Fel-Pro Gaskets marked the brand’s 100th anniversary with a celebration that included customer promotions and other activities spanning several months, and culminated in a party for more than 1,400 employees and their family members at the million-square-foot Fel-Pro engineering, product management, manufacturing and distribution complex in Skokie, Ill.
The Skokie facility, which each day produces more than 325,000 gaskets and ships in excess of 120,000 complete gasket sets, has been home to Fel-Pro since the early 1950s.
Founded in July 1918 in Chicago and since 1998 a brand from global vehicle components manufacturer Federal-Mogul Motorparts, Fel-Pro begins its second century as the predominant choice of automotive sealing technologies for engine builders, technicians, professional and amateur racing teams, and thousands of other customers.
“Most great brands – those that define their product categories – share several key characteristics, including highly skilled and dedicated employees, market-leading technologies, strict quality standards and a relentless focus on the needs of their customers. Each of these strengths has been central to Fel-Pro’s continued leadership,” said Craig Frohock, vice president, global sealing, Federal-Mogul Motorparts.
Fel-Pro was established July 5, 1918, as Felt Products Manufacturing Company, which initially manufactured felt seals and washers from a facility in downtown Chicago. The company’s founders – Albert Mecklenburger and Hugo Herz – soon saw opportunity in the burgeoning automobile market and, in particular, Henry Ford’s revolutionary Model T. Ford Motor Company was the first of thousands of customers to rely on innovative Fel-Pro technologies featuring materials and designs engineered to best seal the specific dynamic challenges encountered in each application.
This unique engineering philosophy soon extended to the replacement market, where engine rebuilders and technicians were looking for gaskets and complete sealing repair kits that addressed the demands of the repair environment. Fel-Pro engineers responded by focusing on the challenges involved in each repair and developing an extensive range of gasket designs and proprietary materials that helped ensure a reliable, leak-free seal and faster, easier completion of the job. The company also focused on providing, in one box, all of the sealing products needed to complete each repair. This concept instantly gained widespread popularity among automotive service professionals.
In the 1970s, even as some other gasket suppliers tried to mimic the visual appearance of Fel-Pro products, they found they couldn’t duplicate the brand’s proprietary materials and designs. To help customers ensure they were receiving genuine Fel-Pro gaskets for every job, the company introduced its now-iconic blue gasket materials and Blue Stripe design. “The visual differentiation of our products helps provide added assurance of quality and performance for the customer,” said Frohock. “Multiple generations of professionals and consumers have understood that every Fel-Pro gasket has been designed, manufactured and – above all – tested to ensure outstanding performance and reliability.”
Fel-Pro was acquired by Federal-Mogul in 1998. The company immediately invested in new engineering and manufacturing resources to position the brand for continued leadership in each gasket category, including the sophisticated multi-layered-steel (MLS) head gaskets needed for the new generation of lighter-weight, high-output automotive engines. As with the brand’s earlier innovations, Fel-Pro PermaTorque MLS head gaskets quickly became the leading choice of engine professionals and repair technicians.
Another important investment was the establishment of the Fel-Pro Field Test Garage, where new Fel-Pro gaskets and sealing kits are fit-checked and road-tested on their corresponding vehicles – again demonstrating the brand’s unique focus on addressing the real-world demands of the repair environment. The Field Test Garage also aids Fel-Pro gasket engineers in identifying and validating new design features, including those that can help simplify gasket installation.
In recent years, Federal-Mogul Motorparts has partnered with customers to help educate consumers on the importance of vehicle maintenance through a variety of innovative marketing point-of-sale kits and an automotive leak-repair campaign. The leak repair category encompasses valve cover, oil pan, intake manifold, timing cover and water outlet gaskets, where Fel-Pro leverages next-generation materials and designs – such as those featured in the brand’s PermaDryPlus® gaskets – to applications susceptible to chronic leaks. To help vehicle owners understand the risks of leaving even small leaks unresolved, the brand this year launched an extensive consumer awareness campaign comprising a series of videos and social content featuring popular media personality Mike Rowe.
“There are potentially millions of vehicles on the road today that have small oil, coolant or transmission leaks that can be quickly resolved by a Fel-Pro gasket or seal,” Frohock said. “We are partnering with parts distributors and repair businesses across North America to address this opportunity and to once again demonstrate the unique value of our industry-leading sealing products.”