Engineers and engines go together like gin and tonic. So it is a fair bet that glasses will be raised to Flex-Seal Couplings at the Pipelines 98 show this May when it opens up the bonnet of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV AWD Turbo.
The crowded engine bay could be a main attraction, but what has a rally fit, 260bhp Mitsubishi got to do with a company that makes flexible pipe fittings?
Well, Flex-Seal is the main sponsor of Network Q RAC rally driver Gavin Cox, who in his underpowered and outdated Calibra 4x4 turbo achieved remarkable results in the last few years. In 1997 he managed 29th in group N of the RAC, the first Vauxhall home.
When Cox decided to ditch the Calibra, Flex-Seal agreed to extend its backing and buy the Mitsubishi Lancer. A similar car has won the group N World Rally Championship for the last two years, so everyone is hoping for spectacular results.
The company has other things to discuss of course. Flex-Seal has its own success story to tell.
Founding directors Bob Pritchatt and Graham Woods started the firm in 1988 when the usual methods for jointing low or non-pressure pipe systems were by forming a rigid cement mortar joint, throwing concrete at the butt ends, or devising some other bodge job, they say.
Pritchatt and Woods developed the concept of a flexible coupling and put their homes on the market to raise the finance to expand the range.
They started with premises in Sheffield and 10 years later are moving for the third time to a special design and build facility near Barnsley which will have 30,000 sq ft of space. The company employs 56 people with a turnover of 6M.
Flex-Seal couplings are constructed from vulcanised rubber mainly EPDM, occasionally SBR or, on request, Nitrile for situations where hydrocarbons, oils and methane gases exist.
The rubber is moulded or fabricated into rubber seals and stainless steel end clamps ensure a watertight joint. On the standard coupling range a stainless steel shear-band round the centre provides resistance to heavy earth loads and shear forces, and ensures pipe alignment while retaining joint flexibility. Sizes range from 100mm to 2,100mm for standard couplings; 50mm-275mm for drain couplings and 35mm-420mm for adaptor couplings.