When Tony Portillo started working at Don’s Machine Shop in Kenosha, Wisconsin as a teenager, he didn’t know he was eventually going to purchase the machine shop and eventually the auto parts and starter/alternator rebuilding business with it as well! We visited Tony at his shop to see what they’re all about.
Fel-Pro: You mentioned you worked at Don’s Machine Shop when you were 19 - what made you decide you wanted to purchase the shop?
Tony: My whole life has revolved around the automobiles and racing. I enjoy building and repairing engines - no one day is the same, it is very challenging but also rewarding. The opportunity arose to purchase Don’s Machine Shop in 2003 so I went for it. I kept the name the same because of the recognition and history that comes with it. I then purchased Kenosha Starter and Alternator in 2005. Our business goal is to bring exceptional customer services and quality work at a fair price.
F: Is there a certain engine you specialize in?
T: We don’t turn anything away, we work on everything. Old Flathead Ford engines, modern 4-cylinders, and everything in between. We do specialize in the AMC V8 which is only right since AMC built many of their V8 engines in Kenosha. We also expanded our business, we don’t stick to race engines only. We handle warranty engine work, custom driveshafts, contract maintenance and natural gas conversions.
F: What’s your recipe for success?
T: Constant investment in to equipment, knowledge and skilled workers. We keep our machines updated so we can work with the latest engines. I teach at the vocational school which helps pass knowledge on to the next generation and also keeps my skills sharp and knowledge honed. I stay engaged in the industry and am on the board of directors for the AERA.
F: We know you’re installing Fel-Pro gaskets – why do you put your trust in Fel-Pro?
I need more than just a gasket – our reputation rides on the work we do. I need a company that understands the aftermarket and that knows the repair environment isn’t always perfect. Gaskets that solve problems. Even when we make sure sealing surfaces are completely flat and smooth, Fel-Pro gaskets account for the material we machine off, and the overbore we have to do to clean up cylinder walls. Fel-Pro doesn’t let us down.