From the pioneer years up to the golden days of the sport and from two stroke decades to the four stroke era the R&D Company was present, supporting the sport and the market with high quality products, immaculate service and unique performance.
Words: Vasilis Moraitis
If anyone run back to personal water craft old magazines he will find out that lot of companies that were producing after market accessories and performance engine packages in the eighties are no longer exist. Some of them hit their pick in the mid nineties though nowadays that the sport is in a crisis there are only a few, most probably you can count them in the fingers of one hand, companies that have survived in the demanding market. There is no doubt about the fact that R&D is the oldest after market manufacturer in the industry of personal water craft. Its strength, built over the years experience and know how made it the leading manufacturer of after market performance products as well as the company the pwc industry turns to when they need answers and the best products available. Over the years R&D has developed a complete line of two and four stroke performance products and packages for Sea-Doo, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, and Polaris. All R&D products are designed and manufactured In-House. Utilizing state-of-the-art Software and CNC machines, R&D has become the standard in the pwc field with unequaled quality, engineering, and performance. R&D is the only performance company in the watercraft industry that designs and machines all of its products in-house with state-of the art software and CNC machines. The in-house production allows the company to produce the highest quality parts and accessories on the market. Additionally, they provide prototyping, production CNC machining, and custom air filter development/production services.
Bill Chapin, R&D’s research and development guru has cooperated with riders and pioneers of the sport such as Cristy Carslon, Victor Sheldon, Nicolas Rius, Jeff Jacobs, Chris MacClugage and other who they have been relied on over the years to win countless National and World Championships in every classification of competition. R&D has always been at the forefront of advancing two stroke and four stroke technologies and continues to bring to the customers and racers the highest quality, unmatched service, and unsurpassed value. The R&D products are being distributed all over the world through the international distributors and dealerships.
Personally, I met Bill Chapin a few years ago at the World Finals and immediately I realized his unique character and outstanding experience in every single field -whether it is engine performance or handling- that has to deal with the performance of a personal water craft. Most racers respect him a lot and who ever criticizes him is just because he does not have his services or valuable cooperation. Two years ago I was watching him developing Chris MacClugage’s 15F Supercharged day by day. He did not even complaining when I was taking spy shots of his everyday work, knowing of course that I was not planning to show his work to anyone else. MacClugage won the title in Pro Runabout class and kept behind him Dustin Farthing, Team Kawasaki’s factory rider. Last year Klipper won the Pro Ski class on a S4 that was an arm pulling accelerating Ski with an outstanding performance –since I rode it the very next day- and Chapin had given Klipper a hand for the engine tuning as well as developing a better handling package for the S4. These are the latest examples that came up to my mind about R&D’s remarkable performance and dedication to the sport. On the other hand no one has forgotten the unique performance of Christy Carlson and Nicolas Rius or Victor Sheldon between ‘92 and ’95.
The visit to R&D premises was arranged through Bill Chapin when I was in Lake Havasu City during the World Finals. After completing the Kawasaki Ultra 250X with the R&D engine performance and handling kit I asked Chapin whether it was possible to visit the factory. The sun had already dived behind the desert mountains when Chapin suggested that it was the right time to do it since the R&D factory had recently moved to its new premises in LA near by the Orange County. Immediately picked up his cell phone and called Glenn Dickinson owner of R&D Company. In the evening we went for dinner with Chapin and I found out that the company was involved in great innovations according the technology of personal water crafts and aftermarket goodies and tune up kits. The meeting was arranged and the very next day we left Lake Havasu City and drove straight to North East of Los Angeles.
Glenn started explaining to me that everything started in the back yard of his house. Along with his father, they designed and fabricated special parts for personal water crafts and motorcycles. Those very first years hard work needed every day in order to overcome the costs of research and development prior manufacturing the parts since the demand was not big at the beginning. Over the years R&D managed to become one of the bigger aftermarket companies in personal water craft, motorcycle and ATV aftermarket products. The innovative design along with the high quality its products and the unique performance that they offer actually, boosted the sales of R&D products in the US and all over the world. R&D is cooperating with Yamaha USA and makes for them official Yamaha aftermarket accessories such as power filters for motorcycles and ATV’s. Around Glenn’s office you will see some wooden molds, sand castings, power filters, exhaust silencers for MX bikes, billet cylinder heads and other products.
Making the molds or the tooling for particular products needs dedication and calculations in order to avoid mistakes that will bring the disaster in the production line. Chapin had told me that they take a lot of things under consideration prior taking the decision to make some special parts or a performance package for a particular craft. That is why you do not find a parts list for some models in the R&D catalogue. He showed me the R&D heavily modified SX-R Stealth intake grate that was made for Klipper’s S4 and he told me that he will not produce the required tooling unless they will know the Austrian companies future. When someone like Chapin gives you such a note you take it under serious consideration.
Apart from making engine performance parts and handling packages R&D also designs and manufactures special tools that make mechanic’s life easier on performing routine maintenance or tuning the four stroke engines. Also, they made tricky parts that help to monitor the engine performance and adjust the air to fuel ratio or other parameters in order to maintain the high engine output. Also, the company produces rebuild kits for the compressor of certain manufacturers since the manufacturers themselves sell the whole unit.
Hanging around the R&D
Getting in to the new premises you look at posters of front cover magazines and pictures of famous riders. Cristy Carlson, Nicolas Rius and Chris MacClugage are some of them. Someone is working on a computer setting up all the appropriate information for the installation notes for every single product. Also, general information and photos of the products are up loaded to the web site of the company.
The facility of R&D in L.A. was much larger than I was expected to be. The shop floor is original, authentic as a shop floor should be. CNC machines are working on progress; some technicians are drilling on precision drilling machines, lathes and milling machines. An operator was steadily packing the products at the other end of the building using additionally a machine for special plastic packaging. Since the Kawasaki Ultra 250X was the hottest personal water craft of the 2007 season it was obvious that there were lots of parts around just for this particular personal water craft. The cast parts of the sponsons were ready for drilling and taping. The carbon R&D ride plates were freshly made during that time and packing had already started. The
Storing the goods
Walking around the storage department you realize how short the history of the sport is simply my reading the codes of the accessories on the selves. Name an R&D accessory for an old personal water craft and you will find it on these selves, from cast aluminum drop nozzles for GPR’s to tricky ride plates and flame arresters for SX’s, Super Jet’s. Power filters, any short of adaptors and God knows what else is stored on these selves.
This year the new IJSBA rules take the sport back to the good old days of “Modified” years. A fact that allows the two strokes to use special cylinders and crankshafts. Chapin had told me that in the past R&D had manufactured tricky cylinders with power valves so it would simple to bring the technology back for the customers. Although, these rules apply for anyone it will be a small percentage of racers that will spent a fortune in order to build a high performance, true race machine stand up. According to Chapin these are not the actual customers of R&D. Nowadays the company builds performance kit for the popular Runabouts, in other words the crafts that sell most in the market. The recreational riders and weekend warriors are mostly the customers of the company all over the world.
The company has nearly completed the engine performance and handling kits for the new Sea Doo’s RXP-X and RXT-X and Chapin mention that these new crafts have a lot of potential to get better in terms of acceleration, top speed and handling. On the other hand he has already put his hand in to the new FX SHO and soon he will release the true power out of the big bore power plant. Four stroke technology has taken the sport to a whole new level and R&D was there from the beginning, designing and producing special parts for the updated demands of the market.