Powersports Business has learned that AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Tom Heininger has passed away. He was 97. We send our condolences to the family and friends of the motorcycle industry titan.
As the co-founder of Webco, a popular motorcycle aftermarket and accessory company in the 1960s and 1970s, Heininger’s impact on the motorcycle industry was immense. Beyond his duties at Webco, Heininger served as president of the Motorcycle Industry Council in 1972 and played an influential role in the formation of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation during his tenure.
“Tom brought a tremendous amount of spirit, enthusiasm and value to the motorcycle industry as it was evolving in the 1960s and ’70s,” AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer JR Kelley previously said of Heininger. “He added greatly to the business for the benefit of all. Tom loved motorcycling. He made money from it and put a lot of that back into the industry.”
Born in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 1926, Heininger followed a similar path to his father, who worked in the auto parts business throughout his life. After serving aboard a submarine during World War II, Heininger entered the auto industry and worked for Offenhauser, a major automobile racing parts business at the time.
While at Offenhauser, Heininger met Bob Hughes and they became fast friends before forming Webco together in 1954. In the early days of the company, Webco primarily focused on manufacturing high-quality racing engine parts for motorcycles, but the brand later expanded to include all forms of aftermarket accessories and apparel.
A few years after its creation, Webco began sponsoring local racers from Southern California, which helped the brand grow to global markets. Heininger and Hughes also opened a pair of Honda dealerships in Los Angeles during the 1960s. During the decade, Heininger and Hughes also formed a nightly radio show during Daytona Bike Week with AMA announcer Roxy Rockwood.
Heininger also worked to further the motorcycle industry by serving on the board of the Motorcycle, Scooter and Allied Trades Association (MS&ATA) during the 1960s — which was where the AMA originated in 1924. Heininger continued to offer his services after the MS&ATA merged with the California Motorcycle Safety Council to form the MIC in 1969, while the organization became an important entity in the federal fight for motorcycle rights.
As president of the MIC in 1972, Heininger used his connections with dealerships across the country to adequately defend their rights. Through these relationships, Heininger helped get the ball rolling on the MSF’s creation, and the organization grew to become a major force for rider education and training.
Heininger was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2003 and remained involved in motorcycling for the rest of his life.