By Michael Shaw
Tony Barber has chosen to take the road less traveled—and at the highest speed possible.
In 2004, Barber quit his traditional white-collar job of managing a call center for a local Fortune 500 company. He ditched the 9-to-5, power ties and Franklin planners because he wanted something more fun. Like cars. Really fast cars.
“I discovered cars before girls,” he says. “Other guys had a poster of Cheryl Tiegs on their walls. I had a Lambourghini Countache.” So the MBA grad turned his attention to Turn In Concepts, a custom automobile business he created that designs and markets aftermarket performance parts.
“We started with one specific part,” he says, “a shift linkage bushing.” He digs through a shelf of boxes at his stuffed-to-the-rafters headquarters in Fairfield, Ohio, and produces the part. It’s an unassuming donut-shaped piece of black plastic designed to correct the “shift slop” that affected the Subarus used in the sports of autocross and time trials. But it’s so effective mechanically that in 2005 they shipped 25,000 units of the bushing.
Now, Turn In Concepts has grown to three partners, five employees and a parts list numbering into the thousands. They ship products all over the world on a weekly basis to places like Greece, Russia and Singapore. “All our parts are track-focused and designed.” Meaning that while his customers like their cars to go fast, staying under control is just as important. “About 95 percent of our customers are people who want their cars to perform better. The other 5 percent intend to track race.”
What’s Barber’s biggest challenge moving forward? “To stay in tune with the market we need to stay in touch with the market.”
Which has inspired projects like undertaking the legendary Cannonball One Lap of America in a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX with custom aerodynamics, suspension, transmission, brakes and around 700 horsepower squeezed out of a four-cylinder motor.
The result of that effort is on display as a trophy for placing fourth overall, first in class and rookie of the year.
“We like to test new components on the latest cars, test them on the track and then when we’re done, we’ll sell the car.”
The need for competitive speed has also led the company into the fast and furious world of professional time trials—including the very cool sounding Global Time Attack. So these days Barber can often be found behind the wheel of some very fast, high-performance cars. “Just another day at the office.” And he’s rarely distracted by emails.