Hennessey Performance was founded in 1991 as an extension of John Hennessey’s competitive spirit, engineering creativity, and burning desire to keep finding ways and events that allowed him to go faster.
In a whirlwind of speed related events over the span of that year, John Hennessey and his self-modified, daily driver Mitsubishi 3000 GT commuted to and participated in a diverse combination of speed events that included Nevada open road races, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and a record setting 173-mph run at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
John was obviously hooked on racing, but he realized that he wasn’t alone in his need for speed. Already a successful entrepreneur in the environmental services industry, and looking for ways to supplement his ravenous racing budget, John saw the potential for turning his automotive passion into his life’s work by taking the knowledge and development skills he had gained through racing and probing the performance potential of his car to others with similar cars and speed-focused ambitions.
The first few years saw John’s efforts concentrated on building and modifying turbocharged imports such as the Mitsubishi 3000 GT, Toyota Supra and Mazda RX7. But in March 1993, the future and successful growth of Hennessey Performance was set into motion when a customer, impressed by John’s winning drives in the Nevada open road challenge events, came to him with one of the first Vipers in the country seeking modifications that would make him competitive in similar events.
Those modifications and tuning resulted in an increase of about 100 more horsepower, prompting John to dub it the Hennessey Venom 500 Viper. The car’s subsequent 164-mph average run in the Silver State Challenge drew the attention of the automotive media as one of the first, if not the first, Viper to participate in any form of competition.
The next few years saw demand for Hennessey enhanced Vipers, including cars built for Jay Leno, Bob Lutz and other Chrysler executives, increase to the point that by 1996, Hennessey Performance was dealing exclusively in the V10 Chrysler super sports car. To meet this demand, the company had grown to over a dozen employees and was operating out of a 30,000 square-foot hangar at the Houston airport.
In 2005, once again a new customer provided the means for a major change in the growth and direction of Hennessey Performance. Don Goldman had taken early retirement from a successful career of acquiring, growing then selling businesses to concentrate on his passion of car collecting. His desire to build a Ford GT capable of doing well over 200 mph on a mile long course initiated a successful diversification for Hennessey Performance into building high performance Ford GTs.
Don Goldman was also instrumental in mentoring and partnering with John on the 2004 acquisition of the Lonestar Motorsports Park drag strip facility and subsequent acquisition, in early 2008, of the adjacent property that is now includes the headquarters of Hennessey Performance.
During this period, John was watching what another friend and customer Bob Lutz was planning in terms of performance cars in his new role at General Motors. When the Cadillac CTS-V arrived in 2008, Hennessey Performance was ready with modifications that could put out 650 horsepower from its Corvette derived V8.
That same year also saw the design and development of the Venom GT ultra exotic sports car in England.
Building on its success with the Cadillac CTS-V, Hennessey Performance became one of the first aftermarket companies to offer high performance models of the Camaro when it arrived.
Don Goldman officially became a partner in Hennessey Performance in June 2009 to oversee the management and operations of the company allowing John to concentrate fully on his passion for product design and development.
In contrast to John’s one man, apartment based startup operation in 1991, Hennessey Performance currently has 30 employees based in a 30,000-square foot facility off Interstate 10 about 45 minutes west of Houston.
In addition to administrative offices and a customer showroom, facilities include 20 service bays, 16 vehicle lifts, a welding and fabrication shop, Dynojet 248C chassis dynamometer rated to 1800 rear wheel horsepower, Dyno Dynamics all-wheel drive chassis dynamometer rated to 2000 horsepower, and a Hunter 4-wheel laser alignment rack built in-ground to handle lowered vehicles and race cars.
The surrounding acreage includes a 1/4-mile drag strip and 1.4-mile road course to allow testing and development to be done on site.
Hennessey Performance also operates a state certified Tuner School on the premises offering hands-on instruction to students interested in pursuing a career in aftermarket performance tuning. The school has also provided Hennessey with some of its own in-house technicians.
Hennessey Performance continues to grow. A new 10,000-square foot production and service facility in Southern California opens in July 2011. The Lake Forest, CA location is midway between Los Angeles and San Diego and will serve customers west of the Rockies.
After two decades, while the size and scope of the operations, along with the vehicles and products, have diversified and expanded, the founding principle of Hennessey Performance has remained unchanged. The goal is to provide ultimate performance for customers, who like founder John Hennessey, have a passion for speed and racing.
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