PASSION, POWER AND PERFORMANCE
Harrop Engineering Managing Director and passionate motorsport enthusiast, Heath Moore, has been the driving force behind this iconic Australian brand
The company was founded in 1955 by Len Harrop and his wife Elsa, who started out producing weaving machines from a small shed in the Victorian suburb of Brunswick.
Their formula for customer satisfaction was good old Australian ingenuity and hard work – a formula that is still embraced by the Harrop team to this day.
“The business grew steadily, and they expanded into other areas, including industrial food-processing equipment and heavy haulage and earthmoving accessories. But when their son, Ron, joined them in 1963 after completing a boiler making apprenticeship, the dye was cast for the business to take a new direction,” Heath explained.
Fast forward to 1968 and Beechey’s Speed Shop and Jane’s Autoland car yard were both operating out of the Melbourne Suburb of Brunswick as well.
It wasn’t long before two Australian motorsport legends, Norm Beechey and Bob Jane, were filling work orders at Harrop Engineering for machining and fabrication work to help support their on-track programs.
Ron’s enthusiasm for ‘making things’ began at an early age. Ron was welding together go-karts in the back shed by the time he turned ten. In his teenage years, his passion would extend to modifying cars.
By the time he’d started developing parts for Norm Beechey and Bob Jane, Ron was also working on his own projects – beginning with an MGTC powered Morris Minor, followed in quick succession by a much-loved Holden EH and his famous FJ, Harrop’s Howler.
“At drag strips around Australia, Ron and his FJ quickly earned a reputation as a giant-killer. The formidable pair were claiming wins and breaking records at almost every race meeting they attended,” Heath explained.
“This is impressive when you consider Ron originally bought the FJ from Norm Beechey for $29.”
‘Harrop’s Howler’ would ultimately record an 11.8 second standing quarter, with a top speed of 118mph.
“At the start of the 1970s, Harrop began working with Harry Firth and the Holden Dealer Team,” Heath said.
“This increased the volume of work significantly, and Harrop Engineering quickly built a reputation for quality, precision and innovation.
“While the business has changed significantly, these values remain woven into the fabric of the business some 65 years on and include third generation leadership with Len’s grandson, Tim Harrop, as our Operations Manager.”
Heath’s journey at Harrop started 13 years ago when the ADRAD Group acquired Harrop in 2008. His background in corporate, including a stint at Macquarie Bank, armed him with the commercial skill set to plot a course for what was an already iconic and admired Australian automotive performance brand.
On his arrival at Harrop, Heath discovered a passionate, highly skilled engineering, design and manufacturing team, with which he quickly developed a strong bond. When the opportunity to join the team as the Commercial Manager was offered, Heath was quick to accept with a shared passion for performance.
“Right from day one, I was confident the business had the technical expertise to move forward. But the product mix, sales, distribution and marketing functions needed an overhaul so that was my initial focus,” Heath said.
“Over the last ten years, we’ve executed well on these critical components, developing a more robust and complete business model.”
To continue to build brand equity and drive awareness, Heath invested heavily in marketing, putting a significant focus on growing Harrop’s digital footprint as an early adopter of social media.
“We wanted to engage more directly with our existing and potential customers, so we kept doubling down on our investment in digital media and we’ve been reaping the rewards ever since,” Heath said.
Today, Harrop Engineering’s most extensive product category is vehicle-based and performance-focused, but it’s not just about passenger vehicles.
“When we talk about vehicle performance, it could be a train, a tram, a truck, an aircraft or a boat,” Heath explained.
“While cars are the majority of the business, we are continually developing new products and programs for customers with vehicles that are non-traditional from an enthusiast’s point of view.”
Heath explained that to secure the future of the business, the team at Harrop has to continually foster new markets to ensure they have an adequate level of diversity in terms of customer and product mix.
“We’re recognised as leaders in supercharger technology, and a lot of our digital media is focused on promoting that range, but our traction offering that includes differentials and torque management products is equally as strong,” Heath said.
Harrop Engineering also services various industrial customers in the mining, transport and public transport industries, providing bespoke solutions to numerous OE manufacturers.
“But as this is the performance issue, and deep down that’s where my passion lies, so let’s start digging deeper,” Heath said.
“The end of automotive vehicle manufacturing in Australia and the increasing complexity of new car technology continues to impact the aftermarket performance industry.
“Integrating hardware into modern vehicles is becoming more technically challenging. We’re continually increasing our investment to ensure we have the skills and resources to tackle these challenges.
“Whether it’s EV, hydrogen or one of the other emerging alternative fuel technologies, as the trend towards low carbon emissions powertrains grows, we are anticipating and developing programs to service these emerging markets with innovative performance solutions.”
Harrop is well placed to pivot as new technologies and markets emerge. The business has a high level of vertical integration primarily due to its well-established Australian manufacturing base.
Harrop’s global headquarters, located in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, play host to a wide variety of in-house manufacturing capabilities, including tool and pattern design and machining, CNC machining of parts, assembly, quality verification, and testing.
Harrop’s product development team, also housed in its global HQ, is armed with a full complement of the latest in design technology, including 3D modelling, data translation, CAM integration and 3D scanning and printing.
The Auto Innovation Centre as part of the AAAA has also become a key technical partner in recent years, providing world class data for many Harrop product development programs.
“Our dedicated team of qualified engineers and technicians utilise their extensive experience of modern manufacturing to deliver high-value engineering solutions to our customers globally,” Heath explained.
“We have invested heavily to provide our skilled workforce with state-of-the-art skills in CNC software programming, modern automation equipment and global benchmarking techniques.
‘Having our product development and manufacturing facility all under one roof significantly reduces design, prototyping and production timelines.
“We have steel, iron and aluminium foundries located in Australia which greatly helps fortify our supply chain and provides a higher level of quality control.”
This continuous development and refinement qualifies Harrop’s reputation for quality products with genuine performance advantages.
More recently, Heath and his team have established Harrop Engineering USA in Dayton, Ohio; with a facility providing satellite R&D Engineering, warehousing and distribution for the growing range of Harrop performance products for popular USA enthusiast vehicles.
“Our USA business generated a number of exciting opportunities with alternative fuel engine programs which is absolutely a big part of our future,” Heath said.
It is an incredibly exciting space, not only for the performance market but also for commercial applications from mining and utility vehicles to local buses – there’s always going to be those sorts of speciality vehicles that require a tailored powertrain solution.” Heath explained.
There is little doubt that Harrop Engineering is a genuine Australian success story. With its proven philosophy of delivering solutions based on excellence in design and manufacturing, the future looks bright for this iconic Australian brand with a history of success both on and off the track.
To find out more about Harrop, visit www.harrop.com.au