I was just a few days past my 13th birthday when I got caught by my step-father... I was performing my first "porting" job on my G5 100 cc Kawasaki trail bike with a broken round bastard file chucked up in a 3/8" drill... spinning wide open, of course. One of my friends had described to me hidden increases in horsepower by just grinding away metal from "the holes attached to the round thing the piston goes in". To a kid with no money for expensive racing parts, this was the long wished for path to free speed!! My step-father kicked my butt, but he couldn't put the metal back in the exhaust port. So he reassembled the top end with the stern warning, "don't TOUCH its' internals again... EVER!!" But it actually was faster!! ...and it was the beginning of a lifelong disease that has only festered to incurable levels.
When I was 16, I traded a 1970 Chevy Caprice I had saved up for plus some more cash for my first Kawasaki 750 H2 triple. I had a porting tool in the cylinders and had milled the heads by the end of the first week (being told all the while that I was "spoiling it" by my dad) and soon was terrorizing the neighborhood streets. By the age of nineteen, I had been riding motorcycles for ten years, modifying them for six and had a year in the industry doing motorcycle service work.
Just over one year after graduating at the top of my class at the American Motorcycle Institute, I was hired to teach Electrical Systems there in the position vacated by my former instructor. I had two more separate tenures there teaching the engine mechanical series and then running the workshop experience area that completed the student's training. They were great days and I'm proud to have worked with such informed and motivated people.
In between the three tenures at AMI, I worked for some more unique and innovative motorcycle facilities throughout the central Florida area and continued my engine studies. In each case, great minds surrounded me with great learning experiences. I am forever grateful. All the while, I modified two and four stroke engine's airflow, intake and exhaust systems and ported heads and cylinders constantly. I built, set-up and tuned race motorcycles, karts, ATV's, autos ...you name it. If it had an IC engine, I was up for it.
What I really wanted to do was just full time porting and engine research, though... So I opened a business doing just that in addition to working in a bike shop during the day. "Howard's Performance Services" did fairly well, maintained itself financially and produced some really fast ATV, personal watercraft and motorcycle heads and cylinders, but the dual workload fathered a pace that was tough. I frequently attended weekend races to provide tuning assistance and further support my customers.
In the summer of 1986, I got a call from a former marine student at AMI. (AMI has a marine training division and I used to give a High Performance Porting lecture for each class once every five weeks.) World Champion outboard engine builder Joe McMillan told me he had a job interview I had to attend... it was the beginning of a great new area of study, experiences and a great friendship.
I closed the business and started working for Outboard Marine Corporation's factory authorized world racing facility, "Second Effort Performance Products". The sole source of factory race modifications and 400+ HP, 10,000 RPM, 3500 cc V8 two stroke Formula One tunnel boat outboard engines, it was owned and operated by marine high performance legend Gary Garbrecht in Lake Hamilton, Florida. There I did all prototype porting and supervised their Engine Modifications and Mach Propeller manufacturing departments. I had the privilege of working for and with some of the greatest talents in the marine racing world. Year after year, Second Effort produced Formula One World Champions and smashed national and world record after record in both speed and endurance.
In 1988, Joe McMillan asked me to come work with him in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There, we set up a new offshore powerboat racing facility called "Victory Marine". We had some great experiences working for a very kind and warm people. We produced winning offshore boat and engine combinations for the next two years using Skater and Shark Cat catamarans with inboard as well as outboard Mercury and OMC products. A related family business, "Victory Team" is currently a very powerful world offshore racing assembly of pros. Longing for home, we reluctantly made the decision to return to the US in the summer of 1990.
I then went to work for another outstanding company called Champion Racing Heads owned by Tom Allen, then located in Flagler Beach, Florida. A top shelf outfit still growing and prospering today, the learning curve was steep and intense. Champion is exclusively an automotive cylinder head porting and flowing facility, specializing in Dart cylinder heads (though they do them all).
Deciding it was time to DO the things I had always promised myself I would do, I returned to my home town in Maine in March of 1991 and began "Richards Engine Development". It started on a shoestring but with a belief that high quality, carefully planned modification packages would perform and be in demand once discovered.
Every year since it has gotten stronger and better known. Specializing in just engine modifications and porting has provided a niche to racers as well as other businesses who are high performance involved, but don't have the time or the facilities to develop a porting and research program. Since that's all I do here, I'm not competing with those same businesses for their "bread and butter" services and accessories. Instead, each compliments the other. I have formed great business working relationships with the dealers and various industry rep's that have utilized R.E.D..
Today's "best" can likely be tomorrow's 2nd, 3rd... (or worse!). I never claim to be the best at anything... but I guarantee I'm damn good and every constant effort is made to improve! My target is always first place!
An avid reader/researcher, I have accumulated a gargantuan "library" over the years. Most of my "outside shop" time is devoted to constant engine analysis, exploration with software, number crunching and hunting for tech advances. I keep detailed notes on absolutely everything I do. I'm not about gimmicks or scams or doing just enough to get by... R.E.D. sells modifications done with accuracy and craftsmanship, built on experience, that compete and perform... and that's the way it's going to stay.
Thanks for your interest.
Howard Richards, "R.E.D."