By SEMA Editors
SEMA Hall of Famer Bill Hays, 86, passed away December 21, 2013.
A full-time firefighter during the pioneer years of California drag racing, Hays' fascination with clutches and drag racing led him to develop a clutch that would hold more power. In the mid ’50s, working out of a two-car garage owned by a racer named Calvin Rice, the business of Hays Clutches was born. The name would continue to grow and soon be seen on many of the “Legends of Drag Racing” cars.
Hays' contributions to racing clutch technology include safety issues and innovative performance for the street and track. His clutch designs carried over into other lines. He was also behind the technologies at Centerforce. His innovations were lauded with the SEMA Best New Performance Street Product Award and Hot Rod magazine’s Best New Performance Product Award (for the dual-friction design), and Centerforce has won PWA Manufacturer of the Year. Hays was also a URSS Rookie of the Year and raced go-karts, mini-sprints and 305 sprint cars.
In the late ’60s, Hays sold his business. He began working on ignitions and created another successful venture, Stinger Ignitions, before eventually finding his way back to clutches. When the new “Diaphragm” clutches were introduced, they had the inherent problem of “sticking over center,” so Hays developed a Centerforce weight system to fix the problem, and the byproduct was increased clamp load.
Hays was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1998. Over the years, Hays developed many other patented products, making Centerforce a prominent name in the high-performance aftermarket.