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Going full-Throttle: Passion for engines fuels owner of WF repair shop

Mark Dalquist, whose love of cars earned him the nickname Throttle, is shown in his shop, Throttle's Automotive, in West Fargo, Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

West Fargo - Mark Dalquist started racing go-carts when he was 8.

By 12, he was into snowmobiles.

His infatuation with the internal combustion engine eventually earned him the nickname “Throttle” and steered him toward a career in car repair.

Now, after years of working for car shops around the area, Dalquist is behind the wheel of his own business – Throttle’s Automotive – and gaining national recognition for his skills in working with high-performance machinery.

Dalquist handles diagnostic and repair work on imports and domestic vehicles at his shop at 1418 5th Ave. N.E., in West Fargo.

He said his approach to working on cars is based on a lesson he learned early in his career about the right and wrong way to treat customers.

“When I was first getting started in this industry, a guy I respect told me: ‘There’s enough wrong with enough vehicles where you can make an honest living and you don’t have to lie (about how much work needs to be done),’ ” Dalquist said.

“When customers know you’re honest with them, they keep coming back,” he added.

Since opening Throttle’s Automotive about a year and a half ago, Dalquist said he has learned just how difficult it is to start a business.

A main challenge has been the expense.

Dalquist figures it has cost him twice as much to get his business moving than he figured it would. And while he wouldn’t mind an extra hand around the place, hiring isn’t a possibility right now.

In the meantime, Dalquist said he is aided greatly by his wife, Lisa, who helps with things like bookkeeping.

Underestimating how much it takes to get a small business going is a common issue for fledgling entrepreneurs, according to Brittany Sickler, an economic development specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration in Fargo.

“It’s important to have realistic expectations of how much money is needed for a business to actually make a profit, as well as a good picture of how and when that profit can grow,” Sickler said, adding that some sources of help include the Small Business Development Center and SCORE, which is made up of retired business people who volunteer their help.

Hot rodding chops

Dalquist said in addition to the financial demands of running a business, a large amount of time is also required, but one gets the feeling he really doesn’t mind that part.

“I love my job. I really, honestly do,” said Dalquist, whose car repair business has a sideline enterprise he calls Throttle’s Performance, which focuses on high-performance engines for race cars and hot rods.

Dalquist recently received some national recognition in that area when he and a team he works with took part in the 2013 Engine Masters Challenge competition sponsored by Popular Hot Rodding Magazine and Amsoil.

The competition is selective, with 40 teams from around the country invited to take part through an application process.

Engines submitted receive a ranking based on how much horsepower and torque they can generate per cubic inch of displacement.

Dalquist’s fuel-injected, 428 cubic-inch Pontiac engine placed ninth out of 40 entries and received Popular Hot Rodding’s Editor’s Choice Award.

The engine is also featured in the August edition of the magazine.

“This would be an engine similar to what came in a 1960s Pontiac, with the exception that it’s got absolute state-of-the-art electronics on it,” Dalquist said.

Safety first

While things like engine horsepower and torque fill the pages of automotive magazines, Dalquist said when it comes to safe driving two basic aspects of a car are the most critical – tires and brakes.

“They’re the most important pieces of equipment on the car. Period,” Dalquist said.

And for safety, Dalquist said one of the best steps drivers can take is to buy good-quality tires and keep them inflated to the recommended air pressure.

When it comes to keeping a car in good running order, Dalquist said many problems can be avoided by paying attention to the owner’s manual and following the recommendations found there for deciding when certain parts and services are needed.

“It will list scheduled maintenance in there. That’s the schedule you should follow,” Dalquist said.

Dave Olson
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