November 10th 2020
EPARTRADE User Profile: Penta Motorsports, Canoga Park, California
From competitions to car shows, Penta Motorsports offers both years of experience and state-of-the-art technology to the vintage motorsports industry. Steve Sanett, who uses EPARTRADE regularly, began his career in racing at Le Mans in 1971, and today races vintage cars and is general manager and director of business development of this unique Canoga Park, California-based company.
The photo shows a 1957 Lotus Xl Le Mans Sports Racer, the car model that put Colin Chapman on the map—winning many races with it, and helping Lotus become a virtual household name. Sanett is at the far right in the photo.
“We’re supported by two other companies through sponsorship. We’ve been doing this kind of work for over 25 years. But in recent years, while we’ve done a lot of custom restoration work, we’ve relinquished our interest in that, and decided to go into the parts business. We have really gone into the development and manufacture of esoteric parts and motors that support the vintage motor vehicle.”
Sanett describes his market segment as all cars that are vintage. “Some of it is very esoteric, such as Covered Tree Climax engines. We’ve developed a lot of parts for Daimler Cars Limited; we build parts and motors for the heavy Daimler SP 250 as well, which is a small sports car made through the 1950s and 1960s, with a tiny hemispherical V8,” Sanett says, “We do all the components, suspension, and engine for the Daimler SP 250.”
Adding to an impressive list of vintage components, Sanett ticks off those for Porsche 911-based cars, and the 911 RSR from the 1970s. “We do those engine and suspension components, and we have one here that we race. For Lotus, we make many of the Lotus 11 components, as well as their engine and transmission, and we make straight cut dog boxes, too. A lot of cars use those types of transmission. We also do rib case Sprite Austin Healy gear boxes. That’s the majority of what we specialize in.”
Additionally, Penta Motorsport has developed a race car, and is making parts for that as well.
“We also have a car collection of over 60 cars here, spanning the early 1930s to late model Ford GTs. It is almost like a museum environment. We also keep track of and maintain that collection, and we restore our own cars, of course,” Sanett relates.
Then there is racing itself. “We build our own racing engines and offer that service out to people with these particular cars, who want that kind of an engine built,” says Sanett. The company also attends eight or nine races nationwide, running cars in vintage events.
“This year, because of the pandemic, things were more limited, but we plan to attend many next year. And we’re going to the Circuit of The Americas Formula One track in Austin. The SVRA is also having their national championship there, and because they’ve figured out how to get it done with social distancing, we are heading off to Austin soon with a rare Lotus.”
Penta Motorsports has three full-time staff members and 27,000-square-feet of space in the company’s high-end shop.
To generate new business, Sanett says the company focuses steadily on supporting vintage racing in terms of components that are not readily available. “Because we have these cars here, it is a lot easier for us to develop stuff. We don’t do a huge volume with this, the other companies [under our umbrella] that support our group do the large numbers.” He cites what his company does as a labor of love. “We have the facility, we have a great tech standpoint and a full machine shop. We can do full plasma cutting, metal cutting; we have huge band saws—essentially we can make whatever we want. In terms of capacity, we have an engine shop and a dynamometer, a chassis shop, we are a full one-stop shop in terms of capacity,” Sanett asserts.
He is proud of how well the parts that his company has developed work, and that they can charge fair prices for them because they’re supported in what they do by other companies. “Our customers can get very high-end stuff at very fair prices. These are parts that otherwise wouldn’t be available at all.”
Penta Motorsports’ philosophy is that innovation, and the thought process necessary to develop their products, is the most important aspect of their business. “Of course, our customers benefit, because they can get access to what we’ve done, using the highest materials to make the finest quality products. We take pride in what we do and what we make,” Sanett stresses.
Despite the pandemic, he sees lots of promise ahead in vintage racing. “Vintage racing is all hobbyists really, racing in VARA, (Vintage Auto Racing Association) and SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association), sanctions that set up racing venues throughout the country.”
Sanett explained that VARA is primarily based in the greater Los Angeles area, and organizes five to seven races per year at local tracks such as Buttonwillow and Willow Springs. “They’ve been the first to put on a vintage race at Buttonwillow, and keep the social distancing and health structure in place in such a way that the Health Department approved the race. That success set the stage as a precedent for others to follow.”
Having attended a race at the track a few weeks ago, he says, “I think what is happening is that people are becoming adaptive and creative. There’s a merge between what people want, which is to go racing, with keeping the social distancing and other practices to where it is acceptable to the health department."
Sanett added, “The vintage racing scene isn’t about having thousands in the stands; the focus is different. So, because of that, the vintage stuff is back to a full schedule for 2021.”
For those new to the racing business and motorsports marketplace, Sanett has this advice: “Study your market, study what is required, go to the races, whether vintage or pro.” He suggests simply seeing what the competition is. “This is the standard practice for any business. You need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and the service that’s needed.”
Sanett says the company uses EPARTRADE to showcase the company’s unique products and skills, and that he relies on the digital platform as a viable source for current technology in the racing industry. “People can see and review the products coming out, and that’s been really helpful," says Sanett. "It’s been a cohesive, focused experience that’s good for the industry.”