For more than 30 years, many professional racers worldwide have been convinced that the best suspension coil springs are manufactured in Logansport, Indiana, and that the men to talk to are the legendary Jim Fiedler and Kelly Falls.
It all started in 1962, when Colin Chapman brought Jim Clark, Dan Gurney and the Lotus 29 to Indianapolis for the first time. One of the first things that they learned was that road racing suspension springs were in no way suited to the Speedway. Someone introduced Jim Fiedler to Colin Chapman and the rest is history.
There has recently been some confusion, however, about who has been doing what.From 1959 until 1990, Jim Fiedler worked for the Mechanical Spring Division of Rockwell International, based in Logansport. In 1990, Rockwell sold the division to Detroit-based -Matthew Warren Industries. Nothing changed for the racers, except that the telephone receptionist answered for MWI instead of Rockwell. We still got to speak with Jim, and he still sent us perfect springs.
In 1987, Hyperco, in nearby Fort Wayne, had become the major distributor of MWI’s racing and high performance coil springs. Hyperco renamed the springs ‘Hypercoils’ (see Indiana Blues, V3114), offered them in precisely matched pairs, powder-coated them a distinctive dark blue, packaged them in convenient closed-end tubes, established and maintained a sizeable inventory, provided at-track service at major race meetings, and hired Kelly Falls to manage the operation. Business boomed.
After a decade, the racing and high performance spring business had expanded to the point where it became apparent to MWI’s management that consolidation of R&D, design, manufacturing, inspection and distribution within a single corporate entity would offer significant advantages.
In November 1996, MWI purchased Hyperco, and moved the operation to Logansport. Kelly Falls accepted the position of general manager. Hyperco now shares design and manufacturing technology, as well as distribution and advertising, with the other MWI divisions. These now include four operations in three states: Automatic Spring Coiling, Century Spring Corp (offering a catalogue with over 33,000 different commercial spring designs), Hyperco, and Matthew Warren. Together they are now using the worldwide reputation of Rockwell, Matthew Warren and Hyperco to expand existing markets and gain new ones, both in the USA and abroad.The first objective has been to inform the grass-roots racers that the Saturday night racer can have springs designed and manufactured to the same specifications as the professionals, and with the same quality and quality control – in fact, the same springs that Williams, Benetton and Penske use.And that not only is the cost virtually the same as that of ordinary springs, but that the initial cost of a ‘Hypercoil’ is the final cost. They will not ‘take a set’, the rate will not change, the spring will stay straight, and the ends will remain square, for all practical purposes, forever. Well funded teams replace their ‘Hypercoils’ when the powder coating begins to show signs of wear. Less well funded teams (like mine) never replace them.
It takes a racer to properly service racers. Both the shop and office walls are plastered with an electric collection of racecar photos and posters. This is not unusual. What is unusual is that many of Hyperco’s key people are racers themselves. Jim Fiedler was closely involved in both Super Modified and drag racing in the early 1960s, and has been wandering the race tracks of the USA ever since. Kelly Falls has been a leading kart racer. Steve Stuart, who makes most of the manually coiled racing springs, is a very successful Midget racer. Larry Haynes, director of the testing and metallurgical laboratory, spends most of the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the non-destructive testing crew. Hyperco’s quality control and consistency has not only led to 33 consecutive victories in the Indianapolis 500, but to the selection of ‘Hypercoils’ as the specified suspension spring for the majority of America’s onemake track racing series, including the IROC, Barber Dodge, and SCCA Spec Racer classes. The company has always worked directly with the high-end chassis builders and teams – in Formula 1, CART and NASCAR’s Winston Cup – but now also works with constructors and teams in series like Busch Grand National, Dirt Late Models, NASCAR Modifieds, Toyota Atlantic and so on in the USA, in different regional and national open-wheel series overseas, such as Formula 3000, and in the various Touring Car series in Europe and the UK.As an example of this sort of cooperation, the rear suspension layouts of several short-track Modified classes use a third spring as a pull-bar to control forward traction. The conventional pull-bar spring has been a short die spring with a rate of about of 17001b per inch of deflection. With 700 horsepower and wide tyres, these springs were reaching solid stack when the track was heavy – with sudden and unpleasant results. Hyperco redesigned the setup, utilizing a longer spring with increased deflection and a rising rate at the end of its travel – allowing the racecar to adapt as the track conditions change.Hyperco now dominates the top end of the racing coilspring business and is expanding. It wants the rest of the market, worldwide, where the competitors recognize the performance aspects of precision suspension coils. It has the technical and production capacity to get it, and to service it, and intends to use the combined resources within the MWI group. Hyperco believes that this approach will benefit racers and chassis builders at all levels and divisions of the sport. It has already made significant inroads into grass-roots racing in the USA and is now aggressively seeking to expand into the same market in other parts of the world, having recently appointed distributors in the UK, Europe, Asia and South America.
Reprinted from Racecar Engineering Magazine, 33 Banstead Road, Caterham, CR3 5QG, England, Tel: 0883 34 1551 © Q.Editions Ltd 1998