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Carl Jantz: A Metal Man

Jantz_Engineering_feature Shops can be branded as a Chevy shop, Ford shop or Honda shop and these labels can be worn as a badge of courage or reviled as a plague that limits the reach of the shop, insulting the proprietor’s ability to innovate and think outside the box. Carl Jantz and his Jantz Engineering is an outside-the-box venture. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_14 “When the ore was mined from the earth they didn't know if it would become a Jeep, Toyota, or Chevy…I’m a metal man,” quips a prideful Carl. The 53-year-old is one of those people who has great stories and knows how to tell them; fans of Madden NFL video games will do a double take as Carl’s voice has a hint of announcer Chris Collingsworth in it. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_15 Carl is Jeep guy for sure and Jantz Engineering, a well-equipped, well-weathered shop on the outskirts of Poulsbo, Washington, is considered an off-road 4x4 specialist. But even that is a bit limiting - as Carl was fixing an articulating garden tractor trailer, a wood chipper and tuning the carburetor on a 1928 Model A during our time shadowing him in the shop. Jantz_Engineering_carb What is a roadblock in the middle of the street for most is barely a speed bump to Carl who isn’t afraid to go off-script. Sometimes the fix requires Carl to make his own tool on the fly - no problem, he can improvise like a seasoned stand-up comedian. “It’s a gift. I can just see how to fix things, it’s all in my mind and just comes natural,” says Carl. “People will want to know how I am going pull off the repair at hand and I say ask me two minutes before I do it and maybe I’ll have an answer. I don’t know until it’s done.” Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_12 Jantz Engineering has carved out a niche, tricking out differentials for use in off-roading and competition rock crawling. His Jana Hybrid kits allow a more robust gear set from a higher series of Dana diff to be utilized in a lower series case (more on this here). He also receives royalties from the Super Joint, a heavy duty u-joint manufactured through Yukon. Carl is quick to point out only two reported failures since 2004 and those broke when the whole rear of the truck was torn apart. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_13 Every shop has a test mule and for Carl it’s been his Super Jeep, a 1952 Willys Jeep fortified for the fiercest trails or rock obstacles. The rig has been extended 25 inches so the rear fenders could be honed to accommodate 42-inch crawler tires. Jantz is currently fitting the high-riding hombre with trick, super-wide bead-lock wheels he has fabricated himself that will be home to monstrous 47-inch tires. He is also deep in development or as he says, “in the process of inventing” a special adapter that will give him an 8-speed transmission by allowing a Muncie four-speed to work in conjunction with an overdrive unit. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_03 Carl opened his first shop, Smokin’ Rods, in Spokane Washington in the early 80s. He ‘hung out his shingle’ for Jantz Engineering after being let go from Boeing following a flurry of layoffs post 9/11/2001. During his 10-year stint at the aircraft company, where he was a ‘Scientist II,’ he worked with tooling, composites and under-wing systems, which along with his mechanical engineering degree gave him the tools for success. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_05 But he related a story that made his rise to literal ‘gear-head status’ seem like it was pre-ordained. Carl recalls a John Deere pedal tractor he had as a youngster and how it wouldn't climb a small mound in his yard. Frustrated seeing one wheel spinning and the other dormant, he flipped over the green and yellow plaything and saw what made it go. Then with a light bulb firing over his head, he envisioned how to conquer the mound. Drill motor in hand he devised a ‘locker’ using a nail to join the two axles under the tractor’s tin seat. The nail sheared off when he turned a corner so he made his set-up a ‘selectable locker’ by taking the nail out at the top of every hill. Jantz_Engineering_Differentials_02 Carl Jantz is an American original and his Jantz Engineering is one of those honest, time-honored, result-driven operations nestled in the ‘boonies,’ that keeps America’s wheels rolling. —Evan Griffey Jantz_Engineering  
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