For 50 years now Valley Chrome Plating (VCP) has been a respected manufacturer of quality products for the automotive and trucking industries. Operating entirely out of a manufacturing facility in Clovis, CA (near Fresno), all of VCP’s bumpers, as well as their new line of Wingmaster stainless steel accessories, are produced in California’s Central Valley, so we thought they would be a great company to kick-off this “Made in America” feature series. Every few months, we will be highlighting a manufacturer that can proudly say that their products are 100% American-made. And to us, that still means something! VCP may not be the biggest bumper manufacturer out there, but they are the best, and reaching their 50th birthday is quite an accomplishment – especially in today’s competitive marketplace.
Valley Chrome Plating was started as a small chrome plating shop near Alturas, California in the late 1950’s. In 1960 the company moved to Fresno, California. In 1961, Anthony Lucas and his wife Claire (and their six children) came to California from Indiana to join his brother Chuck and another partner in the business. Anthony forwarded his life savings ($12,000) and bought into VCP sight unseen. A few years later, Anthony bought out his two partners and became the sole proprietor of VCP.
In the early days, VCP plated just about anything. Metal furniture, sprinkler heads, hitch balls, wheels and gym equipment were just a few of the various items they plated. Valley Chrome began automotive bumper recycling to augment their plating business. Around 1967, a local Fresno trucker came to the shop and asked if they could build him a wide bumper for his KW. Never afraid of a challenge, they agreed and then painstakingly hand-made him a 16-inch bumper. Pretty soon they were making two or three custom bumpers (by hand) a week, and then two or three a day, etc. From there, it just kept growing. In March of 1980, the company moved from Fresno to its current location in Clovis, California, and in 1990 they began focusing entirely on aftermarket bumpers for big rigs.
In 2006, VCP acquired Wingmaster – a respected company that built high-quality stainless steel turbo wings for pickups and trucks. The company had a great name and a great reputation, and the owner wanted to retire, so VCP bought it. Since then, they have developed an extensive line of stainless steel truck accessories including visors, cab and sleeper panels, window trim, light panels, tool boxes fairings and more. They still make a few wings here and there, but since the economy tanked and took the entire RV industry with it, there is not much of a market there anymore. The Wingmaster line includes thousands of items – enough to fill a 250-page catalog – and everything, like the bumpers, is manufactured to the highest standards at their facility in Clovis, CA.
Today, the company services a network of over 1,000 dealers that stretch across the United States and Canada. Presently, their 85-employee work force, operating out of three side-by-side buildings that total about 66,000 square feet, builds and ships approximately 150 custom-ordered VCP bumpers a day and “tons” of Wingmaster accessories. In regards to the bumpers, customers can choose the style, width, light arrangement, and a host of other options (we were told that there are well over 10,000 different configurations of bumpers available).
VCP has always been a family operation, and today the company is run by six of Anthony’s eight children (Anthony died in 2006). Each sibling has a specific niche or expertise, and each one allows the others to have their space. The oldest boy, Ray Lucas, carries the title of president. He started out working in the shop in 1967 while still attending high school. Ray’s specialties are plating, problem-solving and environmental issues. Ray’s younger brother Tom is the vice president and CFO; Cathy is the treasurer; Greg is in charge of production and oversees the plant; Christine is in charge of human resources; and Matt, the youngest of the bunch, heads up their safety department. Matt is currently in the process of getting VCP an ISO certification. Although not a member of the family, Kent Carpenter has been around longer than most of the Lucas siblings. Kent started out at VCP in 1969 working part time on the night crew while still going to school, and today he heads up their sales department. Lee Misakian started at VCP in 1975 as a welder. Today, he is the shop manager and lead programmer.
Every bumper starts out as a flat sheet of raw steel, or whatever material is being used. After the sheet is cut into the shape of the bumper by a computer-programmed plasma cutter, the appropriate die is chosen and inserted into a 400-ton press and the flat bumper is “pressed” into shape. Then, the bumper is inspected and welded where needed. From there, the bumper is placed into a laser cutting machine and all of the necessary holes are cut and any custom engraving is done. Each bumper is polished prior to plating to provide a better finished product. Like painting, the quality in plating comes from the prep work. After the bumper is plated, it is cleaned and polished by hand and then checked one more time for flaws. From there, the completed bumper is placed on a rack with wheels and then taken to the warehouse to be prepared for shipping.
VCP is known for running a “clean” shop – so much so that Ray is asked to speak on the subject to other plating companies across the country about their policies and procedures. In 1999, VCP became a zero-discharge facility, which means nothing goes down the drain at their facility except for sanitary (bathroom) water. Ray designed and built a series of machines that utilize Ion Exchange Technology and put VCP on the map as one of the first plating companies to recycle their plating solution instead of having to landfill it as waste. In the early days, the rinse tanks were drained all the time – but not anymore. Thanks to their advanced recycling systems, the water in their rinse tanks has not been replaced since the late 1980’s! In an effort to provide an even safer workplace for their employees and be even more environmentally-friendly, last year VCP switched to a different type of chrome that is just as strong and looks just as good, but it is not a harmful carcinogen. Ray is very proud of the accomplishments they have been able to achieve in the area of environmental safety, and their shop has set the standards that other shops strive to match.
Shortly after getting the Wingmaster line going, the company decided to build a show truck to feature their products. In 2008, they ordered a 2009 Peterbilt 389 with a stand-up sleeper and then decked it out with a VCP bumper and some of the Wingmaster accessories. That first truck was black with orange “splash” graphics, and it was a big hit. So, ever since then, they have built a new truck every year. The second truck was a black 2009 Peterbilt 389 with a flat top sleeper and a large orange “swoop” on each side. The next one was a black 2010 Peterbilt 389 with a stand-up sleeper and a simple orange stripe. Their latest show rig is a 2011 Peterbilt 389 with a flat top sleeper and a factory two-tone paint job (we bet you can guess the colors). In addition to the VCP and Wingmaster products, the current show truck also features items from companies like Rockwood, WTI, Dynaflex, Bostrom, Accuride, Pittsburgh Power, Air-Weigh, Continental Tire, Holland, Lifetime Nut Covers and more.
All of these “show” trucks have been designed and put together by Gary Pons, an outside salesman for VCP who lives in Oklahoma City, OK. After 25 years of trucking, Gary quit driving and started working for VCP. He has now been with the company for over seven years and loves it! He not only builds these rigs for VCP, but he also gets to drive them to all of the shows, which he really enjoys. The trucks are ordered in November and arrive in January. Building the trucks has given Gary first-hand knowledge about the products he sells, which allows him to better understand and serve his customers. At the end of the year (or sooner), the truck is sold. The new owner, regardless of when he buys it, can’t take it home until the truck show season ends in October. Then the process begins again!
We would like to congratulate Valley Chrome on reaching their 50th anniversary. If you’re looking for a quality, custom, American-made bumper or accessory, there is no need to think about who to call. Get in touch with a local chrome shop that sells Valley Chrome bumpers and/or Wingmaster stainless steel accessories and get what you need – just the way you want it. And if you want something different or extreme, don’t be afraid to ask. In addition to making great products, the folks at Valley Chrome Plating and Wingmaster are also some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. For more information or to locate a dealer, visit them online at www.valleychrome.com or www.wingmaster.com, or call them in Clovis, CA toll free at (800) 354-0976.