In the high-performance automotive world, the art of tuning vehicles for peak performance and efficiency is a crucial skill set that many tuners safeguard to gain a competitive advantage within the industry. However, the demand for well-trained expert tuners continues to rise, and a void has existed for comprehensive and up-to-date education programs for beginners and experienced tuners alike. Over the years, expert tuners Mike Carnahan and Branden Leeb have noticed the significant gap in the quality and effectiveness of training programs available to those interested in the calibration field. This observation inspired them to create the Elite Tuned School. This groundbreaking program aims to provide tuners with a modern, in-depth education beyond the conventional two-day weekend training sessions that are so often found in the industry.
With their combined 30-plus years of experience, Mike and Branden are renowned not only for their own tuning expertise but also for their ability to correct and enhance faulty or unsafe tunes built by other “expert” tuners. Their reputation in the industry has grown to the point that they are now the go-to resource for many tuning professionals seeking guidance and solutions. The knowledge they’ve gained from these experiences has highlighted the lack of contemporary, practical educational resources for tuners. They noticed that most training programs are too brief to adequately cover foundational concepts and, more importantly, lack real-world applications.
Elite Tuned School was born out of a desire to fill this educational void by providing the most up-to-date curriculum in a format that allows students to learn at their own pace and on their own time from virtually anywhere in the world. By offering video-based lessons and resources that students can revisit as needed, they aim to equip future tuners with the skills and knowledge to excel in the industry. The success of their program has been highlighted by the remarkable feedback from their students, who consistently praise the effectiveness and innovation of their approach.
The results of the Elite Tuned School teaching model speak volumes as to its effectiveness and success. However, Mike and Branden began to think about how they could teach tuners from ground zero instead of having to undo old habits and methods that for some had been in use for years. The two also recognized the lack of educational opportunities for those going the college route or those with their sights set on solely being professional tuners. This led Mike and Branden to begin thinking about the possibilities of a collegiate program and how to go about creating such a thing.
The Genesis Of The Elite Tuned School Tuning Masterclass
The idea for the Elite Tuned School Tuning Masterclass began to take shape when Mike, while dyno tuning for Powertech Performance in Tampa Bay, struck up a conversation with Bradley Maier, a technician there and a graduate of the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH). Maier shared the prestige of UNOH in the high-performance automotive world and suggested that Mike contact the university about the possibility of collaborating on creating a college-level tuning education program.
Following Maier’s recommendation, Mike reached out to Trey Becker at UNOH. That initial phone call lasted for hours and marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Several follow-up calls refined the ideas and offerings, leading to a visit to UNOH to present Mike and Branden’s concept to members of the school and the board. Becker played a pivotal role in turning this idea into a reality, which took a little over six months to achieve. He served as the liaison with the school, the point of contact with the students, and someone who wholeheartedly embraced Mike and Branden’s mission of making tuning education accessible on a large scale. Additionally, Elite Tuned School is also grateful to the sponsors of this groundbreaking course: HP Tuners, Brian Tooley Racing, Fuel Injector Connection, and Sunoco Fuels. These industry leaders have contributed to the success of the program by providing resources, expertise, and swag items for the students.
Elite Tuned School: The Tuning Masterclass Program
The ETS Tuning Masterclass program at UNOH is a six-week course that offers students an intensive and hands-on education in automotive tuning. UNOH’s classes run in five-hour blocks from Monday to Thursday each week, although this masterclass ran in a hybrid format. Weeks one and six of the course were taught in person from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. each evening, while weeks two through five were filled with modules of online instruction, assignments, and online meeting sessions. The inaugural class recently finished the program, and the second class is set to begin on November 13th, 2023. According to Mike, several students referred to the instruction and what they learned as “life-changing”, with many recommending that it be a prerequisite for all high-performance programs at UNOH.
This class has been infinitely more in-depth and informational than any of the classes generally relating to performance calibration… Mike and Branden are the perfect educators for this class. – Graduate of the ETS Tuning Masterclass
The first week of the program begins with Mike and Branden meeting the students in person and sharing their expectations along with the course curriculum. The students download the HP Tuners software and spend the majority of the week taking a deep dive into the basic principles the remainder of the course is built upon. “Many of the students left week one feeling intrigued, excited, but a bit overwhelmed as they had never experienced or seen many of the concepts that were introduced,” Mike said.
