Between the  Motos: Thomas Fichter

Between the Motos: Thomas Fichter

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The sport of supercross/motocross needs more people like N-Fab owner Thomas Fichter. An enthusiast through and through, Fichter has used the sport to help grow his company into a big powerhouse in the world of aftermarket truck parts. The title sponsor of N-Fab Yamaha, Fichter is hoping to be back with that squad and has something else going on with Toyota and JGR. Check out toyotadreambuild.com for more details.

Racer X: N-Fab is involved with Toyota, you’re involved with the race team. Looks like motocross, hopefully, has been good for N-Fab.
Thomas Fichter: I believe in the sport. I believe in the fact that everybody who owns a dirt bike has a pickup truck, which I said before, helps me sell parts. But I also believe that the parts that we built are kind of evolved around that sport. That’s why we’re in it and we’ll continue to be in the sport, probably on a multitude of levels. I’m an enthusiast and I love the sport and we want to continue on with moto and with sponsoring individuals and teams and whatever works best to help sell more products.

You’re a big supporter of Jessica Patterson so it must have been cool to see her go out a winner in the WMX series for N-Fab.
Jessica and Eddie [Ray] have been kind of personal friends of mine for a long time, mainly through support, but also on the personal side too. The main thing for me is, with the sponsorships, it’s a relationship. You get a relationship with some of these people and I just want to continue on. I think it’s good to brand yourself with different riders and Jessica is the best that there ever was as far as the WMX and women’s racing is concerned. Let’s just say that I learned a lot helping Jessica through those different teams and sponsorship deals that we did. It wasn’t hugely impactive, but it was a great education. At the end of the day it helped Jessica continue her career for a few more years past what she may or may not been able to do because I believe she needed to be out there for women’s racing to be as valid as it was. It was a good experience and they’re friends of mine beyond the racing side of things.

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N-Fab helped Jessica Patterson this season on her way to another WMX title.
Simon Cudby photo

Did you grow up racing and riding? How’d you get into the sport?
I grew up in El Cajon and in San Diego. All the people that I looked up to, some of them have now become friends of mine, like Rick Johnson and some of those guys. But I raced around Southern California a lot and did a lot of vet racing through Honda of Houston for a number of years once I got a little bit older.

I’ve been racing pretty much all my life until the past few years, and nowadays it’s just so busy that there’s not enough time in order to do the proper training and stuff in order to be a valid racer. But I actually have a World Vet Championship that I won when I was 35. I have some things to hang my hat on, not that I do anymore, but as far as being a pro am guy, that’s it. I’ll always ride; that’s just a part of what I do. Try to be on a weekly basis. It’s been a big part of my life, and my son’s life as well. We’ve had a lot of fun traveling and racing and riding.

What year did you start N-Fab? Did you look at a truck or a guard or a bumper and go, “I can build a better mousetrap?” What’s the genesis of N-Fab and how did you get started?
That’s pretty much the way it happened. I was in the car stereo business. I was honestly the Jeremy McGrath as far as stereos. I had seven national championships and multiple world records and all this other stuff, which is pretty obscure. But we got a lot of recognition back in the late ‘80s early ‘90s where even guys like Time Magazine and USA Today were doing stories on stereos … my personality is when I’m doing something I go for it. So it was pretty big for a period. So I was the king of car stereos for a long time. A bunch of retail stores, but when the car stereo industry started to decline I translated that to lift kits and wheels and tires and that. Ended up selling those stores in the late ‘90s and then really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

That’s when I went to do Loretta’s and the World Mini Grand Prix. I did Branson … all the amateur nationals for a couple years just because it was something—got two nickels in my pockets, and it was something I’d never done. I actually got support from Honda of Houston through that American Honda deal. I understand that you were the mechanic over there in ’97 at Loretta Lynn’s and I was the only support rider at Honda doing the Vet stuff at that race.

I was. Honda didn’t pay any contingency really so no amateurs really rode them.
They didn’t ride them. Nobody from that Honda of Houston amateur team made it except for me. So I was the lone guy over there at Honda. I think it was ’97 or ’98. So I translated the car stereo into lift kits and wheels and tires, and then when I got done playing I was like, well, you spend twice as much money when you’re playing as when you’re working.

So I went back and just opened a little off-road retail store and I just did retail. I thought I could build a better animal and that’s how one of the products got started and it just kind of grew from there. It was basically ’99 when it started and then I kind of basically bought trucks and built parts until 2003. Then in 2003 I decided that I was just going to go for it and I was going to make it or break it at that point.

