Hennessey - Controversial Performance (1)
Hennessey Performance has become one of the better known American tuning companies in no doubt thanks to their own production cars: the record-breaking Venom GT and Venom GT Spider.
The company was founded as Hennessey Motorsports in 1991 by John Hennessey and got its first media attention with a tuned Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 that participated in the Silver State Classic, the famous Nevada flat-out race. The 3000GT dubbed by Hennessey as the VR-200 went to win the 91 mile (146 km) race in the "unlimited class" with an incredible average speed of 166.3 mph (268 km/h).
At that time, Hennessey was more concentrated on building bonafide race cars for the SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA series. But fast forward a few years and with the advent of the first generation of the Dodge Viper and its GTS variant, things started to change.
The Texan tuning company started to produce their "Venom" packages that allowed customers unsatisfied by the 450 stock horses to up the power of their Vipers up to an incredible 1000 hp with the help of a twin turbo set up.
With the development of such street performers, Hennessey should have been on the road for great success and unarguably they arrived at this important milestone. However, we cannot say that they managed their popularity with success.
Soon after they released their Viper packages, the tuning company ran into some serious trouble with some of their customers. A series of lawsuits were filed after customers didn't get the service they asked for and apparently some of the parts of their stock Vipers had been sold off.
Another disgruntled customer who was awaiting his overdue Viper went to Hennessey with a video camera to confront Hennessey at his shop in Houston and was arrested after Hennessey allegedly accused him of making "terroristic threats".
Though one cannot be sure of the allegations spread on forums, the truth lies in the fact that Hennessey Motorsports had 12 complaints filed against them between the years 2000 and 2003. Only one was listed as resolved. In September 2002, the company had already 4 lawsuits that were ruled against them, a further 10 in process and 3 ruled in their favour. Meaning that they had at least 17 cases in that period that went before a jury.
As if that wasn't enough to tarnish the reputation of a company, an independent financial research firm provided Hennessey Motorsports with a one point rating for financial stress where 100 is the best score possible.
A lot of suspicions still hung over the practices implemented at Hennessey Motorsports especially for customers who were outside of the state of Texas. An account of a former employee stated: "If you were out of the state you were fair game." Taking about an "out-of-state" Viper, he went to say: "The motor and transmission went into a Durango John was putting together, the brakes went to someone else, the hood went to a guy in Ohio, the rear bumper to South Carolina, man you name it. We had multiple cars like that."
A year later, without having cleared any of these accusations, the Texan tuning company relocated and had changed its name to the one that we all know today: Hennessey Performance Engineering.
Tune in next week for the rest of Hennesseys' story!