The 45-year fix

Terry Flebbe's invention could change the Mopar engine world

Terry Flebbe

Terry Flebbe

When Jason Skerratt was restoring his 1969 Dodge Super Bee, he brought his 440 Mopar engine to his long-time automotive buddy, Terry Flebbe at Terry’s Auto Lab to be rebuilt into a custom 440 6-pack.

However, when he installed the rebuilt motor the thermostat leaked.

“Not surprising,” Terry said.

Now Jason was dealing with anti-freeze creating an unsightly mess and the leak was constant.

“I brought it back to Terry and together we tried various gaskets and sealants but nothing stopped the leak,” Jason said.

Jason knew Terry would mull over the problem and if there was a solution to be found, Terry would find it.

“I was working on other jobs, off and on thinking about the leak and the vision of an adapter came to me,” Terry said.

About a week later, Terry called Jason and the Mopar enthusiast’s first question was “did you find a solution?”

Although he admitted he’d figured out the solution, he hadn’t fabricated the part – yet.

During lunch in June 2010, Terry handed Jason the solution: a machined, aluminum adapter with a built-in O ring.

“I knew it would work as soon as I saw it,” Jason said with a smile.

Terry explained, on a big block Dodge engine the thermostat sits on top of the water pump but the traditional design couldn’t accommodate an O ring, the solution to the leakage problem.

He then designed an adapter plate with a built-in O ring.

For Jason, this was revolutionary.

The traditional fix with gaskets, sealants and the like, required not only frequent replacement but also the time it takes to allow the sealant and gasket glues to dry, often upwards of 24 hours. With the new adapter, not only was it a long term fix, but it takes only about 10 minutes to change and you’re back on the road.

Jason installed Terry’s invention and drove his Super Bee for about a year without a single leakage problem.

In surfing the Internet, Jason found the problem was universal and unsolved in all Dodge engines, 1978 and older.

“The bane of dodge restorers across the world,” Jason said.

“I said to Terry, ‘we’ve got to get on this.’ I prodded Terry for a long time.”

But true to Terry’s nature, he found the solution, created the part and moved on to other jobs.

Jason wouldn’t let it go and once he agreed to get involved, Terry also saw the potential for marketing his invention.

It was somewhat daunting with finding a manufacturer, designing a website, figuring out labelling and packaging and, not the least, getting the word out to Mopar restorers.

“I felt it was important that, from start to finish, this would be a Quesnel product,” Jason said.

“The label printing, web design and package were all done in Quesnel by Studio Grandell, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a local machine shop willing to take on the project.”

They found a manufacturer in Vancouver.

With many of the kinks worked out in their project, Terry and Jason decided to send the adapter to Richard Ehrenberg at Mopar Action magazine. They were just looking for feedback.

“We knew they had lots of Mopar motors at their disposal so we suggested they play around with the product and see how it performed,” Jason said.

For two months they didn’t hear anything, then in January 2012 an email arrived in Terry’s inbox.

“It said an article was in the works,” Terry said.

Jason added an article is huge.

“We’d have been happy with a mention in their new parts section,” he said.

The write-up was due out in two months and the partners scrambled to be ready for their new adapter’s debut.

Once the magazine hit the stands, the first adapter order was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas.

“I still get excited when I see an email ‘Notification of payment received,’” Terry said.

The partners have put up world maps on the walls of Terry’s shop, with push pins identifying where their adapters have been shipped. Pins are now in Norway, Australia, U.S.A., including Hawaii and in Canada. Every day brings new e-mails.

“Finally found my leaky answer” was just one of the many responses.

Jason figures there were about 50 million big block engines (although the adapter also works on small block engines) built between 1958 – 1978 and of those he estimates a few million are still either on the road or salvageable. That includes farm equipment, industrial, marine and motor homes of which millions used big block Mopar engines.

“Every Dodge motor would benefit from the adapter. Even some owners who are unwilling to admit to a leakage problem, however, are purchasing it for the look it provides, they say,” Terry added.

Although the partners expect 90 per cent of their sales will

be online, Jason plans to promote the adapter at car shows and through targeted advertising.

Now, with the adapter in the marketplace, Jason is constantly picking Terry’s brain for other quirky or unique inventions that could also be marketed.

“I’ve only been around Terry for about 15 – 18 years, think of all the things I’ve missed before that,” he said with a laugh.

Because that’s what Terry does. If he needs something and it’s not available commercially, he creates it and then moves on. And that includes auto parts, tools and a host of other necessary widgets.

And who knows, his inventions, most one of a kind, could be the next great thingamajig.