Ralph Eckler was one of the first entrepreneurs to make and sell reproduction parts for Corvettes. Eckler passed away on April 23 at age 74. He leaves behind a company that now sells parts for Corvettes, Chevrolets, Ford products, Porsches and Mercedes-Benz.
In 1961, Eckler’s company-then called Eckler’s Corvette Parts-started as an outgrowth of a one-man body shop that he operated in Rock Island. In 1972, Eckler published his first parts catalog and it became a hit with Corvette owners.
The company would eventually be renamed Eckler Industries when it started selling parts for other vehicles, as well as those for Corvette.
Eckler loved Corvettes and turned his skills in fabricating parts and accessories into a successful company with a worldwide reputation. Eckler was eventually inducted into the Bloomington Gold Corvette Hall of Fame. By 1973, the company had grown larger and moved to Titusville, Florida.
In 2002, Eckler’s moved into new products. It acquired leading companies that supplied Chevrolet and Ford restoration parts. Eckler’s also became a supplier of restoration parts and accessories for Porsche and Mercedes.
The company achieved success in the non-Corvette niches by acquiring other firms and building and improving on their expertise in a particular car or product line. It then applied its own marketing and sourcing experience to grow the acquisitions. Ralph Eckler felt that this was a way to blend the specialized support of a small company with the pricing and shipping speed of an industry leader. In addition to its headquarters in Titusville (10 miles from the Cape Kennedy Space Center), Eckler Industries also maintains a warehouse in Lockport, New York.
Eckler was also a fishing enthusiast. One of his most notable achievements was winning the Bahamas Billfish Championship in Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas by landing a 1,030-lb. Blue Marlin. He held the record for many years. He also enjoyed NASCAR races.
Eckler was born Feb. 1, 1942, in Rock Island, Illinois to Leslie and Velma Eckler.