George and Earl Holley
Bowling Green, KY
Mention the word Holley and it’s sure to raise the eyebrows of any classic car lover in the room. As a brand, their name is one that brings back a ton of memories, and along with it comes a plethora of victories and memorable race moments to match. To be honest, the Holley name has stood the test of time and it’s a brand that automotive enthusiasts have come to trust and respect. In fact, take a walk around any lowrider show and it’s almost impossible not to see their parts all throughout the best builds in the show.
Since its inception, the Holley name has been attached to well over 250,000,000 carburetors and found on everything from Henry Ford’s original Model A to the baddest factory muscle cars ever to roll out of Detroit. From lowriders to hot rods, Holley parts are a must for any championship build but even more impressive are their deep-seated roots in automotive and world history. Holley supplied over half the carburetors in World War II and they were found on not just automobiles but PT boats and airplanes as well. Fast-forward to present day and Holley carburetors continue to be a dominant force in high performance and racing, and in turn have won more races than all others combined. In fact, since the ’60s, Holley carbs have powered every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team and nearly every winning NHRA Pro Stock team.
So how did this powerhouse of a company begin? Well it all began in the late 1800s with two brothers from Bradford, Pennsylvania, George and Earl Holley; teenage boys who learned how to make patterns and castings so they could build a one-cylinder engine, which was eventually put onto a three-wheeled vehicle that hit an impressive 30 mph. This was that invention that ultimately led to the development of motorized bicycles, a four-wheeled automobile called the Holley Motorette, and the birth of the Holley Motor Company. In 1903, at the urging of Henry Ford, the Holley brothers entered the carburetor business and became industry leaders in fuel system technology. In 2003 Holley was recognized as one of four original suppliers still selling to Ford after 100 years. The company business continued to expand through the World War I and World War II eras. It could be said that Holley directly helped win World War II, as about half of the carburetors used bore the Holley name. Following the war, Holley concentrated on keeping up with the requirements of automobile manufacturers who, in turn, were trying to keep up with the demands of a car-hungry public.
The ’50s saw the introduction of the Holley Model 4150 four-barrel on the 1957 T-bird. It was the beginning of the modular Holley four-barrel as we know it today, and the first true performance carburetor that became standard equipment on many high-performance automobiles. The ’60s were huge for the hot rod industry and Holley, as the Model 4150 became original equipment on the baddest factory muscle cars ever to come out of Detroit. It powered cars like the popular Z28 Camaros, big-block Chevelles, Boss Mustangs, and Shelby Cobras, to name a few. This era also saw the introduction of the awesome Holley three-deuce multicarb setups on 427 (Tri Power) Corvettes and 440 (Six Pack) Mopars. If it was a serious car it had to have a Holley. An American icon was also born in the ’60s as the Holley Double Pumper rolled off the line. The world-famous Holley Dominator also made its debut in 1968, developed specifically for NASCAR racing.
The ’70s saw Holley’s continuation of dominance in racing with nearly every factory NHRA Super Stock/Pro Stock racer running Holley carburetors.
The ’80s saw Holley’s entrance into the fuel-injection market where original equipment EFI components and analog Pro-Jection retrofit fuel-injection systems for carbureted cars were introduced.
The Dominator also evolved in the ’90s into the HP Dominator, huge billet electric fuel pumps were introduced, and retrofit EFI kits evolved into digital Pro-Jection 4D and 4Di. At the end of the ’90s Holley acquired several other top brands in their categories, including Weiand intakes and superchargers, Flowtech Exhaust, Hooker Headers, Earl’s Plumbing, and NOS Nitrous Oxide Systems, expanding their offering and securing the title of the Winningest Company in Racing History.
To truly document Holley’s accolades and historical achievements would take volumes to chronicle, and their catalog of parts is equally as intense. Holley manufactures high-performance carburetors, manifolds, superchargers, water pumps, throttle body fuel injection, and fuel pumps for street and race applications. In producing these parts, Holley prides itself in utilizing the latest technology in a lean environment to provide the highest quality parts at the best value to the customer. CNC programs can be generated on a workstation, directly from a customer’s solid model. Each engineering workstation is networked to each of the CNC machining centers and CNC turning centers. This configuration provides a streamlined flow of data throughout the factory, as well as data acquisition capabilities. Fixture and tool design can be accomplished in-house, utilizing Pro/Engineer software. A computerized PM (preventative maintenance) network application is used to ensure all machinery is performing at the highest level.
A recent tour of their facility is the proof that they take their business seriously. Holley’s machining departments range from small drilling and tapping centers to large four- and five-axis high-speed machining centers. Many are equipped with automatic pallet changers to facilitate the highest level of spindle uptime. Also included are CNC turning centers. An in-house tool room and maintenance department is comprised of a CNC wire EDM, CNC die-sinking EDM, Ewag tool grinder, and a host of manual machines. In all, seeing is believing so when Lowrider made a special trip out to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take a tour of their humongous plant it was so mentally exhausting that it was hard to take it all in.