What do you call a hobby that gets out of hand? Thomas Kincer can call it a passion and a career wrapped up together. The U.S. Small Business Administration Tennessee District Office calls it the Tennessee Rural Owned Small Business of the Year.
That’s the SBA’s recognition for Kincer Engineering and Design LLC located in Rockford. Customers know it better as Krawers Edge and Kincer Chassis, one business with two divisions.
The roots trace back to Kincer’s boyhood days growing up near Forks of the River Industrial Park in southeast Knox County, where he helped his father Tommy restore Mustangs in the garage, when his dad wasn’t racing Fords on dirt tracks.
The Krawers Edge name derives from when Thomas Kincer built rock crawlers, extreme off-road vehicles.
“That was part of our business early on, but then it switched gears,” Kincer said. He started doing restoration and repairs on Ford Broncos, then the business evolved into building chassis too.
“Krawlers Edge Specialty Components does all the components like the gas tanks, your headers, the exhaust systems, radiators, cooling fan packages, things like that for the chassis side of the business. So that’s Krawlers Edge Specialty Components. And then you have Kincer Chassis,” he said.
As for the rural part. His facility in Rockford qualifies for that. His sister, Sabrina Stallings, who handles the paperwork, said the country setting on Jay Kerr Road surprises first-time customers when they find the Kincer building. A common comment: “I wasn’t sure I was in the right place.”
The whole thing started out more as a family hobby driven by a love for Fords. “He and dad restored my first vehicle, a ’65 Mustang. I still have it,” Stallings said.
The company still has a family core, with Emily Davis, Kincer’s fiancee, handling communications.
A hobby evolves
Kincer’s dad bought a ’71 Mach 1 while dating his mom. Took it to shows then and they still have it now. Then father and son “did a little ’66 pickup truck, an F-100, just for ourselves. Not for business or anything, just a hobby,” Kinser said.
He attended the University of Tennessee, where he was an outfielder on the 1999 Vols baseball team. Took a job at Tennessee Armature and Electric in Knoxville.
“As I progressed in electrical and automation work I got into four-wheeling, and so I had a Jeep.”
That was no infatuation, just a temporary diversion. “I’m a Ford guy, so I started looking at Broncos and I’ve had a Bronco bug ever since.”
Early Ford Broncos, to be precise, models built from 1966-77. The year that shifted his business into a higher gear was 2013. The Bronco that did it was a shiny blue ’76 model.
Kincer built that Bronco for a Chattanooga customer and took it to the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.
The SEMA Show is touted as the world’s premier automotive specialty products trade event. Not a competitive car show, it’s a strictly business-to-business event that requires a sponsor on the inside to pay the way. In this case, Larry Burchett of B Rod or Custom, of Knoxville, helped line up Steele Rubber Products, of Denver, N.C., as sponsor.
Showtime at SEMA
Sponsors are allowed to display cars outside the SEMA Show arena, around 500-600 total. Of those, “Car Crazy” TV selected 25 vehicles to appear onstage. That’s where Kincer with his Bronco was interviewed by the show’s host Barry Meguiar, president and CEO of Meguiar’s automotive care products. Along with that cable TV exposure came a YouTube video by ScottyD TV.
ScottyD had already visited Kincer’s shop and seen restoration work being done on the ’76 Bronco. He tracked down the vehicle and Kincer at the show for an interview.
“Tell me what you’ve done. Let’s start here,” ScottyD says, looking under the hood. From then on it was two motorheads on a roll.
“In the engine bay we’ve just got a really nice little 302 fuel-injected engine with AC, the new Vintage Air AC system for the vintage Bronco, and I’ve got some shorty headers just to make it as clean as possible,” Kincer says. “Just tried to add a couple of little touches to make it our own little thing here ...”
ScottyD was particularly impressed by the deep blue paint job. “What color is that, man? Not to sound like a girl but what color is that?” Kincer responds, “That is a bright midnight metallic blue, the original color for the 1976 Ford Bronco.”
With the cable TV and YouTube publicity in the bag, Kincer returned home from the show. “Everybody’s like this will be the greatest thing that happened to your business,” Kincer recalled.
Not quite. Not yet.
“I came back and it was like crickets for about two months, three months — and then all of a sudden the phone started ringing and hasn’t stopped since. We still get calls off of those videos today.”
It didn’t hurt that in 2018 Ford gave Kincer’s Bronco business its official endorsement. That makes the recognition by the Small Business Administration like icing on the cake — or more like bright midnight metallic blue on a restored Bronco body. Original color, of course.