80 Years of USA-Made Performance & Passion | Wiseco Piston

October 29, 2021 / by Dale Spangler

Wiseco was born 80 years ago from a passion for the performance and racing lifestyle. Read the story on how Wiseco evolved from garage-made pistons to an industry leader in aftermarket performance.

In 1940, when Clyde Wiseman first manufactured his own big-bore marine engine pistons, in his garage located on the East side of Cleveland, Ohio, it was with a purpose: to fill a void in the marketplace by building the performance pistons he needed (yet was unable to find) to win races. Word quickly spread about Wiseman's high-quality pistons, and by 1941 — with origins rooted in racing — he formed Wiseco Piston to serve the needs of fellow motorsports enthusiasts who needed performance pistons for outboard marine racing.

Clyde Wiseman boat
Clyde Wiseman founded Wiseco from a passion stemming from outboard marine racing and a need for quality pistons he couldn't find at the time.

Like any new business, times were tough in the beginning. Yet, Wiseco persevered, and today the company is one of the leading manufacturers of high-performance motorsports performance parts in the world, with 2021 the 80th anniversary of the company and its team of high-performance employees.

When Wiseco first opened its doors all those years ago, it's unlikely Clyde Wiseman gave much thought to his company's longevity and what it might look like some 80 some years later. He was a racer driven by his passion for racing that simply wanted to win outboard marine races and make the best performing product possible. But the company did grow, and by 1948, Wiseco had moved to Wickliffe, Ohio, before moving again to its present location in Mentor, Ohio, in 1972.

Wiseco Piston factory 1962 Wiseco Piston Factory 1964
The stomping grounds of the early days of Wiseco Piston Co. before moving into the current, 150,000 sq. ft. facility in Mentor, OH. 

During those formative years, the company expanded into the powersports segment by making pistons for ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft. Inevitably, that led to the company's further expansion into the automotive segment by producing performance products for racers competing in NHRA, NASCAR, World of Outlaws, and other forms of four-wheel racing.

Wiseco vintage kart Wiseco vintage snowmobile
Passion for motor sports and performance doesn't end at two wheels, sometimes there's no wheels at all.

Wiseco is unique among aftermarket piston manufacturers in the United States because it is the only brand that produces pistons strictly using the forging process. Starting with aerospace-grade aluminum, the forging process compresses the material's molecules, increasing the density of the aluminum and aligning the grain flow of the alloy, resulting in a high-quality product that's resistant to impact, fatigue, and has improved material properties such as ultimate strength and ductility, which is a material's ability to stretch or move without breaking under tensile strain. For high-performance race applications (where increased horsepower and compression can stress an engine's components further than a stock engine), it's of critical importance.

Wiseco forging piston vintage Wiseco piston
To this day, Wiseco remains one of the only piston manufacturers to forge pistons in-house in the USA.

This is why Wiseco engineers utilize the latest 3D design techniques and finite element modeling software to ensure each design provides the highest strength and lightest weight for each application. Wiseco's state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and in-house Dyno facility, combined with its talented group of high-performance employees and field-testing network, ensures each product they produce exceeds the expectations and demands of the motorsports industry.

vintage Wiseco auto catalog
In-house engineering, 3D-modeling, CNC-machining, dyno testing and everything in between is nothing new to the Wiseco manufacturing plant...these methods have been in place for decades.

Today, Wiseco corporate headquarters boasts over 150,000 square feet of state-of-the-art forging and CNC machining equipment. The company has distribution centers, sales offices, and manufacturing operations in strategic locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe to better serve markets outside its domestic U.S. market. But one thing has remained the same after 80 years in business: the Wiseco motto of "quality people building a quality product," with many Wiseco employees having worked at the company for 10, 15, 20 — and even 40+ years. Something apparent when speaking with current and former employees of the company.

vintage Wiseco factory Wiseco Performance 90s
Time passes, but a dedicated and passionate team remains constant.

"I was fortunate to join Wiseco in 1988, which opened the door for me professionally, where I was able to develop as the company also grew," recalls Dave Sulecki after 31 years as Engineering Manager at company headquarters in Mentor, Ohio. For Sulecki, the doors opened led to engineering and product development milestones he's proud to be a part of to this day — from two-stroke piston evolution to market-changing technology and products to NASCAR championships. Adds Sulecki, "The company was founded by and is driven by enthusiasts. The core employees are the reason that Wiseco earned the motto 'quality people building a quality product.' Who knows what a racer needs more than another racer?"

From machinists to engineers to customer support and accounting, the people of Wiseco are dedicated to living up to its policy to meet or exceed customer requirements and expectations every time. They thrive in an environment focused on continually refining its "culture of quality" that thrives on the pursuit of perfection. And because racing at the highest level requires perfection, Wiseco's winning combination of quality people building quality products has continued to help elevate the brand to its current level of success.

