John Hennessey purchases new Mitsubishi 3000GT vr4 to pursue his dream of entering the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. After developing his own modifications to the exhaust and turbochargers for added power, he prepares for the July 4th hill climb by entering the Nevada Open Road Challenge in May. With no prior experience, he finishes fourth overall averaging 164 mph over the 90-mile course in a car he had driven to Ely, Nevada and back from Houston. He also drove his car, loaded with tools and spares, to Colorado and back in July when he successfully completed his run in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. In August, he again drove, not trailered, his car to the Bonneville Salt Flats where he set a class record of 177 mph. And, to finish up his whirlwind tour of high-speed endeavors, that November he returned to Nevada for the Silver State Challenge open road race where he was the overall winner with an average speed of 177 mph.
In between races, he also found time, on October 12, to marry his fiancé Hope. With her support, John gave up his successful environmental remediation business and aimed his entrepreneurial skills at turning his passion for high performance and racing into his life’s work by founding Hennessey Performance Engineering.
Working out of a rented garage with a single technician, John specialized in offering modified turbochargers and intake/exhaust systems for the Mitsubishi 3000 GT and its Dodge Stealth sibling as well as other turbocharged imports such as the Toyota Supra and Mazda RX7.
Hennessey Performance gets its initial media exposure with an article in Car & Driver recounting his racing exploits and the modifications he made to his Mitsubishi 3000 GT, which he dubbed the vr200.
The first Viper Venom 500 was built for a customer interested in competing in Nevada open road races. In May, the car won its class and finished fourth overall with an average of 164 mph at the Nevada Open Road Challenge. Being one of the first, if not the first, Viper entered in any competition, it was featured in Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Hot Rod and Car Craft.
The Viper Venom 550 debuts with a 50 horsepower increase over the Venom 500 thanks to HPE’s design of the world’s first Viper 5-to-1 tubular headers and development of high performance valve train improvements in conjunction with Competition Cams. Motor Trend track tests a Venom 500 and Venom 550 with both cars entering the magazine’s rather exclusive for the time ‘3-second club’ by posting 0 to 60 mph runs of 3.7 and 3.5 seconds respectively.
Hennessey Performance is involved in development and sales of the first hardtop designed for the Viper.
A Belgian team enters two Vipers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans utilizing exhaust headers, valve train components and other racing parts from Hennessey Performance. One of the team’s Vipers finishes an incredible tenth overall.
John Hennessey becomes one of the founding members of the Viper Club of America.
Venom 600, featuring a stroker kit with custom crank, debuts at Motor Trend shootout held at Firebird Raceway. It decisively beats the competition to earn ‘cover shot’ status.
An earlier experience at a Road & Track top speed event did not result in a victory but brought home the lesson of having world-class test equipment. HPE purchases one of the first Dyno Jet rolling chassis dynamometers.
Viper GTS debuts and HPE improves stroker kit to produce 650 horsepower resulting in the 650r model.
John Hennessey pilots a 650r around the tricky high-speed oval at the Honda proving grounds in Arizona to become the first Viper to hit 200 mph with a speed of 203 mph. Motor Trend features the record run with a cover story.
John drives his personal Viper GTS to establish a new speed record for the Elko Twin 50 open road race with an average of 177 mph on the return run.
With the arrival of his and Hope’s fifth child, John Hennessey puts his family’s interest first by retiring from high speed racing events, limiting himself to drag strip and road course testing.
Venom 800 debuts. It is the result of John Hennessey’s decision that the time is right to develop a twin turbo Viper V10. He sets a goal of 200 mph in the standing mile. With 700 horsepower to the rear wheels, the Venom 800 comes up slightly shy of the mark with a speed of 197 mph, but does become the first tuner car tested by Motor Trend to do 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds and the ¼-mile in 9.9 seconds.
2000 - 2003
Development continues on the Viper. The 1000 horsepower Venom 1000 debuts and a 650r does 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and a 10.7 ¼-mile on street tires.
HPE grows from five employees in 1995 to a dozen.
Acquisition of the Lonestar Motorsports complex including 1/8-mile drag strip.
Venom 800 Twin Turbo SRT-10 captures overall win over 16 tuner cars in Car & Driver Supercar Challenge. The two-day event includes one day of road testing by the editors followed by a day on the oval and infield road course of Michigan International Speedway testing braking, handling, and various levels of acceleration.
In a Road & Track standing mile test on the runway at Lemoore Naval Air Station, the Hennessey Venom 1000 SRT-10 convertible posts the fastest top speed of 210.2 mph. The diverse field of 15 entrants includes a Saleen S7 and three racecars. The Venom 1000 is 7 mph faster than the Lola-Ford Cosworth Indy Car of Paul Gentilozzi.
In a separate run over a longer distance to determine its maximum top speed, this Viper convertible hit 223 mph.
Don Goldman becomes associated with HPE, initially as a customer then a partner with John Hennessey in terms of developing the Lonestar Motorsports property. The drag strip is extended to a fully operational 1/4-mile plus shutdown area and return road allowing it to be used for testing and development.
In a Road & Track 0 to 200 mph shootout at Lemoore Naval Air Station between six of the world’s fastest super cars, the 1100-hp Venom 1000 coupe is the winner with a time of 20.3 seconds, nearly a full four seconds quicker than the runner up Bugatti Veyron 16.4.
John Hennessey shifts his thinking from increasing horsepower to reducing weight to achieve a comfortable, user-friendly 200 mph road car. He commissions a designer in the UK to create plans for a car based on a Lotus Elise with a Viper V10 amidships that is the precursor to the Venom GT.
In December, ground is broken for building the company’s new facilities adjacent to Lonestar Motorsports Park.
HPE Ford GT 1000 Twin Turbo becomes the world’s fastest Ford GT at the time with a 234 mph run at Lemoore NAS. HPE moves into its new home, a 30,000-square-foot building adjacent to Lonestar Motorsports Park, off Interstate 10, about 45 minutes west of Houston.
Tuner School, first school dedicated to teaching and training high performance vehicle tuners opens within the new facilities.
Hennessey establishes YouTube channel to post entertaining and informative videos of its vehicles in action.
HPE expands into General Motors tuning with Cadillac CTS V and Corvette ZR1 leading the way.
HPE 700 LS9 Camaro debuts with 691-hp at the rear wheels. The car is an immediate hit establishing HPE among Chevrolet performance customers.
Venom GT development continues in the UK with Chevrolet LS9 V8 replacing the twin turbo Viper V10 of the original concept.
Don Goldman becomes a partner in HPE bringing in operational and systems skills that allow John Hennessey to refocus on product development and sales.
SoCal shop opens in Lake Forest, CA
Venom GT prototype debuts and is followed later in the year by delivery of the first production version.
Top Gear devotes cover story to Venom GT.
HPE dealer network continues to expand for ordering cars through Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford dealers across the country.
New website is launched.
Happy 20th anniversary to John and Hope Hennessey as well as HPE. Over the last two decades both the couple and the company have reason to celebrate as the couple has expanded to a family of five children while HPE business family has grown to 30 employees.
Venom GT appears on cover of Road & Track
HPE West Coast operations move into new 10,000-square foot production and service facility located in Lake Forest, CA in August to service customers west of the Rockies.
Watch us grow over the next 20 years.
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