Fred Kiekhaefer walks faster than most people. Strike that—Fred Kiekhaefer walks faster than most people run. The former president of Mercury Racing in Fond du Lac, Wis., Kiekhaefer approaches walking in much the same way he approached his leadership role at the high-performance marine engine and accessories company for more than 20 years, as well as everything else in his life. And that means with purpose.
Fiercely intelligent and frequently hilarious, former Mercury Racing leader Fred Kiekhaefer never has been one to mince words. Photo copyright Jason Johnson/Speedonthewater.com.
Speedonthewater.com co-publisher Jason Johnson and I learned that firsthand while skiing with Kiekhaefer for a few days in Vail, Colo., in early January. Walking a long block to the lift-ticket office from the Vail Marriott Resort or simply across the hotel’s lobby, he pulled away from us as if we were standing still, which compared to him we were.
Kiekhaefer, you see, doesn’t waste time, and that hasn’t changed since he left the company in 2012 with ground-breaking engines such as the 525EFI, the 700SCi, the 1075SCi and the turbocharged 1350—the first offering in the Quad Cam Four Valve (QC4v) engine series— released during his tenure behind him. That’s not to say he can’t relax and stop fidgeting, say on a chairlift where’s he’s more or less a prisoner with no place to go. But when it’s time to go, he goes. And if you want to keep him in sight, you best go with him.
Lest you think that the 71-year-old Kiekhaefer, who holds a Master’s degree in business and another in engineering, has spent most of his time raising his formidable skiing game since he and his wife, Carol, moved from Wisconsin to the foothills outside Denver, think again. He’s been working on a variable-pitch stern drive and has been granted an engineering patent for his creation. He’s been learning how to improve his automobile ice-driving skills. He’s even back to being the moderator of his longtime business forum group.
And, OK, yes, he’s been skiing. He’s even better than he was when I last hit the slopes with him 15 years ago, and he was damn good then.
When we weren’t chasing Kiekhaefer and his wife down the slopes at least, Johnson and I did catch up with Kiekhaefer in Vail. When I told him we wanted to interview him for this story, he laughed, “You’re always on the clock, aren’t you?” He was right, of course, so we sent him our list of 10 questions after we returned to our Northern California homes. Here’s what he had to say.