General Motors is closing its Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan, after almost ten years of operations. Since its establishment, the Performance Build Center has shipped nearly 40,000 hand-built engines for some of GM’s fastest units. The Center is home to GM’s build-your-own program wherein customers pay $5,000 to spend a day assembling an engine for their Chevrolet Corvette, Camaro or custom car.
However, the program’s stoppage is only temporary since GM will set a similar program in Corvette’s Bowling Green site in Kentucky, according to GM Powertrain spokesman Tom Read. With the Center’s imminent closure, some engines built there – like the supercharged double overhead cam Northstar V-8 fitted in the Cadillac XLR – are not longer produced. GM is building other engines like the 6.2-liter V-8 option for the 2014 Corvette Stingray in other sites.
GM opened the Performance Build Center in late 2004 to raise its image of craftsmanship. GM selected 30 workers from local powertrain site to work at the center. A worker begins with a machine-built block and adds by hand the pistons, valves and other parts to complete the engine. Some engines even had a plaque with the builder's name.
While a hand-built engine is not superior to machine-built powerplant, it gives an aura of exclusivity and craftsmanship. Ford even has a special production line for hand-building the supercharged 5.8-liter V-8 engine for the Mustang Shelby GT500. Chrysler also employs a special crew who builds the Vipers 640-hp, 8.4-liter V-10 engine by hand.