Tom McBurnie

Tom McBurnie

Owner at Thunder Ranch

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1236 PIONEER WAY, El Cajon, California, United States
Thunder Ranch
HQ Phone:
(619) 444-1006

General Information


Swiss Race Driving School at Monterey , France


Founder - Sceptre Motorcar Company

Recent News

ON JULY 13TH CARRERA COACHWERKS BOUGHT THE ASSETS AND SPECIFIC LIABILITIES OF THUNDER RANCH Carrera Coachwerks (CCW) was able to come to an agreement with Tom McBurnie, the owner and operator of Thunder Ranch in El Cajon to purchase all the assets, tooling, molds and equipment.
ON JULY 13TH CARRERA COACHWERKS BOUGHT THE ASSETS AND SPECIFIC LIABILITIES OF THUNDER RANCH Carrera Coachwerks (CCW) was able to come to an agreement with Tom McBurnie, the owner and operator of Thunder Ranch in El Cajon to purchase all the assets, tooling, molds and equipment.

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North American Composites | Delivering Performance Subscription

In 1994, Tom McBurnie founded Southern California-based Thunder Ranch, which manufactures sports-car kits and replicas and has its roots in making cars to be on screen.
Earlier in his career, McBurnie, owner and designer at Thunder Ranch, replicated cars for the popular 1980s drama Miami Vice before a lawsuit with Ferrari ended his work with the show. This "disaster," as McBurnie described it, allowed him to start his new company down a path that has been anything but disastrous. CARS OF THUNDER RANCH The first car McBurnie designed for Thunder Ranch was the all-composite mid-engine V-8 1934 Roadster, a project partially sponsored by Oldsmobile. The Roadster had no steel in its frame, only foam beams, and the weight of the car was supported entirely by the body material, McBurnie explained. In 1995, McBurnie took the Roadster to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, one of the largest shows of its kind, and the car won the Best New Product Award. "We started with the hot rod. We had a very successful launch, and every car show it went to, it won best engineered car," McBurnie said. "That was the first car that Porsche made that had a fiberglass body, so our replica ends up being very similar to the original car," McBurnie noted. Because the 904 is a new product at Thunder Ranch, it has been taken to only a few small car shows, but the model is already sold out for next year. Currently, the James Dean 550 is Thunder Ranch's most popular car, but McBurnie predicts that the 904 coupe will soon take the number-one spot. POPULARITY AND DRIVABILITY Even though Thunder Ranch's replicas have won awards in U.S. car shows and been featured in U.S. trade magazines, such as Kit Car Builder, Kit Car Magazine and Rod Action & Street Machines, the cars' popularity is not limited to the domestic market. "We sell around the world," McBurnie said. "We have dealers in Canada, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A lot of [the cars] go back to Europe, which is interesting - a replica Porsche goes back to Germany," he added, laughing at the irony. The reason for the popularity of Thunder Ranch's cars is that they are less expensive to maintain than the original models and are more fun to drive. "They are a fraction of the cost of the original car, which makes them nice to own and nice to drive. In fact, there are some of my customers who own the original cars that they don't drive, and they drive the replica," McBurnie stated. McBurnie further described Thunder Ranch's relationship with NAC. "I don't think I've ever worked with a composite company that's been as helpful as NAC," he said. "We have added some new materials based on recommendations from NAC. For example, Thunder Ranch now uses Plexus, an epoxy two-part adhesive, to bond car frames onto the fiberglass bodies and to bond fiberglass to fiberglass to create doors, hoods and engine covers. "That saves us considerably in assembly time," McBurnie explained. "We work with NAC with different composite materials, to seek the strongest materials we can use in a composite and make it lightweight because part of performance is from the light weight of the car. In fact, the first car that Thunder Ranch manufactured, the all-composite 1934 Roadster, weighed less than 2,000 pounds. "For a small company to get that much attention from NAC, it's pretty wonderful," McBurnie said. MORE THAN CARS In the future, composite Porsche replicas might not be all Thunder Ranch and NAC partner to produce. "Tom has some new design concepts that are in the planning stages that will complement his current line of car bodies," Locke said. McBurnie explained that Thunder Ranch plans to manufacture a trailer that can tow a low-profile, lightweight car, like those manufactured by Thunder Ranch, and be pulled by a regular passenger vehicle. "There's nothing on the market today that will allow a regular car to tow a car in a trailer. This new trailer would go behind a small SUV or even a regular family car," McBurnie said. Thanks to the replications and innovations at Thunder Ranch, customers can drive their modern family cars but still have a more thrilling ride, like those on-screen characters of the past - be they hip high school students drag racing down Thunder Road or thrill-seeking crimefighters on the mean streets of Miami. A Thunder Ranch composite sports-car replica, according to McBurnie, gives drivers "a feel of the road that you can't get in a modern car."

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Thunder Ranch open house - Thunder Ranch

Tom McBurnie
Tom McBurnie Tom McBurnie, owner of Thunder Ranch, stated "the facility represents a much needed component of this growing company. As the day came to a close Tom McBurnie extended an open invitation for anyone reading this news item to visit Thunder Ranch, the award winning maker of the highest quality kits and handbuilt cars available.

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