The adage, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” could also describe how cold, hard steel has, over the years, helped Vance & Hines grow to be one of the largest aftermarket high-performance companies in motorcycling today. It was in October of 1979 that two young, ambitious men, Terry Vance and Byron Hines, formed their budding company, establishing headquarters in a small industrial unit (consuming about 2,000 square feet) on Marquardt Avenue in Santa Fe Springs, California. Their product? A chromed four-into-one collector exhaust system for GS-series Suzukis, which they also happened to drag race at the national level.
Thirty-eight years later there are two things to consider about Vance & Hines: first, even though the business now requires nearly 200,000 square feet of industrial space, the California-based company (with a sister facility of equal size in Brownsburg, Indiana) still owns, and continues utilizing, the original shop space at 14010 Marquardt Avenue.
Second thing to remember about Vance & Hines is that it still has the original jig used to build that first collector exhaust system. In fact, a portion of the manufacturing facility contains every single jig the company has used for developing and manufacturing products over the past four decades, and that equates to hundreds of part numbers that made it to market.
Clearly, Vance & Hines is a company that’s on the move, yet it remains firmly planted with roots embedded deep within the motorcycle industry, as well as in the very neighborhood where it got its start. Moreover, according to John Potts, VP of sales and marketing, Vance & Hines’ standing philosophy is to annually introduce about 100 new products to market, the latest being the CTR (Ceramic Thermal Reduction) Performance Kit for 2014-2016 Harley-Davidson Touring models.
The CTR Performance Kit represents two years of research and development to create a complete system, from intake to ignition to exhaust, that is 50-state emissions compliant and noise-level friendly. Consequently, the CTR system was granted Executive Order (E.O. K-006-3) from the California Air Resources Board, and with five slip-on muffler styles to help modulate sound, customers can choose the exhaust sound and style that suits them best.
As the Executive Order suggests, the CTR Performance Kit is emissions compliant and relies on ceramic technology to control the heat radiating to the rider and passenger, improving their comfort during long rides.
The CTR system begins with the VO2 air cleaner mounted to the intake. From there the Vance & Hines FuelPak FPC Tuner does its magic to regulate fuel/air mixture for a cleaner burn before the ceramic-encapsulated catalysts take over. Obviously you won’t see any of this hocus-pocus technology actually taking place within the combustion chambers and exhaust pipes and mufflers, but know that it works to emit clean exhaust gases and to boost performance over a stock engine.
Every step in manufacturing, short of the ceramic coating and chrome plating processes, are done in-house, which makes Vance & Hines a major cog in America’s own industrial wheel, in the process keeping about 450 Americans employed.
Indeed, the manufacturing process takes on many roles. In one department laser-cut metal is formed into specific shapes such as muffler or air intake assemblies before certified welders or robotic welding machines bond them each into their own single components. Step into the machine shop and you’ll see raw billet aluminum being whittled by CNC machines into works of art that are otherwise called muffler end caps. And the beat goes on to fulfill all sorts of part numbers found in the company catalog.
There’s also a research and development room where future products are refined for production. Among the latest products to graduate from the R&D campus is a new exhaust system for Ducati’s popular Scrambler line.
For the most part, though, the manufacturing portion of Vance & Hines is stuff that few people see or even pay attention to. The glamorous part of the business, it might be said, is found at the racetrack, where the Vance & Hines logo is splashed on Harley-Davidson’s championship-winning Pro Stock drag bikes at NHRA drag strips and on Harley factory-backed Street 750-based flat trackers at dirt oval tracks, where the AMA stages its long-standing Grand National Championship Series. And to underscore the reach enjoyed by Vance & Hines even on the racetrack, the V-twin-based dirt track series is officially known as “AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines.” Yeah, that little acorn resulted in a mighty oak that keeps spreading and spreading, doesn’t it?