Racor Throwback Thursday
From “Racor Media”, Volume B, No. 1, July 1988:
RACOR … What's in a name? or Everything you wanted to know about Racor (but didn't think to ask).
In the galaxy known as the Milky Way there is a solar system with a planet called Earth. On this planet is a country named the United States of America, and within this country is a Fortune 500 Company named Parker Hannifin Corporation, and within this Corporation is a division called Racor.(1)
Of all the questions ever pondered in the immenseness of our universe, probably none is more often asked than, "Where did Racor come from?" Well if you sit back and make yourself comfy, I'll do the best I can to provide the answer in a nutshell.
Back in circa 1968, legend has it there were these two inventors named Wendel Rogers and Shannon Copeland. They developed a cylindrical shaped gizmo that removed water from diesel fuel through gravity and centrifugal force. It also had a replaceable element that filtered out the small bits of debris. (This was the Forefather of today’s 1000FG!).(2)
It was called a Rogers Filtral (after it's inventor). It was a good unit and they sold a few, here and there.
Awhile later, this whipper-snapper of a businessman named Mark Richards entered the scene. Richards brought capital ($) and ideas (!!) to the men and offered them a deal, "let's start a real company with this gizmo" — but what to name it? Well, the three sat around one balmy winter evening sharing a bottle of libation when the idea hit 'em. The first letter of their last names! Hmm, Richards spoke up, "since I've got the capital and ideas how about Richards And Copeland Or Rogers?" The three —laughed, talked, toasted a drink, and in December 1969, Racor Industries, Inc. was born.
Sandwiched between K and L on 8th Street, the “plant” employed between 18 to 25 workers
Here, the Rogers Filtral filter lost its name in favor of the Racor Filtral, and eventually became the Racor 1000FA (1000 was just a big number, “F” meant filter, and “A” was the improvement letter). Richards lead the Sales Department and began setting up salesmen to work for him. Meanwhile, Copeland was busy on improvements (and designing a new filter), while Rogers handled the chores of manufacturing.
About 1971, Richards hired a fellow named Norbert Zogelman to handle the chores of salesmanship, thus giving himself more time to develop ideas on how to make Racor grow.
In the following year, Richards hired a draftsman named Robert Green to put on paper what was in his head. Bobby drew what was to become the 500FA, 800D-12 and 800D-20. New employees Art Rivas, Burl Barrett and Danny Kelley, set out to build these contraptions. (Those guys have been around a long time!)
With an expanded product now available, Racor later landed a $50,000 order through International Salesman, Peter Vadaz. The steady increase of sales, plus this momentous purchase, provided the confidence Richards needed to justify moving from the now overcrowded 8th Street “garage”.
In October of 1974 Racor moved into their new, specially-built facility on Barium Road (3) where the employment grew to 100. Prior to this move, Rogers left the company, and Copeland went on to start a business with his family that came to be known as Dahl Manufacturing. (Here they produced a previously rejected filter design.) To support Racor needs, Richards organized a plastic injection products and screw machine products branch through the efforts of engineer Roger Murphy.
Also, Racor acquired JOBE Die Casting Company of Industrial City at about this time and relocated them to Ceres.(4) Now, greater control of product quality and delivery dates was possible.
Richards next move was to bolster sales by hiring an experienced salesman named Paul Capani and to appoint an ambitious designer named Mike Wilson to the Chief Engineer position. Wilson hired a young college student named Pete Popoff (sound familiar?) (5), to assist in implementing new products and ideas. Of the many creative new designs, came Marine Manifold Units, Fuel and Oil Blenders, and two new market entries; the RD-2 Air Dryer, and Racor's own Diesel Fuel Additives.(6) The new products increased sales and thereby increased production and the workforce. To make space available, Richards and the administrative group moved into separate rented offices on G Street.
One little diesel filter called a 200FG really made things happen for Racor. Since its introduction from the Barium Road plant, demand and orders flowed to the phone. It seems its small size fit into everything. It had a large see-thru collection bowl and it was a snap to service. Sales soared to as much as 15,000 units a month. The little filter told Richards what he was beginning to realize, “it's time to move again!”
Beginning in October of 1980, Racor was slowly moving into the 15 acre facility on Finch Road,(7) which now employs 225 people.(8) Racor was now the shark instead of the minnow. Through the purchase of Sentinel (9) Manufacturing of Houston, Texas, still another new market was reached: Engine Protection (shutdown) Systems. Racor's in-house die cast, plastics, and screw machine departments eventually began providing slot machine facades, computer disk rings, computer keyboard housings, and numerous other items for outside customers. However, with time, Richards slowly pulled the plug on outside work and concentrated further on streamlining and defining Racor's future.
The bread and butter FG Series was to see newcomers to the family. These new filters were hybrids, specially designed to the customer’s needs and pocketbook. Racor began an intensive push to acquire business from original equipment manufacturers (OEM) such as Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Early successes were John Deere, Rugerini, Ford and today, Navistar (International Harvester).
A new breed of "spin-on" type fuel filter water separator was developed for OEM engines and their applications. These were the 220 and 320 product line.
The "800 Series" also saw the birth of two new products: The 850 pressure side, high volume filter and the 800 OF6 Mobile Buggy. Additionally, the Thermoline and Thermocoil diesel fuel heaters were added to the company products catalog.
In the winter of 1984, Richards began two new adventures he had never seriously attempted before. First, he was putting the finishing touches on the sale of his company to the Parker Hannifin Corporation and second, he was coaching his replacement to someday step in and take the wheel.
In March of 1985 the company became the Racor Division, a new addition to Parker's Fluid Power Group, and one year later Peter Popoff stepped in as Racor Division’s General Manager (yea!). Today, Racor is one of the newly organized Filtration Group's leading sales stars with record after record sales being recorded each month.
In honor of Mark Richards' hard work to make Racor grow and develop jobs so that we may be employed, his personal private parking space has been reserved and temporarily awarded to each Racor Employee of the Quarter for outstanding achievement.(10)
Well, there you have it — our evolution. It's an interesting story of our past but probably won't compare with our future. By the way, next year is our 20th Anniversary.(11)
Written by Gary Garcia with thanks to Pete Popoff, Bobby Green, and Danny Kelley.
Notes for 2015:
1. Racor world headquarters is located in Modesto, CA.
2. The current model number is 1000FH
3. Barium Road, Modesto, CA.
4. Ceres is a small city just south of Modesto, CA.
5. Pete: Future GM of Racor & later Parker Filtration Group President, retired 2015.
6. RD-2 Air Dryers replaced by new products; Additives discontinued.
7. Finch Road, Modesto, CA.
8. Quite a few more are now employed in 2015
9. Sentinel is still a popular product line
10. The covered parking has since been taken down, employee recognition goes on.
11. 2015 marks Racor’s 46th year