Wiseco vintage MX support
Regardless of the discipline, developing a product from a racer's and enthusiast's mentality is an irreplaceable advantage.

“My career at Wiseco spanned 32 years as manager of Research and Development Department prior to my retirement,” explains Dave Fussner. “These were great years working with great people at a great company.” As Fussner goes on to explain, many of his friends at Wiseco stayed with the company for long periods, several that have more than 40 years with the company and are still going strong. “Working at Wiseco was truly a big part of my life. Being there lead me to a successful career doing what I loved, working with great people within the company, and also with the great racers and teams that chose Wiseco time and again.”

Wiseco vintage flat track
Evolution and success over 80 years is a product of every player on Team Wiseco, both in-house and out on the track.

Ryan Nau is another example of quality people building quality products that make Wiseco what it is today. He’s been with the company for almost 18 years and grew up interested in anything with an engine. For Nau, Wiseco has been the perfect career path. He started as a CNC operator and worked his way into the engineering and quality departments, and now currently serves as Research and Development Manager. "It's been a great journey working with the team here, and there is always more to learn in such a fast-paced performance market," explains Nau. "Many long-time employees share the same passion I do, and Wiseco keeps us engaged in the industry and aftermarket quality racing parts. A lot has developed in the last 80 years with internal combustion engines, and Wiseco continues to stay on the cutting edge of this development."

Wiseco YZ 2-stroke
Wiseco practices what we preach! Our Research and Development Manager with his Yamaha YZ295X build.

Another area that's contributed to the long-term growth and success of Wiseco is its roots in racing that started with Clyde Wiseman back when he founded the company. Through the years, Wiseco has continued to support and nurture all forms of motorsports racing — from the local grassroots level to national-level professional. Each year, Wiseco sponsors hundreds of amateur and professional racing events and series. Iconic events like the Blackwater 100 in Beckley, West Virginia, back in 1974 are where Wiseco's roots in racing support began.

Terry Vance Wiseco High Point 1984 Warren Johnson
Wiseco has helped power just about any type of motorsports racing discipline you can think over the past eight decades.

For over 50 years, Wiseco has been a supporter of racing events, series, and racers, including the Grand National Cross Country Series, ATV Motocross Nationals, Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Motocross Championships, Wiseco 2-Stroke MX World Championships, and many other two and four-wheel events and series. It's a testament to Wiseco's commitment to motorsports that it continues to support racing at all levels. And likewise, continues to sponsor racers and teams from the local to the national level as they pursue their dreams of winning championships, breaking records, and achieving goals.

Scott Parker flat track
Scott Parker

After 80 years in business, the Wiseco name has become synonymous with performance. And although the brand is recognized as the only U.S. manufacturer of forged pistons for the motorsports market, these days, pistons are only one part of the brand's product offerings. Today Wiseco offers gasket kits, clutch components, valve train components, crankshafts, hour meters, connecting rods in addition to its line of performance pistons. And as motorsports technology continues to evolve, Wiseco remains at the forefront of the market with an expansive line of innovative products.

Browse Wiseco products for your machine here.

vintage Wiseco catalog
The Wiseco catalog has grown quite a bit since the piston-only days, but we'll always stay true to our roots.

That's why top engine builders and racers in every motorsport depend on Wiseco products for consistent, winning results. Through its commitment to quality, integrity, and service as the backbone of the business, no other manufacturer can match Wiseco's advanced technology, high quality, and attention to detail. After 80 years of perfecting its products, led by a talented group of employees, it's easy to see why champions choose Wiseco.

In honor of Wiseco founder, Clyde Wiseman, a dedicated racer and performance innovator who established the Wiseco legacy!

Clyde Wiseman - Wiseco Founder
Clyde Wiseman, 1912 - 1996

Words - Dale Spangler
Images - Wiseco archives and Dale Spangler

Topics: FEATURES, featured, Powersports

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Dale Spangler

Written by Dale Spangler

I grew up in northeast Ohio and have been on two wheels since I was eight years old. After a mediocre and unmemorable pro motocross career, I decided to change gears and enter the motorcycle industry cubicle life where I’ve spent the last 25 years in the marketing mouse wheel as one of the guys behind the guy—behind the other guy. Known for painfully telling the truth (often to those who don’t want to hear it) I decided one day it was time to give the motorcycle industry news media a shot in the arm—whether it wanted it or not—and Dirt Buzz was born. Now living in the high desert of southern Idaho, in my free time I spend countless hours watching dirt bikes races, reading as many books as possible, and quaffing obscure craft beers while hanging out with my wife, two Boston Terriers Oliver and Ruby, and Chihuahua Leni.