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Harvey J. Crane, Jr., founder of Crane Cams, Inc., and a pioneer figure in the racing and performance automotive industry, passed away Friday, May 31, 2013, following a brief illness. His passing came peacefully, with his daughter Susan Farris, at his bedside in Gainesville, Florida.
Harvey was born in Hallandale, Florida, August 17, 1931. When he turned 13 Harvey discovered hot rods, a discovery that led him to a lifetime fascination with modifying engines to increase their power output.
That early passion became an obsession. In his teen years Harvey gained a reputation for building fast, powerful and reliable flathead Ford V-8 engines for Florida racers. At the age of 18 he left home and went on tour, building, tuning and maintaining a pair of flathead powered “jalopy” racers on the rough and tumble dirt tracks of the Midwest.
When he returned home he opened a part-time business, building race engines while working in his dad’s machine shop. On January 1, 1953, Harvey opened Crane Engineering in a rented corner of his dad’s shop. After initially struggling, the business came alive in the early ’60s.
By the mid 1960’s Crane Cams had caught and surpassed its competitors, becoming the largest racing cam company in the industry. In 1966 Harvey began rewarding the little-guy weekend racers who had supported him in his early days by refunding the price of the Crane cam and kit purchased by the winners of each class at the Nationals. It was an action he thought helped build even more loyalty to Crane Cams.
Harvey early on recognized the need to have an organization that represented the industry, and he was one of SEMA’s first members and exhibitors at the first SEMA Show. He was later recognized by SEMA and inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the East Coast Drag Racing Hall of Fame, in Henderson, NC, among many such honors during his 60-plus year career in the industry.
Although many thought of Harvey Crane’s company as a drag racing cam company, his earliest business had been selling cams for flathead Fords to many of the early NASCAR stock car heroes. By the 1970’s Crane Cams were being used to win races on the NASCAR circuit, in all categories and by both major race teams and privateer racers.
Harvey’s reputation and knowledge of cam lobe design extended around the globe, and he supplied winning camshafts for Jaguar and Honda teams, race teams in the U.K., Australia, Germany, the Scandinavian countries and in all forms of US racing.
In 1980 Crane Cams built a new facility in Daytona Beach, Florida, and in 1985 Harvey closed his Hallandale plant, moving all operations north to Daytona. More new products followed, and Crane Cams continued its lead of the industry.
Following a disagreement with his board of directors, Harvey J. Crane, Jr., was ousted as Chairman of The Board of Crane Cams and in late 1989 Harvey was dismissed from the company he founded. Harvey refused to remain quietly “retired”. He began offering classes in designing camshaft lobe profiles using knowledge gained in a half-century of involvement in the business. Harvey’s “Cam School” eventually attracted more than 100 students from every element of the automotive industry, racing, automotive, industrial and marine. Many of the premier racing cam designers at work in the field today are graduates of Harvey’s cam classes.
When he approached his 80th birthday Harvey scaled back his daily schedule, yet he continued to work several hours, seven days per week, on customer and personal cam projects.
“I always want to keep my mind busy and stay curious of the amazing new developments we are seeing every day in this industry,” he observed shortly after.
This basic curiosity, the urge to keep learning and expanding his knowledge began for Harvey in his boyhood and remained the driving force with him until the end. Harvey Crane’s memory and his legacy will remain as long as there is a fine-tuned, properly prepared racing engine delivering its song to a race track and racing fans.
Harvey James Crane, Jr., is survived by four children, David Crane, Mona Crane, Steven Crane and Susan Farris, and his beloved companion dog, Stormy. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mildred, and by his second wife, Maxine Solis.