The story of H-O Racing Specialties

H-O becomes known to the world

From the Popular Hot Rodding magazine
article "Top Tuning Secrets for Pontiac's 389 400 455"

Editor's note: If you're a Pontiac fan and a serious enthusiast, you've noticed the lack of accurate and specific information available on your favorite Poncho V-8. Craig Hendrickson and Kern Osterstock, two serious Pontiac racers from the West Coast, decided that in spite of the lack of hop-up information, it should be possible to make the Pontiac competitive. This resulted in the forming of H-O Racing Specialties, an enterprise dedicated to Pontiac performance.

After an intensive development effort, an 11-second, 3600-lb., 326 cubic-inch 1965 Tempest finally emerged and was campaigned on Southern California strips. Armed with this experience, Craig and Kern decided that other Pontiac owners should be able to benefit from their hard-earned knowledge and build their own super Pontiacs. Between the two of them, they have owned a dozen Pontiacs, running the gamut from a 1963 Tempest A/FX to a 1971 Trans Am. All of them reflect how effective the right information can be made in making the Pontiac turn on.

They have managed to take enough time out from their drag racing and flow bench research to write two comprehensive books. Their first book, Heavy-Duty Parts and Specifications for Pontiac, lists and discusses hundreds of performance parts that have been made by Pontiac. Since it makes parts-chasing a breeze, it's well worth its [outdated] price.

Their latest book, Pontiac High-Performance Engine Design and Blueprint Assembly, is sure to become a Pontiac engine builder or tuner's bible. At [outdated price] it is probably one of the best Pontiac performance bargains around. Both books may be mail-ordered prepaid from H-O Racing Specialties, [address defunct].

This article was extracted from information in both of these books and represents only a sample of what is available. So if this article whets youir appetite for Pontiac knowledge, we can highly recommend both of the books for an in-depth treatment of pure Pontiac performance. [remainder of 6 page article omitted]

H-O sets NHRA National Class Record

From the July 1977 Popular Hot Rodding magazine
article "Winning Pontiac Super Stock Tips -- Pontiac with Punch"

The '74 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird was a very formidable performer even in showroom stock condition. It was equipped with a 455 Super Duty big-block engine that produced gobs of torque in spite of the tangle of emissions equipment. The total driving experience was unmatched by any dosmetic car in 1974. The 455 TA put performance, handling and style in one neat little package. Of all the potential the Trans Am possessed, it didn't seem to lie in the area of drag racing.

Craig Hendrickson of H-O Racing Specialties, Hawthorne, California, pondered over the NHRA rated horsepower, shipping weights, class Indexes and decided that the 455 TA looked fairly promising in SS/KA. That assumption was recently substantiated when Craig set the SS/KA national record at 11.31 sec ET and 118.73 mph. Let's look at what he has done to extract over 500 hp out of the 455 under the limited changes allowed in Super Stock by NHRA. [remainder of 6 page article omitted]

H-O at its peak

Bill G.'s 1978 Trans Am -- The first production TurboForce T/A. Beautiful and VERY FAST.

From the 1979 H-O Catalog:

H-O RACING SPECIALTIES, INC is a technical information and performance parts company for Pontiac owners, racers and enthusiasts. Our primary goal is to advance Pontiac performance nationwide by providing the correct parts, accurate technical data and proven performance modifications to our customers at reasonable cost.

H-O Racing Specialties, Inc. does the research and development (flow bench testing, electronic dynamometer, street evaluation and competition strip and track testing) mecessary to provide current information, but we have limited our product line to this catalog.

H-O Racing Specialties was formed as a business partnership in early 1973 and became a corporation in May 1974. The initials H and O are from the original partners, Craig Hendrickson and Kern Osterstock, but are also familiar as a Pontiac moniker for their High Output engine series. The first product offered was the Heavy Duty Parts and Specifications for Pontiac book and soon the books and performance kits were added as customer response proved to be substantial.

H-O's business facilities have grown from the original one cabinet in the office of Kern's secretary to the present 6,000 square foot building in Lawndale. This phenomenal growth has been possibile through the combined efforts of Craig Hendrickson and his staff and the patronization of H- O's loyal Pontiac customers. All research and development, technical literature and product offerings are solely paid for by sales revenue. Since H-O is not subsidized by Pontiac Motor Division or any other organization, a purchase at H-O assures the future continued availability of specialized Pontiac performance items. [remainder of 45 page catalog omitted]

H-O in transition

The 2nd oil crisis of the 1970's

The world price of oil peaked in 1979 at more than $80 a barrel ($503 in 2004 dollars!). Like the 1973 oil crisis, there were lines of cars around the block at gas stations waiting for a chance to gas up. While the 1973 crisis killed the "muscle car" of the mid-60's to early 1970's, the 1979 crisis certainly killed the Trans Am Firebird as that was the very last year for a real Pontiac V-8 engine.

As a result, most SEMA-type companies fell on very hard financial times and H-O Racing Specialties, Inc. was no exception. By 1981, H-O was struggling to stay alive despite downsizing and other drastic financial impositions. In October 1981, Craig Hendrickson sold almost his entire interest in H-O Racing Specialties, Inc. to Ken Crocie who had been H-O's General Manager for many years. Craig retained his interest in the software that he had helped develop which had computerized H-O's business starting in 1977. Craig then embarked on a very successful computer software development and entrepreneurial career that spanned the next two decades. Ken managed to "keep the light on" at H-O with some success, but finally had to shut down the corporation and resurrect his efforts as H-O Enterprises.