Lifestyle: Gear

Sound you can feel

History of the perfect pipe

“We were just a couple of kids who loved racing. We never thought it would turn into robots and lasers.”

The words of Terry Vance, fourteen-time motorcycle drag racing champion and one half of one of the most recognisable exhaust and parts manufacturing brands in the world.

He and Byron Hines never knew what lay in store almost four decades ago when they launched their fledgling business from a small workshop in Santa Fe, California. Now 37 years on, with a staff of 600 working from two sites and 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space, the march of technology has taken them into an exciting new era.

That said, the early ethos of the venture – to create aesthetically stunning exhausts and parts with hand-finished attention to detail – remains the same today as it did then…  to the approval of a growing audience looking for something better than standard.

“The aesthetics of a great pipe are so important. It’s got to be created and treated just like a piece of jewellery,” says Tom Trobaugh, the firm’s Business Development Manager.

We strive to blend aesthetics and technology with performance and quality so our pipes look good and sound great.

Tom Trobaugh

The equation has to be great looks + strong sound + performance

“The aesthetics of a great pipe are so important. It’s got to be created and treated just like a piece of jewellery,” says Tom Trobaugh, the firm’s Business Development Manager.

“Different designs, different materials, from stainless steel to chrome to titanium, all add to the uniqueness of the products we create.”

Four into one does go

Matching then revolutionary aesthetics with performance started when Vance and Hines became pals in 1972. Terry was the racer and Byron the technical brain but both with a shared passion for making bikes go faster. Between them they transformed the image of motorcycle racing in the States.

In the early days the pair tore up the quarter-mile drag strips across southern California, rapidly earning a reputation for pushing their bikes to the limit. Their success was the catalyst for a stream of enquiries from rivals asking them to custom build engines.

 

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Just three years after forming the company, they unveiled their first after-market exhaust, a chrome four-into-one, which is still in production today.

Further success followed several years later in ’82, this time with Mike Baldwin and Mike Spencer riding the company to wins in their first AMA Road Race at Laguna Seca Raceway and AMA Superbike respectively.

Sport bike success grew during the 80s and 90s, culminating in ‘Lightning-fast’ Eddie Lawson’s Daytona 200 win in 1993.

Look good, sound great

“By then, and with the growth of the V-Twin market, Vance & Hines were breaking the mould with innovations like full coverage heat shields and beautiful looking billet end caps, as well as introducing chrome for mass production pipes that looked like they were custom built,” explains Tom.

As the company grew, a second facility in the racing heartland of Indiana followed, and V&H moved into the manufacture of ECUs, exhaust heads and silencers. But always with a tasteful and subtle artisan edge.

 

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Tom says: “A lot of the guys who work for us have been with the business for 30 years and fathers work alongside their sons. The same thing happens at Triumph, so there are definite parallels between the two in terms of expertise and dedication.

“Like them, we strive to blend aesthetics and technology with performance and quality so our pipes look good and sound great. The equation has to be great looks + strong sound + performance = mine!”

The Vance & Hines range is available on all the new 2016 Bonnevilles in what the firm hopes will be a strong partnership with ‘a true lifestyle brand’ in Triumph.

Heritage is pivotal to us and has made us what we are today

Tom Trobaugh

“The new Bonnies have got it nailed in terms of appealing to a younger audience of riders looking to use a Street Twin for some dirt track racing or a T120 to just look good,” says Tom. “No one actually needs to buy an after market exhaust, but it’s reassuring that individuality is still valued highly enough to make it a commodity that riders really want.”

“Heritage is pivotal to us and has made us what we are today, to the extent that a lot of our parts are still hand finished, despite the lasers Terry and Byron talked about. Long may that continue.”