The biggest clue for knowing what Beck Racing Engines (BRE) is all about might just be found by opening their website. There, under a simple BRE logo is the opening page with pretty much just a question, “What can we build for you?” It’s that simple philosophy that has made Phoenix, Arizona’s BRE into the giant it is today. And guiding the giant is Frank Beck, the man who started it all. He’s got plenty to talk about but even more to listen to if you want to learn from him.
Frank Beck Begins
Like many engine builders, Beck got his start as a hobby, experimenting and learning on his own car. He tells the familiar story in machine gun style with, “I was 15 when I got my first car. Started modifying it and doing some street racing, which I don’t condone, then moved it to the drag strip.” The age-old, gear-head story of, as he calls it, “Doing my stuff, then my friends,” led to the opening of his own shop in 1986.
The shop was typical of the era. They offered work on almost all brands of engines and processes as well as some of the follow-on work. Beck says he started with, “The engine shop, then the machine shop. We built ’em; even installed ’em.”
It’s not that way today and Beck notes that, “Change is a constant, and that’s probably the most important aspect-recognize change and knowing when to change. The industry’s changed from mom and pop speed shops. We changed and adapted.” Within that, Beck says, “That’s probably one of the keys, find the customers you want to keep and hold. First thing, lay foundations, then the groundwork.” It’s a simple but effective philosophy.
He got busy enough and more importantly, good enough to turn away work that was not going to take him in his own direction. “No hack jobs,” he says. “I turned them away.” And then advises, “Stay focused on what you know is right and stay involved.” For Beck, that meant eliminating some processes and even passing up work on other brands. “Do pro work,” as he calls it.
Eventually he saw exactly where he wanted to go-building only engines-and he did just that. That meant no more partial jobs such as just valves, boring or balancing. It would be just complete engines, now. And there was one more big change in the future. It would be extremely risky but Beck had a vision and knew it was the way to go.
“Then we went into just Chevy engines. We narrowed in on the focus, and the more we narrowed, the more we grew.” To further implement that big commitment, he sold all his non Chevy tooling and parts. He simplifies the act as saying he’d “…rather be the Master of one thing than the Jack of none.”
That’s where he is today, and it was that highly defined direction that got him there. That and attention to follow through for the customer. He proudly states, “Our goal is to be the supplier for high-end Chevy engines no matter what they are.” For his customers, he says, “We offer turnkey packages including computers, wiring harnesses, fuel systems, transmissions and exhaust. If we don’t supply it, we will steer them in the right direction.”
Machines And Men
Working out of a 7,200 square feet building with plans to add another 8,000, Beck is armed with a large array of equipment. A Superflow dyno and flow bench, Sunnen align hone and align bore machines, Sunnen surfacer, two Sunnen rod machines (dedicated to the small and large ends of rods), two Sunnen electronic torque wrenches, Sunnen cap grinders, rod alignment fixtures, seat and guide machines, a valve refacer, vertical mills and lathes, Hobart welders, Rottler boring bar and the usual glass bead and shot peen booths, Magnaflux and Zyglo equipment and jet spray washer.
Beck Racing Engines has only four employees, yet they still put out a tremendous amount of product. When asked how he finds qualified employees, Beck laughs and says, “Steal ’em.” He goes on to explain, “I’ve tried hiring the kids. If you find the right one and they work their way up, that’s good.” As for what keeps good employees, he quickly explains, “The keys are excellent equipment, state of the art equipment, a clean shop, epoxy floors – NASCAR style – and air conditioning. The best thing I ever did was to put them on a four day workweek.” BRE offers employees Fridays off making for long weekends but also giving employees a day for taking care of appointments and family matters. Beck adds, “The most positive thing I’ve done for morale and win/win in my 20 years was that.”
Marketing For Cool Customers
Now that he has long settled into his niche, who are his customers? Again, quick to answer, likely because he knows them so well, he says “Demographically, the guy with a little more money. Our average ticket is over $20,000. We deal with the higher caliber customer. We’re dealing with the guys that have the big toys.” He goes on to cite street, drag, marine and even sand as their playgrounds. And it’s not too hard to see why they buy. BRE products are attractive, state of the art and proven power houses.
Marketing to their select buyer is clearly defined, as well. Beck says he goes after, “the magazines they read. We target their magazines. On the internet we rank number one with Google in search engines. We have advertised almost pretty much since day one.” BRE is often involved in magazine stories with build-ups and technical editorial. On another front, Beck says, “We host magazines and car shows and word of mouth. We send out a personalized package.”
Beck is being shy about his website. Those learning or just getting into this business would be well intentioned to look over and even study the BRE site. In fact, it would serve any business well. It’s bright, easy to navigate and offers plenty of information for readers at any stage of engine shopping. Information on choosing an engine, what engine packages are available and requesting engine information are clearly found along with customer rides and magazine articles. Specials such as free shipping don’t hurt, either. The site gives the reader nothing less than a great impression.
Intents And Purposes
When asked if BRE builds engines for street machines, racecars or both, Beck simply says, “All of the above. As long as it’s a Chevy we’ll build it. Our claim to fame is pushing the envelope for 91 octane (engines).” To that effect, BRE sells 15 different small and big block engine combinations. And that brings up the question, how did they get to this point – from a simple engine shop to an all encompassing, highly specialized, on the shelf Chevy engine store? “Just one thing leads to another,” says Beck. “It’s just an evolution. We have over 100 dyno proven packages.”
The prices at BRE come from a simple and well proven formula. “I work on a cost plus basis. I buy it as cheap as I can and mark it up. If somebody’s cheaper, there’s a reason for that,” Beck warns. Has this changed over the years – even with all BRE’s changes? “No, we pretty much kinda started that way and stuck with it.”
Doing What He Does
When asked about the favorite aspect of running his own business, Beck smiles and you can almost hear him beaming, “Being able to do what I do, how I do it.” A simple reward to be sure but he goes on to explain, “Having the freedom to design, to build and to be unique.”
In all his years in business, what are few of his favorite memories? “In business, I’d have to say purchasing my own building and putting in my own dyno cell are the two top accomplishments.” Another one came when he decided to make the jump from renter to owner of his building. It was a long, drawn out procedure that literally shut down the business, cost him money and employees. But it turned out to be another major accomplishment. He adds it to his list, “And being able to take the time to lay the shop out right. We were down nine months.”
We caught up with Frank Beck just after SEMA and asked about his engines on display there. BRE had engines on display with Engine Builder Magazine, MSD ignition, Aeromotive Fuel Systems, Snow Performance and Gear Vendors Overdrives. And what caught Beck’s eye at SEMA? “In the Mothers Polish booth, they had a Pontiac GTO with a custom engine a guy in New Zealand builds – HAIGH Blocks. He had a pretty cool EFI on it.”
What is the main thing Beck wants people on both sides of the industry to know about BRE? Once again, he already knows the answer and says, “We’re custom orientated. You get you what you want and need.”