Raybestos Powertrain

Full History

Raybestos Powertrain has been supplying quality parts to the automobile industry since 1902. First established as the A.H. Raymond Company, the operation began in a tiny shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut with just four men manufacturing brake lining, clutch facings and the Raymond brake. To improve the performance and safety of automobile brakes, owner A.H. Raymond pioneered a non-charring asbestos and copper-wire brake lining, trade-named “Raybestos,” which improved braking capacity.

Visionary leader Sumner Simpson joined the company, now named the Royal Equipment Company of Bridgeport, and by 1916 became its president. “Raybestos” had become so synonymous with brakes and clutch lining that the company was renamed the Raybestos Company and sales were soaring over $1 million.

Obviously outgrowing their facility, Raybestos built a new manufacturing plant in Stratford, Connecticut in 1919. The automobile was becoming a necessity, rather than a luxury, which increased the demand for Raybestos parts.

By 1929, Raybestos merged with its competitor, the Manhattan Rubber Manufacturing Company. President Sumner Simpson saw the merge as a way to strengthen the potential of both companies for growth. When the stock market crashed that same year, the value of the company’s assets were nearly nine times that of its liabilities. Raybestos-Manhattan grew stronger through the Great Depression, providing parts to garages, service stations and automobile manufacturers, as well as supporting its effort to research and improve the product line.

In 1938, the Raybestos friction clutch was used in the first future automatic transmission. Raybestos-Manhattan soon became an important supplier of parts to the Big 3 OE manufacturers and to the U.S. armed forces. After Pearl Harbor, automobile production came to a virtual standstill, but Raybestos forged ahead producing vital parts that were used in nearly every U.S. military vehicle, airplane and sea-going vessel. Every Raybestos division was honored for its contribution to the war effort.

Raybestos experienced its best year ever in 1950. Sales rose and earnings reached an all-time high. Expansion of the product line and facilities was to continue throughout the 50’s. The corporation built a new plant in Crawfordsville, Indiana, made plans to expand the Stratford, Connecticut facility in 1952 and completed the Neenah, Wisconsin plant in 1953. The company’s leader, Sumner Simpson, died in June, 1953. His management legacies left a very sound, focused Raybestos-Manhattan.

The 1957 win of driver Sam Hanks at the Indianapolis 500 on Raybestos disc brake pads was the first of 23 consecutive wins for Raybestos-equipped cars at Indy. The next year, Raybestos heat-resistant materials helped put the U.S. Explorer I into orbit, while closer to earth, the Sudebaker Avanti would be the first passenger car to feature the Raybestos disc brake pads.

Throughout the 50’s, Raybestos opened plants in Ontario, Wisconsin and California. Bolstered by acquisitions and expansions, Raybestos-Manhattan was ready to meet the next challenge – developing new materials to take man safely into space. They moved into research and development of composites for use in the U.S. space program. Not only did Raybestos composites contribute to the success of the space program, but they were used to expand the consumer products offered by Raybestos-Manhattan as well. These included hydraulic parts and smog-control devices for its automotive line and consumer products like bowling balls, hose and fabric.

Over the next two decades, Raybestos-Manhattan perfected “fadeless” braking, introduced NOVATEX® (a material that locks in asbestos with a “wet” process, making a strong insulation and exceeding OSHA safety standards), and made its first overseas acquisition. Significant facility expansions changed the face of the company at the end of the 60’s, as sales reached $150 million.

The 1970’s brought further changes that would strengthen the company in the light of a new social and business atmosphere. Operations were decentralized; product lines were expanded, dropped and added. The company’s influence was extended to Australia, Venezuela and Ireland.

In 1978, the company name was changed from Raybestos-Manhattan Friction Materials Company to Raybestos Friction Materials Company, taking full advantage of the quality and integrity which had long been associated with the Raybestos name.

At the start of the 80’s, economic pressures caused the Raybestos leadership to consider getting out of the transmission business. The decision was made to close the Stratford, Connecticut facility and move the automatic transmission business to Crawfordsville, Indiana. By the mid-80’s, Raybestos had established the aftermarket business in Crawfordsville. The corporation opened a new technical center for research and development at Crawfordsville. Soon liabilities arose from the use of asbestos from many years before, which affected the entire industry.

