MTC Founder, Ken Tipton Passes Away

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MTC Founder, Ken Tipton Passes Away

Kenneth L. Tipton, founder of MTC Engineering in Cocoa, Florida passed away early Monday morning, April 24, 2006 in his sleep at the age of 77. For those from the old school drag racing, Ken was a fierce competitor during the IDBA and NMRA glory years.

Ken started MTC along with two partners in the early 50’s in California, selling high performance motorcycle parts. In the late 70’s, Ken Tipton’s MTC laid claim to 3 out of 4 Number 1 plates and 82% of all IDBA records set in the sport of motorcycle drag racing and 90% of all records set at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Most in the sport today that competed in the 70’s will remember the dominant team of Ken Tipton, Mo Parson, Terry Kizer and Ted Hoffmeister (the original Mr. Turbo). Known certainly for their straw cowboy hats and colorful uniforms, but mostly for their innovative technology and record performances. The team set many records and won numerous NHRA, NMRA and IDBA national events and championships and laid claim to the first ever 7-second gas powered motorcycle.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Ken’s involvement and success with race teams included Tony Lang’s Pro Comp, Funnybike and Top Fuel bikes which landed him his first of five AMA/Prostar Top Fuel Championships in 1995. In 1996 Ken sold the company to Tony Lang who moved to Cocoa, Florida to continue the business. Today, MTC is owned and operated by Eric Hochstetler who is still actively involved in the sport through AMA/Prostar.

Ken occasionally attended events until he suffered a stroke in 2001 and never fully recovered. Although Ken never lost his, whit, humor, intelligence or memory, the stroke did affect his speech making it difficult to communicate. At the time of his death, Ken and Bea were in the middle of a building a new home. Just Saturday he surveyed the project and was very pleased. He attended church on Sunday morning and evening, then unexpectedly died of natural causes early Monday morning.

Viewing will take place on Friday from 5:00-8:00pm at the Brevard memorial Funeral Home at 5475 N. Hwy 1, Cocoa, FL. The funeral is set for Saturday at 1:00pm.

Ken is survived by his wife Bea, son Tony, daughter Sharon Hundley, and 4 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Cards and/or letters can be sent to Bea at 5273 Yapon Holly Dr., Cocoa, FL 32927.

Comments from the racing community:
KEN WAS A TRUE RACER TO ME. He loved the sport of motorcycle drag racing, the racers involved in it and showed his support by sponsoring different classes. His products revolutionalized the racing industry. On a personal note, he gave me many opportunities first as a racer and then as the owner of MTC. I will always be grateful to Ken and Bea for their encouragement and support. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. – Tony, Gina, Mark and Tarah Lang.

Ken Tipton. When I think of Ken, I see two people. The first is the man I knew from the beginning of my racing career in the late 70’s to man I knew after his wife Fran passed away in 1988.

Ken was, without question, one of the fiercest competitors that I have ever been involved with. I was very thankful to be on his side because if you were on an opposing team or company that he was competing against, you were the enemy. Being that he was very intelligent, innovative and creative, he would pull out all the stops to win. He was a constant source of energy for designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the best tools for the job he knew how. Most people don’t realize the many innovations that we use and take for granted in our sport today, that Ken either invented from scratch or improved on for use for his customers. The pistons used in all these engines, now days, are definitely a product of all his R & D work. But, products like slider clutches, lock-up clutches, power ring head gaskets, transmission components, and the aftermarket cylinder head and cylinder blocks, to mention a few are on the long list of what he brought to the sport through his beloved MTC.

Rider:Terry Kizer, Ken pictured in background. Photo by: Auto Imagery, Inc.

Working with and racing with Ken was one of the highlights of my life. But, spending time with him after his racing and business career was just as important to me because he refocused himself on life, life with his new wife Bea, whom he married in 1990 and life with his friends, family and church. But, most importantly, his daily life with God is what meant the most to me. You could see in him that total dedication, like he displayed in everything else he did in life. And, even after failing health, he was an inspiration to spend time with. I have dozens of hilarious stories I could tell on Ken, of times that Mo and I and our wives spent together on the road, at races, and at MTC over the years, but it would be in book form and take a lifetime to write. For today, I reflect on all those times as I smile and cry, at the same time. We’ll miss you, Ken Tipton; God speed. – Terry Kizer

Ken Tipton approached Terry and me during the 1979 IDBA season about forming a race team. We decided to accept and never regretted a moment of our time working with Ken. He showed a boundless enthusiasm for any type of competition and there was never a time when he didn’t go the extra mile to do all he could to win.

We will all miss him and will never forget all our years together as we all became family. – Mo Parsons

Back in the early 80’s when I first got involved with organized dragracing Ken was already one of the elder statesman of the sport. Without his help and guidance many now legendary racers would have never been. Ken will be missed. – Carl Stieffenhofer

Ken Tipton was a pioneer in the high performance industry whose influence could never be measured. His product innovation and support of the many racers who crossed his path is legendary. His passing will leave a void that will not be easily filled. – Greg Guarinello

I will surely miss him, he treated me like family. God Speed Ken. – Randy Mason

Very sad news indeed. Ken always had time to chat and was from the `old school’ in the way he conducted his business with me. I had some great times sitting in the bleachers with him near the top end at Gainesville for a number of years whilst watching the racing. – Ian King (England)

Ken Tipton had been both a friend and business associate when Mr. Turbo, Inc., was first started. Many good times and memories were had at the drag strip. He will be missed. – Ted, Diane & T.J. Hoffmeister (Formerly Mr. Turbo, Inc.)

Ken Tipton and his wife took us under their wing back when I was a beginner and helped me move up the ranks. He was a poodle lover like my wife and I. He helped a lot of racers, both at his shop and at the track. He had ideas about everything, most of them were… interesting. And you should have seen him in Fremont, California in ‘82 at the ‘Food Fight’, what a hoot. Cost us big money to get out of there. We’ll miss him. – ‘Superbike Mike’ Keyte and Kathy Keyte, Pit Boss

After purchasing MTC Engineering last year I had an opportunity to go through a lot of old documents and drawings. After reviewing all the drawings (hand drawn on mylar), I realized this man (Ken Tipton) was nothing short of being a genius. His ability to design and create functional product on the fly was amazing. Many of the products we still produce today have his design and his creativity in them. Ken is still listed as the inventor on a large majority of MTC Engineering’s patents.

I look back at some of the old MTC catalogs and am amazed at the variety of products he manufactured and brought to market. These products he produced on a limited selection of equipment, yet he produced high quality, robust racing products like no else in the industry.

I had an opportunity to meet him about 4 months. Although it was difficult for him to communicate due to his stroke, his mind was still very sharp. And you could tell, as we showed him new products, he was understanding how it worked an how it could work better. It was a pleasure and an honor meeting him. – Eric Hochstetler, MTC

When I entered the sport for the first time, it was as a crew for my brother Terry along with Mo Parsons. Although Ken was only five year older than our Dad, he came into our lives the same year we lost our grandfather, so he soon became a grandfather figure to my brothers and me. Back when Ken and his first wife Fran lived in California, they became an extended part of the Kizer family. We always said MTC stood for Mrs. Tipton’s Company. When Fran died after they moved to Florida it was comforting when Ken met Bea. She fulfilled his life to the very end. Ken was a God fearing man who was admired by most who ever met him and a great influence on many of us who keep the sport he loved alive and well. – Keith “Scooter” Kizer

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