A Quick Q&A With James Rakes from Rakes Performance Tuning

James Rakes has been tuning my Ecotec-powered vehicles since 2013, and is currently tuning my 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS sedan.

I recently had the chance to hold a more ‘formal’ interview with James, though I’m constantly picking his brain and asking for help when I get stuck on something in the garage. His support along with another member of the community, Louis Alonzo, go a long way when I’m troubleshooting something for my Cobalt.

Callaway Corvettes Tuned By RPT
These Callaway Corvettes are RPT tuned.

This time around, I wanted to dig into James’s past and see how Rakes Performance Tuning came to be.

What was the first car you ever tuned?

I started tuning with a 1989 Toyota Supra on an AEM stand-alone system. From there I went on to other platforms, including LS-based and Ecotec vehicles. A couple of the companies I have worked for and set records with are:

  • Nemnich tuning in Nebraska where I set the dyno record with a 1992 C1500 making 717WHP with an LSX swap and single turbo @ 10psi.
  • Harcelroad in Nebraska where I beat the dyno record of 1000 horsepower. Harcelroad Motors is exclusively a Callaway Cars dealer, so I get to work with some of their stuff.

Other companies James has worked with include:

  • Montgomery Chevrolet
  • Big M Chevrolet
  • Hahn Racecraft
  • Swope Nissan
  • Swope Toyota
  • Cozzilinos
  • Kentucky Highway Patrol
  • Hare Chevrolet 

When and why did you decided to open Rakes Performance Tuning?

My reason for opening RPT came from acknowledging my background and picturing what I could see myself doing in the future. I first opening the RPT name in 2008, but before that it was just ‘Rakes Tuning’.

Do you have a favorite customer car?

Favorite customer car… hm, not really sure how to answer as I have my favorite for each platform. The funnest and most educational one would be my own first car, which was a 1992 Toyota Supra with a 1.5JZ swap with an R154 transmission.

James may not have a favorite customer car, but this resto-modded C2 Corvette would be our favorite. See more photos of it in the gallery at the bottom of the article.

Do you have a platform that you prefer to work with?

My favorite platforms to work with are any LS or Ecotec-based vehicles, but I can tune anything as long as the owner carries hardware/software, I just don’t see the point of owning a lot of the programs when I don’t tune much of them regularly.

What would be your #1 piece of advice to any youngins who want to modify their cars or get into tuning themselves?

The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to progress is to always remember who they were before they started and recognize who they are now. And also to remember that to understand tuning you need to understand science, math, and English. *chuckles* 

The English major in me really enjoyed that final answer. To see some of the vehicles James has had the pleasure of working with, peep the gallery below. If you’d like to contact James with questions or a business inquiry, you can give him a call or shoot him a text at 207-319-9385. You can also contact RPT on Facebook.


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