Don Duffy designed his first gasoline-powered car when he was 12-years-old, which is now on display in TI’s headquarters. After graduating with a business degree from the University of Kansas, Duffy moved to California. He got involved in the rapidly expanding RV industry and purchased an awning company. Duffy invented and patented a roll-up awning for RVs, which put the company on a fast track to success. He eventually sold the business and another RV company he had a stake in a few years later. His next venture: starting Leisure Components Corporation. After a few good years of producing aftermarket components to the RV, motorcycle, and automotive industries, LCC was sold in 1983.
Soon after, with the purchase of the assets of a bankrupt trolley, bus and tram manufacturer, Duffy grew Specialty Vehicle Manufacturing Corporation into the largest manufacturer of rubber tired trolleys in the United States. In 1991, he recognized the benefits of the electric motor for powering urban route type vehicles and redirected the company to develop a product line of electric buses, shuttles, trolleys and delivery vehicles. Although many of those vehicles remain in service today, the nation’s agencies resisted the deployment of this important technology. In 1999, Duffy and Newton Montano left SVMC and founded Trams International. More than two decades later, Duffy and Vice President Montano are still at the helm of TI, manufacturing electric drive, diesel and gasoline-powered trams for clients around the world.