Mike and Branden break down tuning into several online units for weeks two through five. Each week’s unit adds another aspect of tuning and builds upon the content learned from the previous week. The units contain material the students use to learn at their own pace, take quizzes to test their understanding of the material and a practical application in building tune files using the specific tables that were covered in the unit. The areas of focus contained in the units were fuel, spark, airflow, and systems/transmissions.
During week two the students focused only on modifying fuel tables within a tune file. In week three the students worked in the fuel and spark tables. This method of stacking the units onto each other results in the students building complete tune files and making modifications within all the areas of the HP Tuners software covered during the course.
Mike and Branden also met with the students every Thursday via Zoom to have a question-and-answer session. “The Zoom calls give the students a space to connect and share their experiences,” Mike said. “We consistently had a great turnout and a group who was highly engaged and took advantage of participating in these opportunities.”
For the final week of the program, Mike and Branden were back in person on the UNOH campus to wrap things up in the classroom. The final week is understandably the students’ favorite part of the course since it is spent out in the shop using the university’s chassis dyno. The students were tasked with building a complete tune file as their final assignment. However, they weren’t building tune files for just any old vehicles. Mike and Branden arranged for several modified vehicles to be on hand for testing and tuning.
Not only were the students building tune files all on their own, but many were challenged to present their files to the class and walk everyone through the process. “So many of the students commented on how this tied everything from week one together and everything began to really click,” Mike said. According to Mike, several students who had never tuned anything or used the HP Tuners software before day one were tuning a 1,000-plus horsepower car with minimal mistakes by week six. The feedback Mike and Branden received following the completion of the course was overwhelmingly positive.
The Impact Of Elite Tuned School
With the first offering of the Elite Tuned School Tuning Masterclass course at UNOH completed, the impact it will have on the automotive tuning industry is already apparent. According to an exit survey students were asked to answer following the completion of the course, many students commented that not only was it one of the best courses they had ever taken, but they wanted Mike and Branden to offer an advanced course they could enroll in.
Students were blown away by the progress they made and what they were able to do at the end of the course. – Mike Carnahan, Elite Tuned School
The innovative approach to teaching and the hands-on experience provided during the course have left participants feeling not only equipped but also inspired to pursue a career in high-performance automotive tuning. One of the top-performing students in the class, Owen Brogan, had this to say about his experience during the course, “Before the class, I had almost no tuning experience. Knowing that two of my favorite things are performance cars and computers, I couldn’t wait for the class to start. Learning to tune with Mike and Branden as instructors was an amazing experience I won’t forget. They quickly impressed me with their deep knowledge of the subject and their eagerness to bring the tuning industry to the next generation. Hearing the C6 start up on my own tune was the moment that solidified my desire to pursue a tuning career.”
I wouldn’t hesitate to take the class again and would recommend it to anyone, no matter their interest in the automotive industry. – Owen Brogan, ETS Tuning Masterclass student
UNOH was just as impressed with the ETS Tuning Masterclass course as the students. The success of the first Elite Tuned School program at UNOH has paved the way for future courses. The next session is set to begin on November 13th, 2023, offering an opportunity for both current and aspiring tuners to take part. Unlike the first course, this upcoming class is open to the general public, making high-quality tuning education accessible to an even wider audience. If you are interested in enrolling in the upcoming class or want more information about the program, visit www.unohets.com.
The Elite Tuned School Tuning Masterclass at the University of Northwestern Ohio is revolutionizing the world of automotive tuning education. This innovative program that Mike and Branden dreamt up and brought to life is addressing a critical need for comprehensive and up-to-date training in high-performance automotive tuning. By combining theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience and leveraging modern teaching methods, Elite Tuned School is shaping the future of the industry, one student at a time. As the program continues to expand and evolve, it promises to be a game-changer for those looking to establish successful careers in automotive tuning.