LSCO buys Procell Brothers lot, memories
Last updated 12/14/2021 at 6:58pm
The latest real estate acquisition at Lamar State College Orange speaks to how fast things are moving in growing the downtown campus and its offerings.
"All we ever wanted to know was, 'Can we go faster?' 77-year-old Quincy Procell recalled, speaking of his time at Procell Brothers Performance Center at 105 Green Avenue, the property sold to LSCO.
The lot at the corner of Green and First Street was for years headquarters for a company internationally known for its racecar engines, a company run by brothers Quincy, Mark, and Kirby Procell.
Procell engines, engineered and built originally in the family garage before demand required bigger spaces, powered race cars to 23 National Hot Rod Association world records.
The brothers' last engine-building plant was at the shop now located just east of LSCO's Shahan Center.
When Procell sold the property to LSCO recently, Quincy said he was told by college President Dr. Tom Johnson that it could be refitted to train future engine builders.
"It might even be called the Procell Building and be used for a millwright school. I told the college I'd help them set up the program," Procell said.
A millwright is defined as an industrial mechanic, a professional who operates industrial machinery found in construction sites, factories, power plants and other sectors. Duties include installing and repairing equipment.
"I was originally a millwright by trade, and I got all my brothers into the union," Quincy Procell said.
The brothers would travel from job to job, often together, just as their iron worker father had moved from job to job. Sam Procell worked as a roughneck with Bum Phillips, the Orange native who went on to be coach of the Houston Oilers.
Quincy grew up near Alexandria, Louisiana and the family finally settled in Orange in 1958, Quincy says.
He recalls one of his first jobs was building a fence around Shangri-La Gardens.
"I went to Stark High and I was in the first class at Lamar Orange," he said. "We called it Tilley Tech back then."
Younger brother Mark Procell, 10 years Quincy's junior, "was the one who made it all work," Quincy said.
"He was what I call the brains behind the operation. He never knew if we had 50 cents in the bank or $50,000. He never wanted to know.
"He said, 'All I want to know is can we go faster.'"
Drag racing was in the brothers' blood. They were regulars at the Golden Triangle Drag Strip between Beaumont and Nederland, and they traveled regularly to drag strips in the Houston area and southwest Louisiana.
Quincy and Mark each drove for about 10 years and began souping up their engines to take their share of checkered flags.
"When I started back in 1963, nobody was fixing up cars. They just drove the cars off the dealers' lots," Quincy said.
"But finally, we had to quit driving because we didn't have time to work on our own cars.
"We were too busy working on everybody else's."
Word of mouth was great, but business really took off after Quincy's wife Nancy sold the brothers on making a short promotional video they could send out when they got an inquiry.
"Besides working for Joe Blow around here, we started working for people all around the U.S.," Quincy said.
"We built a big airboat motor for a man in Australia and one time we had a guy ask us to put a 350-horsepower Chevrolet (auto) engine in a Harley Davidson.
"So we did."
The brothers worked with aftermarket auto parts manufacturers Federal Mogul and TRW to produce kits of racing parts designed to turn any of several stock engines into muscle cars.
"We sold motors in Hawaii. We sold some in Sweden," Quincy recalls.
In the early 1990s, the Procell Brothers joined with Beaumont investor Hugh Kelley to campaign a Top Alcohol Funny Car in NHRA drag races held around the country.
Mark and Quincy were the heart of Kelley's pit crew and they competed in the fastest of what were considered "sportsman" classes.
In 1994, at Ennis, Texas, their car clocked 5.95 seconds for the quarter-mile track, reaching a top speed of 252 mph.
In the next lane, famous driver Bob Newberry also went 252 mph, but finished in 5.94 seconds.
It was the first time in NHRA that two cars in that class had run under 6 seconds in a side-by-side race.
Twenty years ago, Mark Procell broke his back and was partially paralyzed in an auto accident.
"Mark was a perfectionist. I would not trust anybody else," Quincy said. "That ended the run."
But now the Procell Brothers location on Green Avenue is getting ready for a new life with LSCO.
"Me and my brother have had some success coming from our garage to this," Quincy Procell said.
"What time I've got left, I want to show these young ones, 'Don't miss the boat like I did by not listening when someone is offering advice.'"