Speaking of eveners, STILLEN's aftermarket business suffered some body blows from the economic slowdown that has taken a big bite out of all automotive businesses, but Millen feels the company is bouncing back better than ever.
“We had a tough year last year, but I don't know of many companies that weren't off by some decent amount,” he relates. “But this year's been good – we were up in February and had a very strong March. We have not reduced any investment in new products, and have continued developing new products – new supercharger kits and all that. And that's helping us get back up. We make all our own products here in Costa Mesa. There's a cost to that, because it's very expensive to do business in California, but we're very proud that we don't have to go to Asia for parts.”
This self-reliance doesn't preclude STILLEN from forging close associations with manufacturers like Nissan, however.
“We've got some good relationships with some of the top engineers at Nissan, so we're communicating all the time, sharing information and ideas,” Millen notes. “We ran the GTR in the Targa Newfoundland Rally (left) and then the car was shipped off to various shows of theirs, back to Nashville to the corporate headquarters, and then out to Smyrna, Tenn., to the plants, so it's a great relationship with Nissan. We'll be doing some things this year in conjunction with Nissan, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Z-car, so we are building a couple of heritage cars for them right now.”
Although production cars continue to up the ante on power right from the factory, Millen says STILLEN can always find new ways to kick it up a notch:
“The new 370Z, for example, comes standard with about 330 horsepower. We've just completed a supercharger kit that takes it to 515hp. And that's going to be CARB-certified and warrantied and everything. So there's still room to improve it throughout – suspension, engine, brakes, personal styling.”
Power boosts remain the ultimate goal of most STILLEN customers, but Millen can work with any aim or budget. “Some people just want everything sourced on an intake; they don't want the supercharger," he says. "But a lot of people want to have all the power they can afford.”
Millen puts a lot of his own time into testing STILLEN's products personally, recently putting thousands of miles on a STILLEN supercharged 370Z in a variety of environments and weather conditions. Since his retirement as a professional racer in 1996, with a pair of IMSA GTS titles in Cunningham Racing's works Nissan 300ZX (1994 car shown right) among his many titles, Steve has also been in demand as a test driver for a variety of car magazines. But racing is an itch he loves to scratch, be it at the recent Targa Newfoundland or this weekend in Long Beach – where he's still prepared to play a mentor role if asked.
“If people want a little bit of help, showing them the line and so on, I'll be happy to do it,” Millen says. “At my age, I don't have anything to prove – it's not as if, were I to win this race, I'm going to get a factory drive! So, it's just enjoyable to help people. Motor racing's been really good to me, so it's good to give something back.
"But, when the green flag comes out, it's every man for himself…" Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race entries
1. Dave Pasant - Charity Auction Winner
2. Chris Ashworth - North Hollywood Toyota VP
3. Megyn Price - Actress, "Rules of Engagement"
4. Zachary Levi - Actor, "Chuck"
5. Brian Austin Green - Actor, "Beverly Hills, 90210"
6. Jerry Westlund - Charity Auction Winner
7. Jesse McCartney - Singer
8. Adam Carolla - DJ, "Loveline"
9. Adrien Brody - Actor, The Pianist, King Kong
10. Christian Slater - Actor, True Romance, Broken Arrow
11. Tony Hawk - Pro Skateboarder
12. Tika Sumpter - Actress, "One Life to Live"
13. Patrick Warburton - Actor, "Rules of Engagement", "Seinfeld"
14. Marty Nothstein - Olympic Gold medalist, Funny Car Driver
15. Jamie Bestwick - X-Games athlete
16. Tanner Foust - Drifting, Rally, and Stunt Driver
17. Keanu Reeves - Actor, 2009 Champion
18. Jimmy Vasser - 1996 Indy Car Champion
19. Steve Millen - IMSA champion & Off Road racer