The name of the corporation was then changed to Raymark and Raybestos ceased production of asbestos products, employing a totally new technology. Aftermarket sales reached $10 million in 1985 and the next year a new company, Raytech Corporation, was formed. Raytech’s business included wet clutch, transmission and heavy duty brakes. Raymark retained the dry clutch business.

In 1987, Raytech Powertrain was formed as an umbrella for the aftermarket segment of the business, but ended in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989 due to asbestos-related litigation.

Raytech purchased Allomatic Products Company in 1990, which was an OE friction, steel and transmission filter manufacturer in New York. They moved the business to Sullivan, Indiana in 1991.

In 1992, the Raybestos Aftermarket Products Company was formed and was moved from the Crawfordsville manufacturing plant to a separate facility. Aftermarket sales reached $14 million. In the 90’s, Raytech Corporation achieved ISO 9002 status in all divisions and Raybestos Products Company earned the QS9000 designation.

Raybestos partnered with Advanced Friction Materials (AFM) for the manufacture of OEM bands in 1996 and later purchased 100% of the company.

In 1998, Raybestos UK opened a plant in Liverpool, England for the manufacture of wet clutch products. The same year, Raybestos Products Company’s production of plates reached 2.4 million per week, while sales for Raytech Corporation peaked at $252 million.
At the turn of another century, Raybestos entered a period of readjustment. While growth was still taking place, a sharp downturn in the NASDAQ and in dot-com businesses put the brakes on the economy. Slow car sales caused company sales to drop to $239 million around the year 2000.

In 2001 Raytech Corporation came out of bankruptcy, retaining its corporate structure. An already struggling stock market reeled with the tragic events of September 11th, and the economy took a serious hit. In 2002, Raybestos Aftermarket Products Company became Raybestos Powertrain, part of a combined Aftermarket reorganization.

The new Powertrain distribution operations were consolidated in Sullivan, Indiana. Aftermarket sales continued to grow, achieving 25% of the corporation’s revenues. Raybestos Industrie-Produckte GMBH was the number one supplier of lead-free clutch facings worldwide.

In 2002, Raybestos opened a new facility in Sullivan for felt stamping and manufacturing paper. The aftermarket group sold $1 million in torque converter wafers that same year. Raybestos gained two valuable customers, Dacco and Fleetguard, in 2002 as well.

The birth of electronic components into the Raybestos product line took place in 2004. The line opened with solenoids and has since progressed into solenoids, input and output sensors. Raybestos soon introduced its clutch pack module called Z Pak®, which hit the market big and was widely accepted. It is a single-sided design clutch system that outperforms OE in torque and heat capacity without coning.

In 2006, Raybestos opened a heavy duty steel stamping facility in Sullivan, which serves businesses including Caterpillar and John Deere. The steel and friction plates made at that plant can stand close to 4 feet tall and weigh nearly 70 pounds.

Also in 2006, Raybestos Powertrain introduced a new high performance friction line, Stage-1. These frictions are not limited to performance, but also enhance heavy duty applications and withstand higher temperatures associated with towing heavy loads. Along with the new line, the Sullivan location obtained contracts with GM and Chrysler to make some of their OE bands.

Effective March 5, 2012, Monomoy Capital Partners, L.P., a New York private equity fund focused on value investment and business improvement, acquired the stock of Raybestos PowerTrain, LLC (“Raybestos”) from an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners. Monomoy has combined Raybestos and Steel Parts Manufacturing, Inc. (“Steel Parts”), into a global growing transmission component platform. The combined company is a leading supplier to automotive and heavy-duty vehicle customers in both the aftermarket and the original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) channels. Monomoy’s operational expertise and strategic guidance combined with the operational and strategic synergies between Steel Parts and Raybestos Powertrain will provide this growing global transmission component platform with the necessary resources and capital to further expand and improve our business both domestically and internationally.

With continued improvements in research and development, Raybestos not only produces premium friction products but also provides innovative industry solutions with the revolutionary release of the Honda GPX friction plates, the tough and durable GPZ material, and the next generation Raybestos HT hybrid technology clutch plates.