One of the biggest draws to Honda building is undoubtedly the selection of engine options and ease of swapping into various chassis. The Honda enthusiast movement wasn't originally built on the swap factor, as that was still a few years away, but it certainly experienced its largest growth and has maintained its longevity based on the countless transplants that have taken place over the last few decades. Vein Engine Stands, an upstart out of the San Jacinto Valley region of Riverside, Calif. (about an hour and a half east of Los Angeles), wants to help make the process of installation, removal, maintenance and garage mobilization quite a bit easier.
As Grassroots as It Gets
Veins' Nick Fraser and Kris Smith officially began selling their custom engine stands in February of 2019 and since then have amassed an ever-growing clientele that has increased substantially since the onset of the nation's quarantine efforts. The quality, fit, and finish of their product might have you thinking of a huge facility with high-dollar machines and an assembly line of workers making it all happen, but the reality is this is a garage-built business, one that sees the fabrication, production, and shipping/receiving all done in a home garage. The success of the product is evident, as is the need for more space in order to meet demand and fulfill the duo's desire to expand into additional ventures.
As of late 2018, the thought of Vein Engine Stands didn't even exist. As a matter of fact, Kris was comfortable working in the construction industry. That is, until he lost his job. He adds, "The next time I saw my good friend Nick, his exact words to me losing my job were, 'Well, you going to start welding then?' He had been set up in his garage for some work he used to do and had a Mig welder and most of the tools for metal fabrication on hand. He had two bins full of scrap cut pieces. I spent the next month teaching myself how to weld by just welding all those scraps together."
Finding a Niche by Chance
During this time, Kris was in the midst of a K-series build that would have to be put on the back burner while he was out of work, and with a traditional engine stand being needed for another build, he had to find a place to put his engine. "I told myself I didn't want to put my engine on the floor—I needed something. I ran across an engine cart on a clutch page on social media at that time and said hey, that's perfect, I'm learning how to weld, I'll make a stand like that for my own build to sit on." That was in November of 2018 and after posting a picture of the stand that he'd whipped up on his own social media, the DMs asking about purchasing began coming in. "Mind you, at the time I had less than three months welding experience. After that first cart, Nick said let's sell them. He was willing to put the money up, and me being fresh off losing my job, I was willing to put the time up."
For the next few months, Kris and Nick refined the design, making it easier to mount, and Nick's idea of making the legs removable, rather than fixed, helped both with shipping and flexibility for the end user, who can quickly pull it apart for storage. The next order of business was coming up with a name and theirs actually comes from the Silver Vein Hammertone powder-coat finish that accompanies much of their product. "We were just going to let the name come naturally. As I was making the Instagram account, I just said 'Vein stands.' It was simple, short, easily branded and seemed like it just worked."
On February 5th of 2019, the website and social media pages opened up with options for D-, B-, and K-series applications. Kris notes that one of the biggest factors to the early orders came by way of YouTube personality, Honda building guru and wheel ace Ghost Boy Aki, who's highlighted the stand on his channel multiple times and helped prompt Vein's social media spark.
Making Swap Life Easier
The beauty of the Vein stand is that it's situated at the ideal height and geometry to make bolting it into place a simple affair. Vein has even accounted for those who are using lean engine mounts, offering a more exaggerated angle to match exactly the way it will sit once bolted into the bay. The rubber casters are a far cry from the sketchy metal ones that accompany most traditional engine stands that seem to do their best to never make it over a crack in the concrete without a fight. Here, the wheels have no problem rolling over those obstacles and offer an easy 360 degree turn without much effort at all. When it's time to keep the engine secure, there are user-friendly locks to keep the whole assembly anchored in place.
Storage is simple, with all four legs simply unbolted, and when it comes time to drop the engine once again, the legs can be re-attached directly to the block and the base then mounted in order to set the engine back on the ground once its unbolted. Racecar owners and teams can benefit the most, as they're notorious for consistent removal and replacement before and after races, but these stands are really ideal for any DIY'er.
Cruisin' in Comfort
In addition to the stand, perhaps the unsung hero of the Vein website is their shop cruiser. Rigid and fitted with a handy aluminum tool tray underneath, it also relies on those easy-rolling, 3-in. hard rubber locking caster wheels that have no problem rolling over the gaps in your garage floor.
The high-density memory foam pad embossed with a V.S. logo is incredibly comfortable for those long sessions of tinkering with your engine. Its height, relative to the engine's position on the stand, is spot on, and those of you with annoying back issues, like me, will appreciate that.
