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Where It All Started—Trick Flow Specialties

Written By Ainsley Jacobs

Photography Courtesy of Trick Flow Specialties

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that if you “build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” In the case of Trick Flow Specialties, that’s exactly how founders Rick and Mike Smith created the company—based out of their two-car garage in Orrville, Ohio.

“In the early 1980s, Rick Smith worked at a pattern shop that built the tooling for Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson and the then-new Oldsmobile cylinder heads for Pro Stock,” noted Mike Downs, General Manager of Trick Flow. Working with Johnson to improve the tooling, Rick decided to incorporate the design elements into a cylinder head for the 429/460 Ford. “That’s how the famous Trick Flow A460 head was born.”

The A460 cylinder head made the big-block Ford engine truly competitive in sportsman drag racing, and in the late 1980s, Ford Motorsport even added the head to its catalog.

Looking to expand into other opportunities and grow the newly created Trick Flow company, the Smiths moved operations to nearby Smithville, working out of an old meat storage building converted into a machine shop, and turned their attention to the popular Fox body 5.0L Mustang.

“They noticed how racers were modifying factory cylinder heads or adapting 351 Windsor heads to make more power, so Trick Flow made a better one and the Street Heat heads, better known as “High Ports,” were introduced in 1987,” added Downs.

Trick Flow’s Street Heat/High Port cylinder heads sparked a market for small-block Ford aftermarket heads, and could be found on everything from 12-second naturally aspirated cars to Pro 5.0 cars running 8-second elapsed times—the High Port continues to be a potent performer and highly regarded cylinder head to this day. Additionally, in the late 1980s, Trick Flow even developed one of the first performance EFI intake manifolds, based on a heavily-modified Ford truck 5.0L manifold with a shortened upper plenum and single throttle body.

Thanks to the Smiths’ innovation, Trick Flow grew and was subsequently sold to new owners in 1992 when it was also relocated to Akron, Ohio.

“In 1995, the company turned the small-block Ford world upside down once again when it introduced the Twisted Wedge cylinder head,” Downs proudly noted the new design that optimized valve angles and combustion chamber shape to dramatically boost airflow. “The Twisted Wedge cylinder heads put Trick Flow on the map, and additional products solidified the company’s reputation for high-quality parts that also really performance.”

In the early 2000s, Trick Flow revived the A460 design with all-new tooling and launched the PowerPort A460, 340, and 360, and also updated the High Port heads as well with new 192, 225, and 240cc intake runners. Additionally, the new Top-End Kits (matched heads, camshaft, rocker arms, and other components) for Ford, Chevy, GM, and Mopar, helped continue Trick Flow’s growth. The expansion of products also triggered an expansion of the physical location itself, as Trick Flow outgrew its home in Akron and relocated to Talmadge, Ohio, in 2006.

Now, Trick Flow produces dyno-proven, performance cylinder heads, intake manifolds, camshafts, valvetrain components, throttle bodies, and bolt-on parts. All of its products are designed, manufactured, and tested in-house to ensure incredible performance right out of the box.

Trick Flow has been a proud contingency sponsor of the NMCA for many years as well. “The NMCA is a great example of the type of customer we have in mind when developing our products,” Downs explained. “NMCA racers not only make more power with our parts, they can get paid to run them. That’s a great deal.”


Ainsley Jacobs
P.TEN Marketing's Ainsley Jacobs is a freelance motorsports marketing professional with extensive experience in marketing and communications, website development, social media management, photography, journalism, and more.