You take your car to the shop as an expression of the love you have for your machine. Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes it’s a gesture to ensure it’s in proper working order and sometimes, it’s simply because you need an excuse to get out, drive, and talk shop. If the latter two are a force of habit, then read on. We can gladly relate. If you’re looking for a shop that can do anything you’ve ever dreamed and more, you’ve come to the right place.
Nestled just outside of Toronto’s city limits stands a garage that’s packed with about as much know-how as the garagista’s Encyclopedia Britannica; where anything can and will be done. Through these doors are some of the industry’s most skilled craftsmen, utilizing tools of the trade considered by many of their peers to be a black art. The accrued history of their work is probably more than they could list, on cars most of us can only dream of.
Inside sit some of the world’s finest sports cars and rarest restorations, some visiting for major overhauls and others only for a short stay. In the corner lies a 4.3-litre Ferrari engine, pristine on top, but with a gaping hole underneath. It’s in for a complete rebuild or a total replacement – it’s still undecided. Not 15 feet away is a Beetle in robin’s egg blue. It’s a 1958, completely original, paint and all. The interior, drivetrain and electronics are being overhauled to make sure everything is in the same condition it was when it rolled off the lot nearly 60 years ago. A Jaguar XJ220 rests idly in the back – the fastest production supercar before being superseded by McLaren’s F1 – and one of Jaguar’s most controversial stars, outfitted with a twin-turbocharged V6. Out of the ordinary? For most, yes, but for the staff at Engineered Automotive, it’s just another day at the office and another chance to put their skills to good work.
I first caught wind of EA a little more than two years ago; it’s been one of the performance community’s shining lights and a household name among serious auto enthusiasts and race outfits throughout Canada and beyond. Dating back more than 30 years, founding partner and owner Billy Smilovsky took up engine repair at just fourteen, and combined with his racing background has forged one of the biggest and most well-rounded automotive outfits in the country.
“The vision for Engineered Automotive was to take the experience I learned at the racetrack and apply it to the service and maintenance of everyday road vehicles,” Smilovsky says. “At the track, you learn to be very methodical; you can’t afford to waste time and you can’t afford to get it wrong. This is the backbone of [the business] and it gets applied to every job we do, large or small.”
When you walk into the doors, you’re welcomed by EA employees with years of experience that makes them vastly overqualified for their positions. You’d be hard pressed to ask a question that can’t be answered. To a first time visitor, it’s easy to feel out of place given the automotive company within the garage walls, but the 30-odd staff members guarantee that anybody and everybody is treated fairly and with the highest regard.
If you need your winter tires swapped for summers, they can do that. Simple oil change? Of course. If there’s a cylinder misfiring on a Ferrari 250 GTO – it’s a rare sight – but if it happens, chances are this is the place where it will come for repairs.
It’s a full-fledged garage that does it all. Detailing, storage, maintenance, body work and restorations, sales and custom builds all happen within the state-of-the-art facility. They’ve even got three paint booths and a race-quality Mustang dynamometer (dyno) in the back, complete with a drag racing Christmas tree and video display for drag testing.
To give you an idea of what it takes to hang out with some of the best, a baseline dyno test for a two-wheel-drive car costs just $125 for top-tier performance and data analysis – whether it’s a Porsche 930 Turbo or a Honda Civic Si. If you have an AWD track machine like a built Nissan GT-R, EA is one of the few garages equipped with an in-ground, all-wheel-drive, low profile machine that will be able to test it without issue. All the way up to 2,000 wheel horsepower. It’s almost unfair to label the company as anything less than an institution.
The body shop is filled with projects ranging from banged-up Escalades to Alfa Romeo shells, and maybe even a rare vintage German coupe, which is being completely restored from the ground up by hand. It’s like watching a modern day Da Vinci mold one of his creations.
“We mean a lot to many people and something different to every person,” says General Manager Dan Pye. “We can do almost anything and everything to a car. For some folks, we’re the cool place they take their car to for service. But they might not know that we also hand-tune OEM computers or have an upholstery department – someone that hand-stitches seats and headliners. For our restoration clients, they know us for those guys. For service guys, the important thing is knowing everything that we do, because there are so many things. That’s the vision for the business, to be a complete automotive centre. And that could be anything from an oil change to a customer who needs a million-dollar car handled and transported across North America.”
The shop truly is a community of auto and racing enthusiasts, history buffs, and driving aficionados. When the snow clears, rain or shine, EA’s Cars n’ Coffee takes place every Sunday at the Bayview Village Shopping Centre in north Toronto, which attracts everything from Lamborghini Diablos to E30 M3s, restomod hot rods and Vespas. It’s a chance for enthusiasts and fans alike to get close with some famous (and sometimes obscure) machines.
Last year, EA took on a large role in partnering and supplying cars for the inaugural Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada’s largest-ever concours at a venue worthy of Pebble Beach status. With vehicles including Tim Allen’s former 1956 Ford F100, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Lamborghini Concept S and a lineage of Corvette models, the event helped generate more than $50,000 toward the Sunnybrook Hospital helipad campaign.
EA will return for the event again this year, as well as offering their renowned track days and pro car tests at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) for six days, spanning May to September.
“EA track days are closed, private track sessions at CTMP Mosport, but what’s different about our lapping days is that we’ll take anybody,” Pye says. “If you’re a first timer at our days you have to take an instructor – that’s non-negotiable – and you have to pay for that instructor, because we have a certain caliber of driver that comes to our event, we have a certain caliber of car that comes to our event, and we can’t just let anyone come out without being prepared.”
The trainers are heavily experienced in track days and motorsport competition, and provide valuable feedback. Having attended a few times myself, the operation and attending vehicles are something deserving of a United SportsCar Series race weekend, all at a price comparable to many other days once you’ve passed the instruction phase. Tech inspection, a mock pit lane (for tire changes and vehicle service) and lunch are all included in the fee.
Each event, each project, is done to the grandest scale, but the crew at EA still manages to maintain a small, family feel with excellent service, which Smilovsky says is the core of the business and a large part of their success. His daughter Kattie is a computational fluid dynamics engineer at Multimatic Technical Centre and currently working on her PhD. If you’re unsure what that entails, look at every bit of aerodynamic or wind technology that goes into a Formula 1 car, Le Mans prototype, OEM wheel design or high-rise structure. His wife Maureen heads the accounting department and many of the event logistics, while his son Kurt, a lead tech at the shop, has been around cars since his infancy.
“Kurt grew up at the racetrack and in this business,” Smilovsky says. “He started in karting, evolved into cars, but quickly realized he much preferred working on them as opposed to driving them. It’s actually [his] driving experience that makes him a great tech. These days, it’s hard to find a tech who actually knows how a car feels when it’s ‘right’ and how a car feels when it’s ‘wrong.’”
Whether it’s an old Packard, a track-prepped racer, or a daily driver, the aim is to put the customer’s needs first – and EA has every capability to do just that. But even with their combined experiences, the crew is still in awe when a surprise comes through the doors.
“It’s always impressive when I’m in here and I see cars that have value in the millions,” Pye says. “That’s when it gets wild. An owner might have five of those – not the same kind of car, but considerable wealth wrapped into their cars. From that perspective it’s cool because regardless of how much money you have, that passion of cars translates with so many people, which is what makes this business so interesting.”