Diesel Mecca: Inside Fleece Performance Engineering’s New 70,000 Square-Foot Facility
In 2008, Brayden and Chase Fleece opened Fleece Performance Engineering: a small diesel performance operation based out of a 54x60-foot pole barn on their father’s property. By 2012, rapid expansion in everything they had their hands in (including turbochargers, electronics, engine assembly, transmission builds, parts installs and more) forced them out of their 3,200 square-foot beginnings and on to bigger things. But after relocating their operation east to Nitro Alley in Brownsburg, Indiana (where it also thrived), the growing company eventually ran out of room there, too. In 2014, Fleece expanded into the machining side of the engine building process with the acquisition of Freedom Racing Engines (also located in Nitro Alley) and soon began to ponder their next big move.
Last year, Fleece broke ground on a brand-new, 70,000 square-foot facility located on a 52-acre plot. The purpose-built headquarters was specifically designed to allow them to combine all of their manufacturing, engine building, product development, testing, validation, and drive-in truck services under the same roof. This includes a comprehensive turbocharger line, a start-to-finish cylinder head remanufacturing program, engine dyno testing, injection pump and lift pump production and the ability to machine any part they need to in-house—including engine blocks.
When we arrived for our tour of Fleece’s new headquarters, we were surprised to find much of the space on the freshly-poured concrete already occupied—an indication that the company’s growth is still showing no signs of leveling off. From operating out of a pole barn just a decade ago to becoming one of today’s most formidable players in the diesel industry, the story of Fleece Performance Engineering is one of a true American success story.
The Palace in Pittsboro
Fleece Performance Engineering has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and the company’s new facility, located just two miles northwest of the town of Pittsboro, Indiana along I-74 exemplifies its exponential growth. It boasts 70,000 square-feet of space, a considerable portion of which is shared with Freedom Racing Engines—the engine building side of the company. In less than 10 years’ time, the once-small operation ballooned into a 50-employee enterprise.
A Sea of Machines
With 60,000 square-feet of space at the ground level and another 10,000 upstairs, Fleece’s new headquarters dwarfs its old crib in Nitro Alley, which spanned 26,000 square-feet between two separate buildings. However, between its machining, reconditioning, electronics and manufacturing lines of work, it didn’t take long to fill most of the floor on the ground level. It’s also worth noting that, in an effort to make its new lines of operation as efficient as possible, Fleece allowed its machinists to be involved with the layout (and the initial design even before that) of their specific stations at the new facility.
300-Percent Increase in Turbo Production
Perhaps best known for its Cheetah line of turbochargers, Fleece’s spinney things sell like hot-cakes in the diesel world. This is precisely why its new facility has six turbo building stations vs. just two at the old building. The significant increase in production capacity, along with much more warehousing space for inventory, is specifically aimed at keeping up with market demand and also having chargers on the shelf, ready to ship at a moment’s notice.
One turbo in particular that flies off the shelves is Fleece’s HX35 FMW Cheetah for ’94-’02 5.9L Cummins-powered Dodge Rams (pictured first row, above). It’s based on the factory, tough-as-nails Holset HX35W and is a direct drop-in replacement charger. However, to move enough air to support 650rwhp, Fleece equips it with a 63mm forged milled compressor wheel, a higher flowing turbine wheel and sets the wastegate to open at 40 psi of boost. In the second row, Fleece’s 63mm Cheetah versions of the HE341CW and HE351CW can be seen, all ready to be boxed up and shipped out.
PowerFlo Lift Pumps
Aftermarket fuel supply systems aren’t anything new in the diesel industry, but in 2017 Fleece reinvented the game with its PowerFlo in-tank pump. Using two OEM quality gerotor pumps and active fill bucket technology, its PowerFlo units provide enough fuel to support 800rwhp without the need to add items such as draw straws or sumps to your stock fuel tank. Its in-tank design makes it quieter, better protected from cold weather (i.e. gel ups) and easier to install. PowerFlo pumps are available for ’98.5-’18 Dodge (Cummins) applications as well as ’04.5-’16 GM (Duramax) applications.
For Heavy-Duty Cutting
As Fleece delves deeper and deeper into machining its own engine blocks, this 55,000-pound OKK HM1000S will be in the middle of it all. The 4-axis horizontal machining center will allow for series production of its forged-aluminum Cummins block, or any other big projects the company takes on. Upon delivery, the Fleece crew fabricated the platform that surrounds their new 13-foot tall monstrosity.
Freedom Racing Engines
Most of the eastern portion of the building is consumed by Freedom Racing Engines: the engine building branch of Fleece’s multi-faceted operation. It is here that the company’s race and street engines are machined and assembled, its reman cylinder head program operates steadily five days a week and a whole host of high performance R&D is conducted.
Cummins 24-Valve Cylinder Heads
Taking what it learned from the drag racing and truck pulling side of its business and applying it to Freedom’s cylinder head remanufacturing program, Fleece offers two near-bulletproof cylinder head options for both ’03-’07 5.9L and ’07.5-present 6.7L Cummins owners, as well as a Street series head for ’98.5-’02 5.9L engines. Its Street series head is rated for up to 700rwhp and its fire-ringed Street Performance unit is good for 1,100rwhp. The cylinder head pictured above is about to decked and then machined to accept thread-in pipe plugs rather than traditional freeze plugs.
On top of supplying the industry with bolt-on-ready Cummins heads, Freedom’s Duramax head program has really taken off over the past year. From start to finish, the 6.6L V8’s aluminum heads are cleaned, inspected, pressure and leak tested, then decked and equipped with new valve guides, springs and valve seals—all in-house. Freedom’s remanufactured Duramax heads are guaranteed to meet or exceed factory specifications and are available for LB7-LML (i.e. ’01-‘16) model year engines.
3 Clean Rooms and 4 Dyno Cells
Also on the Freedom Racing Engines side, there are three clean rooms for assembling engines (shown above) and four engine dyno cells. The concrete used for each dyno cell was poured separately, along with the walls being made out of solid-filled, 12-inch block walls for optimum safety. Locked inside these concrete bunkers, the fine-tuning and data logging that’s required to squeeze every last drop of horsepower out of an engine can be conducted in a safe and repeatable manner before the power plant is ever lowered into a chassis.
Head-to-Toe Truck Service
Though Fleece has transformed into a multi-faceted machine, with manufacturing garnering much of the company’s glamor in recent years, the company’s roots are based in servicing and upgrading diesel pickups. One step into the service shop and you’ll find the same mechanics that’ve worked for Fleece for years, and enough manpower and experience to tackle virtually any Cummins, Duramax or Power Stroke job that comes through the door.
Forged-Aluminum Cummins Block
Originally unveiled in 2017, Fleece’s all-aluminum Cummins block—a crankcase that’s capable of supporting 3,500-plus horsepower in racing applications—was headed into the company’s Haas VF6 vertical machining center for a few updates when we stopped by. Freedom Racing Engines’ General Manager, John Benshoof, wants to reduce the weight of the forged 6061 aluminum block to 220 pounds in the near future. With the block currently tipping the scales at 260 pounds (vs. 460 pounds for a factory cast-iron 6.7L Cummins block), Benshoof believes enough material can still be removed to meet his end goal. In drag racing and truck pulling applications, these kinds of weight savings can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Curious as to what else the Hoosiers at Fleece are up to? Check out the technology behind its best-selling Cheetah turbocharger for the 6.7L Power Stroke here.