detroit Spring has run its operations in downtown Detroit, on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, right across the street from the old Detroit Tigers stadium. Today, the company is run by Michael Eaton, the grandson of Frank and Grace, and Kim (Eaton) Mitchell, Michael’s daughter and the great-granddaughter of Frank and Grace.

Michael Eaton and Kim (Eaton) Mitchell
Truly a family-run enterprise, Michael Eaton and daughter Kim (Eaton) Mitchell run the business today. The grandson and great-granddaughter team are the third and fourth generation to carry the torch.

The company has claims to more than 24,000 original-equipment spring blueprints for 166,000 stock applications and is the only spring manufacturer to be licensed by both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. Some of the equipment used to manufacturer the springs is completely original and dates back to the early days of the company. If the equipment breaks down, Eaton employees fix it, and, if the equipment needs a new part, the employees must manufacture it. In fact, one piece of equipment in particular is the last one known to exist in the world.

Even with their archives of designs and product knowledge, many people may not know that Eaton Detroit Spring can manufacture custom springs for any application: stock or custom. Abilities such as these are some of the features many SEMA members hold but others many not appreciate or be aware of.

Each spring that the company manufactures is designed to original specifications, but if customers plan to modify the vehicle to change the ride characteristics—for an engine conversion or to meet race specifications—the folks at Eaton Detroit Spring would know exactly what to do to make the best springs for that particular application.

Eaton Detroit Craftsman
Craftsmen manufacture the springs on site using techniques learned from nearly seven decades of experience.

The company’s website [www.eatonsprings.com ] hosts a great deal of information for customers looking to replace or upgrade springs for their vehicles. Definitions for mono-leaf and multi-leaf springs can be found, as well as instructions for correctly measuring a leaf spring. And Michael Eaton is just a phone call away and is always happy to help customers find the spring setup they are looking for.

Eaton Detroit Spring is a member of SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA). S. Kellie Colf, the company’s marketing development manger, is a Select Committee member of both the HRIA and the Young Executives Network (YEN), and the company is represented annually at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The company also takes advantage of other member benefits, such as the database of information provided by the market research and information department and, in particular, the Hot Rod Industry Report.

The goal of the market research and information staff is to provide useful and timely data to help SEMA-member companies prosper in the ever-changing automotive landscape, and member visits such as this give SEMA staff a chance to visit with members, understand their needs and discover ways to best serve the industry.

SEMA Research & Information Center

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