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Tuesday 7 February 2023

Fred Fox

Fred Fox 1936-2023

We here at AMD Magazine, and many thousands more, will have been greatly saddened to hear about the death of Fred Fox on Sunday, February 5, 2023. Our thanks to Drag/Parts Magazine publisher and race legend Don Emde for these words about his friend, and our thanks for permission to reproduce them here …

Fred Fox, who was a great friend to me for over 45 years and also to many in the motorcycle sport and industry around the world, passed away here in Orange County, California, on Sunday (2/5/23) due to natural causes. He was 86 years old.

Fred was a motorcycle industry leader and pioneer of the modern era of aftermarket product distribution and promotion. He was the only employee when he started his Parts Unlimited distributing business at his house in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1967. In the years to come, the business grew fast, and he incorporated as LeMans Corporation, which continues to this day as the largest privately-owned motorcycle distributing company in the world. 

In the early years, LeMans moved a couple of times into larger warehouses in Wisconsin, expanded into other areas around the United States and Canada and many brands were added. Some became suppliers for Parts Unlimited and also Drag Specialties, which he acquired in 1988. Other brands and companies were bought outright, including THOR MX and Moose Racing.

Fred was always a hands-on manager who oversaw every detail to make his organization grow into the industry leader that it is today. He made the decisions to buy the land, designed the facilities for the additional warehouses throughout the United States and Canada, built a National sales rep force, secured leading brands to carry, and invested heavily in promotion of Parts Unlimited's "We Support the Sport" campaign, which has been active since the 1990s. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Motorcycle Industry Council from 1994 to 2007.

A multi-year personal project culminated in 2009 when LeMans opened the Parts Europe warehouse in Trier, Germany. An all-new warehouse was built there with state-of-the-art order filling technology that results in dealer order fulfillment speed never seen before in the motorcycle industry. In addition to the Parts Europe warehouse, LeMans Corporation currently has warehouses in Sparks, Nevada; Ballston Spa, New York; Flat Rock, North Carolina; Grapevine, Texas; and Janesville, Wisconsin, plus Calgary and London, Ontario in Canada.

Along the way, Fred has been recognized for his contributions to both the snowmobile and motorcycle sports and industries. In 2010, Fred was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame, as well as the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2011. He was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 V-Twin Expo and a Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

After getting to know Fred in the late-1970s when he was one of my accounts when I was an ad sale rep at Motorcycle Dealernews magazine, he was later a Bell Helmets distributor when I worked there in the 1980s. Then, a few years after I started my publishing business in 1990, I made a proposal to Fred for my company to produce magazines for him that LeMans could mail to their Parts Unlimited dealers in the USA and Canada. He liked the idea and Parts Magazine was born in 1994. A similar publication for his Drag Specialties dealers followed a year later, and in 2010, we added a quarterly magazine for his Parts Europe business in Trier, Germany. This year we are in our 30th year of publishing magazines for LeMans Corporation and we will produce 16 separate issues.

Since 2021, I have been working on a biography of Fred's life that we'll publish later this year. The book, titled "Unlimited. The Fred Fox Story," dates back to the years when his father and grandfather had a business in Janesville building custom-made enclosed racks for trucks to transport cans of milk from dairy farms to the processing plants in Southern Wisconsin. 

After graduating with an Engineering Degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1958, Fred went to work in the family business. The young college graduate saw a brighter future, however, for sport-related vehicles and when the go-kart craze exploded in America around 1960, Fred built a prototype kart in his spare time with a chassis made from light, but strong, chromoly tubing.

A friend in nearby Rockford, IL, was also into go-karts and when he saw Fred's creation, he offered to order ten of them. Fred convinced his father to take the order, thus opening a whole new product category for the company. Fox minibikes followed the go-karts, then Fred created the Fox Trac snowmobiles, which became nationally known when he drove one to victory at the first-ever Eagle River Snowmobile Derby in 1964. 

Fred went on his own in 1967 and ran the business which grew into LeMans Corporation until he retired from full-time business activities in the fall of 2021. He then named industry veteran Paul Langley as Chairman/CEO of LeMans Corporation.

My condolences to Fred's wife Paula, sons Steven, Brian and Craig, daughters Teri and Lori, several grandchildren, nieces and nephews and all of his many friends around the world.

At this time, funeral services are pending. Please respect Fred's wife's and family's privacy at this time and direct any communications to me at: