In the days leading up to the Keystone BIG Show West in Grapevine, Texas near Dallas, High Caliber Motorsports was hit with an intense flurry. Literally.
A massive snowstorm headed toward the shop’s home base in Pennsylvania early in the week had Hi Cal scrambling to send two projects vehicles—a Jeep and a truck—to Grapevine to meet the Friday show opening deadline before the roads got too bad.
That extra time would prove invaluable, however, when a trailer accident wound up destroying the two projects long before they reached Texas.
Hi Cal owner Cory Bride was vacationing in Florida when he received the news. Unable to catch a flight home and take action himself because of the weather, Bride rallied his troops from afar.
Step one: call Bryan Ryan, general manager at Friendly Dodge in New York, who had provided Hi Cal with the original vehicles, and ask for two more… that day. Bride says that Ryan was initially taken aback, but ready to help. He soon had a brand-new truck and Jeep waiting for them to pick up.
“I think Brian knew just how important those builds were, not only to me and my shop, but also beneficial for him to have vehicles that were helping give exposure for his dealership,” says Bride. “I think the fact that we were straightforward and honest from the very get-go—he didn’t have much of a reason to say no. That was really the beginning of things starting to turn around after they went so unbelievably bad so quickly.”
Step two: call his employees. Bride says it was like asking them to do the impossible.
“I needed to know if my guys would be on board to help me rebuild vehicles that took us almost a month to do in the first place in a matter of 36 hours.”
There are more than 20 employees between Hi Cal’s two Pennsylvania locations, and Bride says everyone agreed to help out. In fact, some stayed at the shop for three days straight to work on the vehicles; others worked out of Bride’s kitchen as a workshop for custom painting the headlights.
Step three: notify Steve Robinson of ReadyLIFT, which sponsored the builds.
Reflecting on those first couple of hours stuck in Daytona while his crew flew into action, Bride says, “I was in disbelief and completely beat down. We had talked ourselves up so high—these were our first significant builds for a manufacturer at a big trade show, so it was a really big deal for us.”
The vehicles had successfully debuted a few weeks earlier in the ReadyLIFT booth at the Keystone BIG Show East in Washington, D.C.
Bride says that he knew the Texas event was going to be an equally important showcase.“So, on Monday, when everything fell apart, I was lost. I just had to sit in Florida and twiddle my thumbs…”
He began to feel a little bit better after talking with his team.
“Everyone was more than happy to do whatever needed to be done. One of my head techs told me, ‘Boss, you always put projects in front of us that I think are impossible or have impossible deadlines. But for some reason, we always find a way to get them done.’ For him to have that much confidence, it made me feel better.”
At this point, it was beginning to snow. By Tuesday, northeastern Pennsylvania had broken a 104-year record, collecting just under three feet in 24 hours. So, while Bride sat helplessly in sunny Daytona, watching the forecast of the snow that continued to fall and news of roads closing one after another, the Hi Cal crew plowed the shop’s driveway and got to work.
“There was no time for negativity, so I pushed it aside and my guys kept working,” Bride says.
“We had to call Bob Brady, one of our contacts at Keystone, and beg him to allow us to go to the warehouse in Exeter, an hour-and-a-half from our shop in Wysox, so we could pull parts to put on these vehicles,” Bride explains, noting that the new vehicles were not the same colors as the first two, necessitating some painting of the products that were salvageable from the original builds.
On Wednesday morning, the crew had access to the parts they needed to put the new vehicles together. They immediately rushed back to the shop to get them fitted, customized and sent off to paint, which was a three-hour drive away.
Bride said that the painters worked day and night to get everything prepared, and the vehicles were wrapped overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. Around 5:45 a.m. Thursday, the newly painted parts were ready to go.
Fewer than eight hours later, the truck and Jeep were loaded onto the trailer. A team of two drivers drove non-stop for 24 hours to the show site in Grapevine, and showed up around 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The show started at 6 p.m.
“All our trucks have GPS tracking, so I could watch up-to-the-minute the progress they were making getting to Texas. But after all the bad luck we’d had, I couldn’t really exhale until I saw them at The Gaylord,” Bride recalls.
Even then, “We were installing the finishing pieces that we couldn’t get in time in Pennsylvania, that we had shipped to Texas, as the show doors were opening,” he adds.
Word of their story hit the local newspaper twice, but Bride says, “I was so nervous because things were moving along quickly and we were looking like we were going to be able to accomplish this impossible task, but there was still a very real chance it wasn’t going to happen.”
For that reason, the shop kept quiet about the progress and stayed off social media until Friday at 4:30 p.m. when they pulled the flip gate.
For Bride, there was a lot riding on the show—enough that giving up was never really an option.
“For a young group of people working between these two shops—I started the shop when I was 23 years old, by myself—everyone kind of wrote us off. We’ve kind of always had our backs against the wall. “This opportunity to show our work was a big eye-opener to those who doubted us, and so for this accident to happen, it was going to give satisfaction to those doubters and that was something we just couldn’t accept. Rather than getting mad or discouraged, I knew we had to literally pick up the pieces and move forward. It was the only option we had.”
Despite the adversity, Bride reports that the resulting builds were bigger, better projects than the originals. While the new vehicles used most of the same parts, Ryan had provided a 2017 diesel Ford F-350 to replace the damaged 2017 Ford Super Duty, and a 2017 Rubicon edition Jeep Wrangler to replace the first 2017 Wrangler.
The first truck was lime green, and the first Jeep was metallic blue. The second time around, they received a white truck and a graphite Jeep, which Bride says ended up better-fitting the picture of what ReadyLIFT was looking for as promo vehicles.
“Everyone said those first two vehicles were amazing and were blown away with their transformation, but there wasn’t one person that said that they didn’t like the second two better than the first,” Bride says. “Having professionals in the industry stop me while I’m walking around the show and shake my hand and tell me what an amazing thing we were able to pull off made every extra dollar we had to spend and everything we had just been through worth it.”