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N-Fab/TiLUBE Yamaha had a successful 2013 season.
Simon Cudby photo

So you in a sense you built up three companies: Car Stereos, Lift and Wheels, and now N-Fab.
There’s N-Fab and now I have a design company too that manufactures and designs parts for other people in my industry. So on the side I have a lot of intellectual property. I have a number of patents and intellectual properties that are basically segmented through that company.

You’ve been part of race teams before, but this year you teamed up with Allan Brown, and were the title sponsor on his team. Phil Nicoletti had a breakout year and N-Fab Yamaha as a whole; I think this was a success for you and for Phil, for Allan, for everybody. It was a good year.
As far as Allan, I’d done a deal with Moto XXX back in 2005 I believe. Allan did a great job then. When it came down to trying to do a title deal I got with Allan and we talked about it a number of times. Allan runs a professional program that looks professional, runs professional.

With the budget that I had, some of these teams are just priced out of the realm, but I think that with doing title you get a lot more exposure. So that’s what I was looking for, was to try to translate some of the stuff I did with some other teams and other riders and translate that into more of a legitimate kind of thing that we could grow the team into multiple years.

And you had to be pumped with Phil. I think he was a breakout rider this year.
I think Chris Blose and Phil Nicoletti both did a great job. I think Nicoletti is a rider that with the right equipment and with the right program could even do better than he did this year. But Phil works hard and he did do a great job. He got a lot of great exposure. I think for the placement that we were at in the hierarchy of race teams we excelled and overachieved really for a first-year team. For me, for N-Fab and for the brand and everything I thought it was huge. I think we did reach a lot of people that we wouldn’t otherwise reach. The brand is more prevalent now within the moto community because of everybody, Allen’s, Phil’s, and Chris’ efforts. Even [Gareth] Swanepoel that did a race for us and he had some great races and some great TV time. Overall it was a great experience. I really enjoyed it and hope we can get things put together well enough where it’s viable to do again for many years.

You’ve teamed up with JGR and Toyota to create an ultimate pit truck. It’s kind of an exciting thing. Can you talk a little bit about it and what’s going on?
As everybody knows Toyota is the title sponsor at the supercross. We’ve done a number of projects with Toyota. I call that product placement. I built the trucks and put my products on them. They look cool on the stadium floor and in the pits and I’ve done that for many years in order to get my products placed at those events, and to support Toyota because I do a lot of OE manufacturing for those guys and to help the group that is an activation group that works at the supercross, and other Toyota-sponsored events, and create a lot of great relationships there.

But that now has translated into giving N-Fab an opportunity through JGR in order to build a truck. It’s kind of a purpose-built concept vehicle, but the concept is, as you know being a factory mechanic, you do a lot of testing and you go to the track and you either have a van or most of them have just a pickup truck, forks and stuff all laid out in the back of it. Well, we wanted to build a truck that basically brought a level of professionalism and a level of visual excitement to testing motorcycles as a professional racer. So that’s what we’ve built.

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Phil Nicoletti (right) had a breakout season with the team.
Simon Cudby photo

The winner is based on a voting contest from the public so we’ve got to get the moto people in on this.
We’re up against other athletes. Our athletes are Justin Brayton and Josh Grant who are obviously on the JGR MX team. The other athletes, one guy is a bicycle guy, one guys is a skier guy … this is something that’s there for the moto community so we do need the moto community’s support in order to win this contest. It’s $50,000 that goes to a charity. But because it’s JGR and N-Fab and all that and we’re all competitive, we want to win just because we want to be winners, so to speak. It’s all social media driven so the only way we win is if people get involved and go to Toyota.com from October 31 to November 1, check out all the vehicles that they like but of course you’d want them to vote for us. The guys at JGR, Jeremy and Coy and Spencer, [have] done a lot of work which is one of the guys that works there, one of the engineers at JGR. They’ve all worked very hard as well as myself and a bunch of my guys here.

I’m talking 15-18 hours a day to make this thing, which is a new ’14 model Toyota Tundra, happen. I think once everybody sees it it’s going to be an impressive piece. It will be at all the supercrosses and people will be able to see it first hand, but in the short term we’ve got to win this contest. I’d like to thank everybody at Toyota, all the JGR guys and my guys, and everybody’s efforts to get this to come to fruition. Even Coy’s got in there and hammered out some stuff. It’s pretty gnarly. He’s into stuff but he likes to kind of give everybody a hard time, kind of. It’s been a great experience.

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