Ten Questions With: Brian Benzing | So-Cal Speed Shop AZ

The great American Speed Shop is alive and well in the wild west. So-Cal Speed Shop Arizona strikes the right balance between community and commerce. With their “Second Saturday” events, colorful showroom and cool swag, Brian and Angie Benzing, the owners of So-Cal Speed Shop AZ, are living the dream and sharing that dream with others. Enjoy our latest “Ten Questions With…” interview… Bret

RideTech: When did So-Cal Speed Shop AZ start?

Brian Benzing: So-Cal Speed Shop Arizona started in 1974 as Vintage Ford Parts of Arizona. We sold restoration parts for Model A’s and early Ford V8 engines. The business started with 3 guys who shared a passion and a dream for the hobby of restoring 1932-1948 Fords and old cars. Over the years, we started carrying Mustang parts and Ford truck parts. We dabbled in Chevy Camaro parts and then got into Chevy trucks. In the late 90s, an opportunity came up. So Cal Speed Shop out of Southern California was rekindling its name and reviving the old traditional speed shop business.  Frank Streft, the owner of this shop at that time, got together with Hot Rod icons Pete Chapouris and Alex Xydias, the founder of So Cal Speed Shop.  We became one of So Cal Speed Shop’s first satellite stores in 1998. Since then the iconic So Cal Speed brand opened the door for us. As So-Cal Speed Shop AZ, we get to do more hot rod stuff and classic car stuff. It’s just kinda grown from there.

Long before So-Cal Speed Shop AZ, the shop thrived as Vintage Ford and Chevrolet Parts of Arizona. Phoenix has always been a hot bed for muscle cars and hot rods. With smooth roads, no snow ad great weather 9 months out of every year,  the driving and wrenching season is long.

RideTech: How long have you personally worked here, Brian?

Brian Benzing: I started working for what was then known as Vintage Ford Parts of Arizona in 1992. It was in high school. I was cutting lawns and buying parts for my Mustang. One day they said “Are you looking for a job” and I said “yeah!”.  26 years later I’m still working here. My wife and I own the place and we’re living a dream playing with cars enjoying every minute of it.

Traditional hot rods never die. The Phoenix metro area is full of them. You routinely see world-class, show quality customs driving around like commuter cars. So-Cal Sheep Shop AZ  is an integral part of the car community. Their colorful “Second Saturday” events bring people together. Set your alarm clock.

RideTech: When did you and Angie purchase the business?

Brian Benzing: We bought So Cal Arizona from Frank and Mary Streft two years ago in January of 2017. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long already.

What is the secret recipe for a thriving Speed Shop?  One of the key ingredients is: INVENTORY. Hot rodders want to see and touch speed parts in real time, then take them home and grab a wrench. The mix of offerings at So Cal Speed Shop Arizona is always evolving.

RideTech: How has the business grown and changed since you’ve owned it?

Brian Benzing: Angie and I have done a few different things to take the business in the direction we want to take it. Some of that stuff is just adding more inventory and kinda changing our slogan to let people know that were more than just a hot rod shop. So Cal Speed Shop has been known for traditional hot rods. We’ve pushed a new message so that people know that we’re more than just a traditional hot rod shop. We sell muscle car parts, truck parts, custom car parts ..and a lot more. The other thing we’ve done is educate our staff about the parts we sell. Everyone that works here has either built cars played with cars or has a good understanding of the classic car world. That world is constantly changing, so me and Angie bought an old Malibu and decided to rebuild it with the parts on our shelves. It’s something we work on as a team. The car has opened our eyes to the LS and Muscle Car / Pro- Touring world.

Brian and Angie Benzing are always thinking about new ways to improve their customers’ shopping experience while keeping an eye towards preserving the past.

RideTech: Tell us about your wife and sons working in the business?

Brian Benzing: This has always been a family-type business. Frank and Mary, the previous owners of the shop, always made the shop have that family feel. They were like second parents and treated all of us employees like family. So when the opportunity came up for my wife and I to purchase the business, we  kept that family feel going. It’s like nothing changed, except that I’m sitting in a different chair. My oldest son Jake started working here about 10 years ago and its an honor and pleasure to work with him still and have him work for us. We still get along great which is awesome. Likewise, my wife and I get along great even though we see each other all the time. Everyone says you can’t work together and spend that much time together with your spouse and have a good relationship. If anything the business has made our relationships better and stronger. My youngest son also works here too. He comes in after school and checks in our parts and does some of the cleaning and organizing. Iy has just been wonderful to keep that family feel.

In addition to their Second Saturday gatherings, So Cal Speed Shop AZ hosts its annual C10 Meet. Chevy C10 people love to get together and show off their rides and C10 Club Arizona is BIG. Come on out.

