The smell of metal and grease hits your senses before the wonder of five massive machines stuffed into Bruce Verdon’s tiny Tahunanui workshop takes over.
Bruce leased the workshop after arriving in Nelson eight years ago. His plan was to run a machine work shop similar to what he had in his homeland of South Africa, but with no contacts and no reputation there was also no work.
So he decided to branch out, do something different and as a result Bruce is known around the world for making the best high performance racing gearboxes.
His company TT Industries has now sold more than 600 gearboxes around the world, mainly in classic racing motorbikes and racing cars. Bruce says he hasn’t even thought about developing key markets because demand is keeping his five staff pretty busy already. “We don’t want everyone to know about it at the same time. We’re trying to keep it quiet at this stage but the United States will be a big market for us, no one there does what we do,” says Bruce.
His gearboxes have won titles all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia and Europe, and are used in every New Zealand V8 Racing car. They are also used by World 500cc Grand Prix champion Kevin Schwantz and his expertise got him invited to race in the famed Isle of Mann motorbike race last year.
It all started when Bruce was left struggling for work. He designed a gearbox for classic motorbikes and when it was finished took it to a race in Australia to show the owners of the bikes his design.
“I borrowed a table and made some pamphlets and the people just said ‘wow, this is want we want, where have you been all our lives? Here’s the money, when can I have one?’
Within three months he had 30 orders, each for around $5000.
He took that to the bank and was able to secure a loan to buy the equipment needed and started producing two a month until he took on more staff. Since then demand has exploded and Bruce travels to races in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Europe to drum up business, but it’s hardly needed. Word of mouth means the orders roll in unabated.
Bruce says he saw a limited market in the classic motorbikes so developed a sequential gearbox for cars, instead of the standard “H-box”. That was even more popular than the motorbike gearbox, so more staff were employed and more machines bought.
The gearboxes are used in cars for circuit racing, drifting and even in speedway cars.
He says at a recent test at Hampden Downs the gearbox shaved two seconds off the lap time of a race car.
And there’s more to come.
Bruce says when the business moves into a purpose-built building in Echodale Pl he will be able to build more gearboxes and expand even further.
“Soon we’ll have a gearbox for cars with more than 1000 horsepower and many of our designs are unique to us and the reports we get back from clients are good. I can walk down the pits and no one looks at me with daggers in their eyes, let’s put it that way.”
The popularity of his product still surprises him but not the performance.
“I know they work well but I didn’t expect so many people wanting them, that did surprise me.”
He says the future is bright for his company and although busy, and spending most of his weekends out of town at various race meetings – he’s been to four already this year – he’s thrilled. “It’s really good, yeah, really good. I’m happy and proud.”