George “Papa Kook” Kryssing: Hall of Fame Member 1940-2015
George “Pappa Kook” Kryssing (front row, second from right) was honored as a 2012 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame inductee in Henderson, NC.
“Papa Kook” Kryssing came from a hands-on, drag racing background. He retained a love of all types of racing and going fast and was a familiar figure at the Kooks Headers race support trailer. (Dragzine photo)
Editor’s Note: Due to website technical difficulties (Re: This Editor’s steep learning curve for posting stories and photos on this website) the story below did not appear on the HOF site soon after the passing of George “Papa Kook” Kryssing. Out of respect for Papa Kook and with our sincere condolences to his family we now post this story.
Story by Jim Hill
George “Papa Kook” Kryssing, one of the racing industry’s most respected header designers and exhaust specialists, founder of Kooks Custom Headers and a favorite with East Coast racers passed away quietly, August 26, 2015. “Papa Kook’s” passing came following a long battle with heart disease.
In 2012 George Kryssing was honored for his lifetime racing career achievements as an inductee into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame. Papa Kook was highly respected and much beloved among racers across the east coast and Midwest. George Kryssing, Sr., passed away in Statesville, North Carolina, his home and the home base of Kooks Headers. He was 75 years of age.
Papa Kook was born in New York in 1940. Far from his eventual life’s work, Kryssing actually began his career driving a home delivery milk and dairy products truck for a local dairy. Not at all surprisingly, milk runs were not Kook’s thing. The terms “homogenized or skim?” soon passed from his working vocabulary when his interest in racing found him designing, fabricating and welding race car headers. He began building headers at first for his own cars and those of his friends. Very soon other racers noticed the high quality and power-increasing attributes of his work. Soon after, George found himself with a steady list clients wanting custom-built headers for Long Island and the New York City area’s growing group of racers.
Papa Kook’s early success in his home garage quickly overran its backyard confines. George knew that to bring his business to the next level he needed more space and equipment, as well as skilled, dedicated employees willing to follow Papa Kook’s lead on absolute quality and service.
In 1962 he opened Kooks Custom Headers, counting on his unique business nickname and solid reputation for designing and building the highest quality race headers, collectors and exhaust systems. His choice to step away from his home garage and step up the business was a good one. In the years that followed Kryssing established his header designs, their superior power and torque output, and outstanding reputation for service among racers eager to make the next race date. That attitude earned George a strong and steady following.
Although George’s early headers were built for almost exclusively for drag racers, his skills quickly found a new and even bigger following designing and building exhaust systems for northeast circle track racers. His immediate market region in the Northeast was a hotbed for dirt and asphalt, open-wheel modifieds, super-modifieds and Late Model race car divisions. Circle track racers soon discovered that Kook’s pipes produced the horsepower and torque needed for any chassis, track length and banking. Word of the success of George’s headers spread rapidly among the circle track contingent, and they too beat a path to Kook’s shop.
Meanwhile, the increasing costs, hassles with local and state governmental bureaucracy and an alarming rise in taxes associated with doing business in New York forced George to reevaluate his business and personal interests. That led him to plan the relocation of his growing business from Bayshore, Long Island, New York to a more business-friendly area. Carefully considering his options, George was also keen to relocate to a region that was also rich in potential racing clients. His goal to find a business-friendly location with a strong market area that would generate sustained when he chose Statesville, North Carolina, as the new home of Kook’s Headers. Not only was Statesville’s business climate favorable, it was dead-center in the heart of “NASCAR Race Country”.
Kook’s Headers made the move in 2009. Following a brief yet expected “sorting out” of his new facilities, George and his son, George, Jr., were soon turning out prototype and production header systems. Although new to the area, Kook’s Headers quickly established themselves as a reliable, able source in their new home. Kook’s Headers also led the way as the forerunner in the rapidly advancing technology of digital prototyping, production and manufacturing of racing headers and exhaust components. This technological vision made the “new” Kook’s a leader in racing and high performance exhaust systems.
Currently, Kook’s Headers’ core market includes circle track, drag racing and road course racing clients at the professional, sportsman and enthusiast levels.
The move to North Carolina proved to be wise one, and despite a depressed national economy, Kook’s enjoyed steady growth. Sadly, Papa Kook’s medical issues didn’t permit him to fully enjoy the degree of success realized in the short time he spent his new home and business. Certainly, he would have enjoyed seeing his business continue to grow and his children and grandkids prosper.
George Kryssing, Sr., “Papa Kook” to all, is survived by his wife Carol Ann, his son, George, Jr., three daughters, Laurie Kryssing, Keri Clark and Carol Ann Kryssing, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Fortunately, George Kryssing’s hard work and success are safely preserved. George Kryssing, Jr., has worked side-by-side with his dad for several years and is an integral part of the success and growth of Kooks. He currently serves as CEO and President and has dedicated himself to continue to direct the further advancements of his dad’s legacy.