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Tuesday 31 October 2023

The Fred Fox Story by Don Emde

"Unlimited: The Fred Fox Story" by Don Emde

"A biography that's about all of us"Review by Beth Dolgner 

Unboxing videos are popular on social media these days, but when my copy of Unlimited: The Fred Fox Story by Don Emde arrived on my doorstep, I was too eager to crack the spine and start reading to bother with recording the moment. 

And that's too bad, because a book this good looking deserves a little time in the spotlight. Published with the Emde Books imprint by his company, Don Emde Inc., Don chose to go with a sleek, elegant black dust cover for the 324-page hardback book. 

While we all know the adage 'It's what's inside that counts', it's still worth noting that 'Unlimited' is a beautifully presented book.

Not surprisingly, the inside is even more impressive. The thick, glossy pages are filled with the story of not just Fred Fox, but of the many people, brands, events and dealers whose stories are interwoven with his. 

The more than 700 color photos help bring those stories to life and the handy index in the back makes it easy to locate those who are mentioned.

It's hard to imagine anyone in the powersports industry who doesn't know Fred's name, since he was the man behind LeMans Corporation, which includes the powersports distribution companies Parts Unlimited, Drag Specialties, Parts Canada and Parts Europe. Add in some of the best-known brands in the industry - THOR, Moose Racing and ICON among them - and it's obvious that Fred didn't pull off this success all by himself.

"more than 700 color photos" 

Back in 1967, though, Fred was doing it all by himself. (On paper, at least: his family was willing to pitch in and to share the house with racks of tires and other parts.) Fast forward 56 years to today, and LeMans Corporation has more than 1,000 employees and proudly claims the title of the largest privately owned powersports distribution company in the world.

Shortly after Fred's retirement in 2021, Emde took on the task of putting the Fred Fox story into book form. The pair's friendship of 40 plus years is apparent in the pages of Unlimited, as is the respect of so many of Fred's colleagues, employees and industry peers. 

It took Emde 15 months to research the book, which included a lot of time spent interviewing Fred. The timing of this book was fortunate: Fred passed away in February of 2023, and had the book not already been in production, then a lot of his stories might have been lost forever. Instead, Unlimited gives us both a history and a tribute that are appropriately timed.

Unlimited: The Fred Fox Story is broken down into eight parts. The first seven cover the history, from Fred's earliest years right up to the present day, and the epilogue gives us a look at the future.

Within each of these eight parts, the narrative is further broken down into smaller vignettes. This makes the book great for those who are stealing an extra few minutes here and there to read it, because the stories are short and self-contained. 

This bite-sized biography style is also great for readers who have specific interests. For example, off-road racing enthusiasts can glance at the table of contents to find what they'll be most interested in, like the history of Moose Racing or how the legendary Torsten Hallman first met Fred. MotoGP fans can get an inside look at the infamous hurricane-shortened Indy GP or revel in the late Nicky Hayden's victory at Laguna Seca. Fred was there for all of it, and, of course, racers and fans are familiar with Parts Unlimited's renowned "We Support the Sport" campaign and sponsorships.

Emde has an easy, conversational style of writing. The book comes off not as a stiff, boring biography, but as one powersports pioneer telling stories about another pioneer. It's easy to picture Emde telling these same stories over dinner at the next motorcycle rally or after a day at the racetrack.

In addition to interviewing Fred for Unlimited, Emde also spoke to many others who either work at LeMans Corporation or are tied to it in some way. Emde doesn't attempt to retell their stories. Rather, we get to hear the stories in the person's own words, which brings them to life in a much fuller way.

Fred told Emde right from the start of the project that he didn't want a book that was only about him. He wanted it to tell the story of LeMans Corporation. Fred got that, and more: this is truly a book about the industry and the people and brands that keep it going. It feels like an homage to all of us, not just to one man.

In fact, Unlimited feels a bit like a yearbook for the powersports industry, or perhaps a family photo album. There are a lot of familiar names and faces to be found, from top professional racers who have been sponsored by Parts Unlimited or Drag Specialties to some of the biggest personalities working in the powersports industry.

"a lot of familiar names and faces" 

It's remarkable how many of the earliest employees of LeMans Corporation have biographies that end with something along the lines of, "He continued in that job until his recent retirement." (Others are still active, like Drag Specialties' Tom Motzko, who is still at it after nearly 50 years.) That loyalty is a testament to Fred's work ethic and the culture that he created at LeMans Corporation. 

Fred also had a good eye for business. He acquired some brands, while others he helped along the way. The story of Vance & Hines is a perfect example of that. Emde relates how Terry Vance and Byron Hines had a fledgling business, and Fred helped them take it to the next level with a distribution deal. These days, it's hard to imagine the legendary performance exhaust brand as "fledgling," and they credit Fred with helping them grow beyond a little garage operation. 

Stories like theirs abound in Unlimited. And, ultimately, it's apparent that Fred Fox's success and the success of the powersports industry are part of the same story.

You can get your copy of Unlimited: The Fred Fox Story by Don Emde at It costs $75 plus tax where applicable, and shipping.