Terry Vance became the most popular rider in the sport of motorcycle drag racing during the late 1970s and 1980s. He earned a total of 14 national drag racing championships before retiring as a rider in 1988. Vance, along with engine builder Byron Hines, parlayed their drag racing fame into a highly successful aftermarket business called Vance & Hines.
Vance & Hines also became involved in road racing in the 1980s, becoming one of the top AMA Superbike teams and winning championships and numerous prestigious races, including the Daytona 200 and the U.S. round of the World Superbike Series.
Born in Bristol, Virginia, on November 26, 1953, Vance's family moved to Los Angeles when he was 3 years old. Vance was raised in the nation's hotbed of motorcycling and hot-rod activity. In the mid-1960s, Vance saved money from his paper route and bought a mini-bike frame in which his dad installed a small engine from a lawn edger. Vance spent countless hours riding his mini-bike up and down the gravel road next to the railroad tracks near his home in Lawndale. From there, Vance moved up to a Honda 90, later a Honda 350 and finally one of the new Honda 750 Fours in 1970.
About as soon as he earned his driver's license, Vance began going to the local drag strips to race his Honda. He started winning right off the bat and was making a couple of hundred dollars a weekend from his hobby. Russ Collins of R.C. Engineering approached Vance about riding one of the company's new bikes and Vance signed his first professional contract in 1972. It was while working at R.C. Engineering that Vance met a young Byron Hines, who was building Vance's race bikes. The two became best friends and would soon become the most famous pairing in motorcycle drag racing.
After Vance's successful stint at R.C. Engineering, Suzuki approached him about racing its new GS 750 in 1977. Vance, with Hines tuning, continued winning with Suzuki. Suzuki capitalized on Vance's success in its advertising. Both Vance and his partner were featured in numerous national print and television ads and became two of the most recognizable figures in motorcycling.
In January of 1980, the duo formed their own company, Vance & Hines. At first, the company built customer motors and by 1983 began producing its famous exhaust systems, not only for drag racing, but for street applications, as well. The company rapidly expanded and much of the credit could be directly attributed to Vance's outstanding drag racing results.
Vance concluded his racing career at the end of 1988. He won the final five events that he entered that year. He was considered the most successful motorcycle drag racer of his era, having set numerous milestones in the sport and winning championships in the Pro Stock and Top Fuel classes. Due in large part to Suzuki's involvement and Vance and Hines' name recognition, the National Hod Rod Association (NHRA) included motorcycle drag racing as part of its national championship series in the mid-1980s. Vance is credited with 24 NHRA national victories during his career.
By the mid-1980s, Vance & Hines, under Vance's direction, had grown to the point that it began expanding into road racing. The company sponsored numerous club-level racing events and offered contingency money for riders running Vance & Hines exhaust systems. Through the late-1980s, Vance & Hines Suzuki fielded an AMA Superbike team at select national events. The team fielded riders such as Doug Toland, Scott Gray, Mike Baldwin and Randy Renfrow with promising results. From the beginning, the team always had a very polished and professional look which other teams emulated.
In 1990, Vance & Hines signed with Yamaha to become its official factory AMA Superbike entry. The team would be the most impressive in the paddock, complete with full-sized tractor-trailer rigs hauling the distinctively painted equipment. In Vance & Hines Yamaha's first outing, rider David Sadowski won the prestigious Daytona 200. The team went on to win the AMA 600cc SuperSport championship that year with Sadowski at the controls. It was an incredible debut for the new team.
Vance always seemed to have a great personal relationship with his riders. Sadowski, Thomas Stevens, Jamie James and others credited Vance with being able to help focus their talents and help them become better racers.
During this time, Vance also expanded his company into publishing. Vance became publisher of American Roadracing for a period during the early 1990s. The company also briefly produced a fashion clothing line catering to motorcyclist.
In 1991, Thomas Stevens rode a Vance & Hines Yamaha to the AMA Superbike championship by two points over Kawasaki's Scott Russell. Vance & Hines continued winning through the 1990s, including SuperSport titles and another Daytona 200 victory with Eddie Lawson in 1993.
Vance & Hines switched its affiliation to Ducati in 1997 and the next year began winning AMA Superbike races again with Australian Anthony Gobert riding the Italian machines. On July 11, 1999, the Vance & Hines Ducati team had perhaps its single greatest day when riders Gobert and Ben Bostrom each won the two legs of the U.S. round of the World Superbike Championships at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. Terry Vance had put together one of the best racing teams in the world.
When Vance was inducted into the Motorcycling Hall of Fame in 1999, he continued to head up his growing company in Santa Fe Springs, California, with nearly 200 employees. The company continues to sponsor racers in all levels of drag racing and road racing.
Vance contributed to the direction of the sport by being a driving force behind a professional team owners group during the 1990s, which had as its goal to raise the level of professionalism in the sport of motorcycle racing.
Vance lives in Southern California with his wife. He has a daughter.