"One of the earliest photograph's of Jerry Hemmingson shows him at 3 years old, with a cat in one arm and a small tire hooked around the other.
"For as long as Hemmingson can remember, he's been taking cars apart and putting them back together. Raised in Minnesota, he was 9 years old when he tinkered with his first car, a 1938 Ford."
How Jerico® Came About...
Every successful entrepreneur has an interesting "start-up" story to share. One of the best is told by Jerry Hemmingson, whose Jerico® Racing Transmissions may be the only company that owes its existence to a snowmobile accident.
Prior to that fateful day in 1972, Jerry Hemmingson had been a part-time drag racer and a professional snowmobile racer, driving full-time for a factory team. That promising career came to a painful, premature end in his home state of Minnesota when a competitor's snowmobile crashed into Jerry's side, breaking his shoulder and shattering his elbow. Worse, the radial nerve in Hemmingson's right arm was severed. Consequently, this right-handed racer's "good" hand no longer worked at all.
"So, I learned to work with the other hand," he explains, matter-of-factly. two years and several unsuccessful operations later, Hemmingson's right elbow was still broken, but his NHRA Modified Production Mustang was back at the drag strip -- still equipped with its four-speed manual transmission. Though power-shifting was extremely painful, Jerry found that he could still pull the shift lever into second and fourth gears with his damaged right hand. However, because his radial nerve and arm muscles didn't work, he could no longer push the Ford Top loader into third gear. Anyone else might've switched to an automatic transmission -- or found another hobby. Not Hemmingson: "I hooked a bungee cord from the firewall to the shift lever, and it pulled itself into third gear!"
Satisfied that he could still drag race competitively, Jerry decided to complete the Pinto-bodied NHRA A/Gasser that was under construction at the time of his snowmobile accident. He simultaneously enrolled in a rehabilitation program that would teach him the fundamentals of pattern work and metal casting. For his first class project, Jerry designed and produced a lightweight, aluminum Tailhousing for Ford's heavy Top loader four-speed. Next came an innovative, all-aluminum transmission case that opened from both the top and bottom. "The car had to weigh 2150 pounds to fit the class," he explained. "Initially, I made these parts to save weight."
His first season back, Hemmingson shattered both ends of NHRA's national A/Gas record -- and broke transmissions with alarming regularity. So, one piece at a time, he started replacing internal components with custom parts that he'd designed on a computer and machined with his own equipment. By 1978, Jerry was manufacturing complete gear sets out of billet steel. Among other benefits, his unique slider-and-tooth combination ended this handicapped driver's difficulty executing the two-three gear change.
During the five years that Hemmingson continuously held NHRA's elapsed-time and mile-per-hour records, his Modified eliminator competitors developed the usual two reactions: First, they protested his unique transmission -- unsuccessfully. ("We were always legal," insists Jerry, laughing. "They figured I shouldn't be able to shift it that quick, especially being handicapped.") Later, they began lining up at his pit area, asking to buy his spares. Thus was Jerico® -- a contraction of "Jerry and Company" -- born at the race track, in the back of the Hemmingson's trailer.