Here’s a nice 2:21 video that captures a lot of the history and the museum opening.
I sometimes forget that FOX FLOAT/air shocks are not the most recent trend in off-road vehicles, rather, they were the original design that launched the company.
When the motocross industry began experimenting with long travel in the mid-1970s, one of the challenges was sourcing adequate shocks for the increased workloads. The rudimentary shocks of the period would overheat and often fail completely. An amateur motocross racer at the time, Bob Fox used his mechanical engineering background to develop a solution – an air pressurized shock absorber.
The museum is filled with cool displays outlining the various products that have evolved, as well as the athletes and people who have helped along the way.
Original drawings, sketches and ideas grace other areas of the FOX Museum, illustrating the engineering history and evolution of the company as well as modern design.
A special portion of the FOX museum is dedicated to the early adopters of the FOX Airshock, including these sweet motocross bikes of Marty Smith (1977 Factory Honda on the left) and Kent Howerton’s 1976 Husqvarna (right).
As the story goes, in 1976 Kent Howerton and his mechanic Eric Crippa invited Bob Fox to a test session in Florida. Bob brought his prototype Airshox and , after a long day of testing, Kent announced that he liked the shocks and was going to use them in his next race.
“On the flight home, I remember being happy and excited that Kent had chosen my design, but I had no idea of how crucially important that day in Florida would be for my future.” – Bob Fox
Kent went on to win his first race and continued riding the Fox shocks to an AMA 500cc National Motocross Championship aboard his Husky.
One year later, Marty Smith rode his Fox Airshox to the 1977 AMA 500cc National Motocross Championship on his Factory Honda, making it back-to-back victories for the fledgling company. According to Fox, those two victories are what truly launched his suspension career.
Personally speaking, I remember reading Motocross Action magazine back in the day and seeing the FOX-equipped Factory Hondas as some of the most beautiful and compelling machines ever. Even though my motocross hero was Bob Hannah, I still thought the factory Hondas of the 1970s were truly sensational bikes.
I’m sure there’s a LONG story about the connection between FOX SHOX and Fox Moto-X apparel, but the Cliff’s Notes version is this: An earlier agreement with his brother Geoff allowed Bob the rights to purchase the Airshox division from Moto-X Fox to established his own separate company. This is where Fox Shox and Fox Moto-X split, and where/when Fox Factory, Inc. along with the iconic FOX logo with the fox tail sweeping out from the center of the ‘O’, was born.
Huge credit for FOX’s success goes to the snowmobile industry, whose spec’ing of FOX shox on production vehicles became a huge source of revenue for the company.
Some of this credit surely goes to Polaris racer/dealer Jack Struthers, who was really the first guy who started using FOX shocks on sleds in the mid-1980s. Struthers helped design and calibrate the shocks to better tackle the gnarly Rocky Mountain Cross-Country races, and began selling shock kits to racers and, eventually, trail riders.
One racer who bought shocks from Struthers was fellow competitor Kirk Hibbert, who immediately recognized the vast improvement these shocks made over the standard sled shocks of the period.
When Arctic Cat dedicated itself to winning the Jeep 500 and other terrain races, it worked closely with Hibbert (who made it very clear that race sleds must have premium shocks).
When the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special was introduced, it came equipped with FOX Shox — the first production vehicle in the world to do so.
And when Kirk won the Jeep 500 that year, so began an avalanche of FOX-equipped snowmobiles, including those from Arctic Cat and Polaris.
Today, the most desirable, premium machines are equipped with FOX Shox.
I’m not sure what is Kirk’s greatest contribution to snowmobiling… the amazine suspension engineering he’s produced, or his son Tucker? Okay, all the above.
Yep, Tucker was at the FOX Museum grand opening. Having raced with FOX Shox his entire career, Tucker was a natural for this event.
Here’s one of Kirk’s inventions that relates to FOX: the CrossLink shock package for the rear suspension. Worthy of its own post (it would take more than 1000 words to describe how it works), CrossLink tied together the front- and rear-arm shocks.
When FOX entered the bicycle market, the impact was equally (if not greater) than that of the snowmobile industry. These are some of the first airshocks developed for the rear suspension on bikes.
Another FOX athlete at the museum opening was snocross/motocrosser Mike Schultz. Schultz suffered a horrendous snocross injury that required the amputation of his left leg. But instead of staying down, Schultz worked to develop a high tech prosthetic leg that utilized a FOX shock for dampening, and which allowed him to continue racing snocross and motocross.
Bob Fox himself naturally received much of the attention at the FOX Museum opening, yet he humbly acknowledged that his journey was possible because of the great people and athletes who have helped him and the company for the past four decades.
Congratulations to everyone at FOX!