Working from Home
I made the trek out to Hemet to visit Kris at the Vein garage, where business takes place and includes the fabrication, packaging and shipping. The layout carries a military feel, both organized and systematic, rather than the disarray and confusion you might expect with the constant order creation and fulfillment from a home garage operation. On this day it was Kris working solo, but he mentioned that lately he and Nick get some additional help from their friend Emilio as the orders continue to roll in.
A slew of Honda engines on hand have served as a jig of sorts, allowing the team to design multiple applications for various engine families that often have minor differences and require a different part number. For example, K-series owners ready to order a stand on the site will need to specify which model engine they're using, from K20A to K24Z7, the slight variances require different mounting points.
While I was there for just a few hours, delivery trucks dropped off and picked up right from the driveway and Kris noted that there's constant movement throughout the day, with materials coming in and orders going out—just like you'd find at a local business park.
IG Famous K-series
Kris' K-series engine build has been the brand's media darling for quite some time via social channels, displaying not only the engine stand itself, but Vein's titanium hardware venture. Every part of the long block has been massaged with a ton of details and intricate powder-coat work. The display piece fortifies the brand's personal interest in Honda building, as does their future race car program, continually pulled out of the garage to start each workday. Kris notes that this particular engine is his street build and will eventually find its way into a chassis. For now, it serves as the brand's calling card.
Tools of the trade for Vein include the welder and chop saw you might imagine, but much of the production relies on keeping hardware and materials completely stocked up at all times.
Here, organization is key to ensuring the orders continue heading out the door. Admittedly, the global pandemic has had effect on gathering certain items and as a result, lead time has been extended, as is the case for many brands currently who rely on various suppliers.
Using the momentum of the engine stands success, Nick and Kris have ventured into the titanium hardware business, which is currently in high demand, especially with the Honda crowd. "We knew there was a good market for this endeavor, and we pulled the trigger and made a buy-in with a titanium distributor here in the States. We now have hundreds of bolts already made and available and we'll be doing custom products also. It's been the most fun endeavor yet for me—I really enjoy the process."
In addition, Vein also offers fuel injector service. "We've invested thoroughly in our equipment and educating ourselves of the importance of fuel injector maintenance. We offer this service on our website also and you can either drop off locally or ship them in. We service all top feed, side feed, mono point, multi point, K-jetronic, GDI, as well as Piezo for Mercedes and BMW. Our service includes a full diagnostic report with the data everyone's in search of."
That's not all. Kris mentions that he's also been working with his father on a line of carbon fiber composites. "It's still an in-house business and we recently completed our '96-'00 EK full carbon fiber dashboard. It's 3-layers of 2x2 twill weave carbon ONLY, with no fiberglass. It weighs 2.4lbs total and we'll also be completing a '92-'95 dash as well as many other chassis race application parts."
All of the incoming engine stand orders as well as the expansion are going to require more space, and that's where Vein's new 5,000 sq.-ft. facility comes into play. The jump to the new facility will house all of the above-mentioned business as well as their upcoming move to in-house powder coating, which will both speed up engine stand and shop cruiser production and add yet another service to their growing portfolio. Nick and Kris took a major gamble on themselves in starting this brand out of their garage, but after just a year and a half of dedication, it's already paying off.
In addition, the builds are expected to really get underway. "Some of our future goals include resuming the process of building our race program. My partner Nick owns a Whitfield MFG 25.5 6.0 Cert '96-'00 chassis that we plan to compete in the SS/SFWD class with, and personally I'll be building an All Motor Pro chassis to compete as well. We already own both chassis that we plan to make race cars and are looking forward to showcasing what we're capable of. We also plan to take on full customer builds and perhaps get more into parts production/fabrication."
Current engine stand applications list (custom designed stands are available)
- K-Series "Swap" Engine Stand
- K-Series "Swap" AWD Engine Stand
- K-Series "Lean Mount" Engine Stand
- K-Series "Flush Mount" Engine Stand
- D-Series "Universal" Engine Stand
- D-Series "D2B" Engine Stand (when using B-series trans)
- F-Series "F20c/F22c" Engine Stand
- F-Series "F2K" Engine Stand (when using K-trans)
- H-Series "H22/23" Engine Stand
- H-Series "H2B" Engine Stand (when using B-series trans)
- J-Series "Universal" Engine Stand
- B-Series "Universal" Engine Stand
- B-Series "AWD" Engine stand
- Evolution 8/9 "4G63" Engine Stand
- Evolution 10 "4B11" Engine Stand
- DSM 6/7 Bolt "4G63" Engine Stand
- K-Series "K2S" Engine stand (when using S2000 transmission"