RideTech: Tell everyone about your epic “Second Saturday” event:

Brian Benzing: Here at So Cal Speed Shop, a few years ago, we were trying to come up with an idea for something different — a way to get people down to the store and hang out. We sat down in the kitchen and brainstormed the So Cal Second Saturday. 12 years later.. we’re still doing it. It’s an event that happens the second Saturday of every month. It happens super early about 6am. We buy anywhere from 30-40 dozen doughnuts and brew 300-500 cups of coffee. 12 years later, we absolutely just pack our parking lot and our neighbor’s parking lot. Sometimes the dirt lot across the street is filled with classic cars. It’s an event where if you drive your classic car down, we let you bring items in the trunk or back seat to do a little swap meet with it. We call it a “Shoe Box Swap”. Its just a great time and great community of hot rodders hanging out.

What could be better than a seminar about hot rods?  How about a seminar held outdoors in paradise surrounded by cool speed parts and great people.Add a So-Cal AZ Seminar to your bucket list. RideTech is holding a Suspension Seminar April 23rd  at 6PM.

RideTech: Do you host any seminars or other events?

Brian Benzing: Also here at So Cal, we try to put on seminars — not just for us — but our customers to come down and learn more about the products we sell and how to install them. In the past, we’ve had great companies like Vintage Air, Classic Instruments, Dakota Digital, FiTech, and of course, RideTech — just to name a few… The classes are great. A community of hot rod and classic car guys hang out and learn something about a product that maybe we’re not necessarily sure about as end users.  It’s just a great time to bounce questions off the guys that make the products while we are all face to face. Manufacturers get to explain why things are done a certain way and why their parts are best for our cars. It’s just a very informative event for all of us and we enjoy it. We also hold a cool C10 Meet and display at a number of events including Goodguys Scottsdale.

Model A Pickup
This early Ford Pickup is perfect for bombing around Phoenix or road-tripping up to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hot rods like this are timeless affordable and fun.

RideTech: What kind of cars and trucks do you own or have built in the past?

Currently, Angie and I own a stock 1930 Ford Model A Phaeton that we inherited from my Dad. Over the years we have built the following cars: 1966 Mustang Convertible, 1952 Ford F-1 pickup, 1930 Ford Model A Hot Rod Pick-Up, 1971 Bronco, 1968 Mustang Coupe and a bunch of other projects.

From bumper to bumper, the “Monday Malibu” showcases a comprehensive array of  modern day components including LS power, overdrive, Baer 4 Wheel Disc Brakes, Vintage Air and, of course, RideTech Suspension.

Do you work on cars at So Cal AZ?

We do not restore or perform any work on our customers cars here at the shop, but we have all built cars of our own. Speaking of our own cars, you may have heard about the “Monday Malibu” project going together at the store. It is a 1965 Malibu SS that is getting transformed into a modern daily driver. We call it a “Pro-Daily” build. We typically don’t build cars at the store, but we are taking the opportunity to learn more about the products we sell and get some “Team Building” time in, too.  The Monday Malibu is getting upgrades from A/C to wiring and everything in between.  We are learning more about late model engine swaps and the available components available needed to complete them. We’re getting our hands dirty with fuel injection, RideTech coilover suspension, big Baer 4 wheel disc brakes and more, You can follow along on our website, Instagram and Facebook pages.  Progress can be seen along with a list of parts installed as well as the great vendors involved. It has been a lot of fun on a lot of different levels and we can’t wait to get it out on the road.

This black and white speed shop photo could have been taken during the 50s or 60s. We love the mix of cars and trucks. It turns out the shot was taken back in late 90s after the addition of So Cal Speed Shop signs.

Do you feel like you are keeping the American Speed Shop ideal alive and well?

Brian Benzing: When I think of the “American Speed Shop”, it’s more than just a store with parts on the shelf.  It’s about relationships. It’s a gathering spot for people that have a common interest in classic cars. We are here to make the classic car driving experience the best it can be.  For some, that means ripping down two lanes of blacktop or racing across the salt flats, for others it’s cruising to the local weekend hang out or getting in your car and taking a road trip on a forgotten back road. Speed Shops offer the opportunity to physically touch, see, feel and know everything about our projects and its parts. We have a variety of components on the shelf. Not only the major stuff, but also all the little parts that are needed to complete your project. Even more important than parts, we have a team of experienced, knowledgeable people who are ready to help you figure out everything you need to get on the road — whether it’s a paved highway, a dirt road, or the salt flats! Helping and seeing customers finish their dream cars is rewarding. It’s a great to be part of the hot rod community.

C-10 Pickup Truck
Every hot rodder should have a parts chaser. On any day, the So Cal Speed Shop C10 can be found parked in front of the store. These trucks are so much fun to drive and easy to upgrade.

RideTech: What is your biggest vehicle segment?

Brian Benzing: We sell a lot of hot rod stuff. That’s probably our strongest segment only because that stuff kinda fits everything. Chevy trucks are another big part of our business. We have a big focus on 47-87 Chevy pickups and really built our stock up for these trucks. Not to leave anything out, Mustangs are probably right behind Chevy trucks in terms of popularity followed by GM muscle car stuff. We have pretty good coverage and a great market here in Phoenix.

Visit the website: So-Cal Speed Shop AZ HERE

Visit the store:3427 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85008

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