Hot-rod mod shop
Boeckmann builds on his family's link to Carroll Shelby
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated Beau Boeckmann's role at Galpin Ford. He works with his brother, Brad Boeckmann, and his father, Bert Boeckmann, in running the store.
Beau Boeckmann's announcement in August that he was adding a Shelby Mod Shop to his Galpin Auto Sports operation had the potential to link him up with thousands of new hot-rodding enthusiasts around the western United States.
For the 42-year-old president of the high-profile sports shop and custom business, it is one more part of a family tradition that he intends to keep building -- of trying new ideas and enhancing the company's reputation as a go-to performance vehicle center for the West Coast.
"I grew up at this dealership," Boeckmann says of Galpin Motors, "and even I'm amazed at all the innovations and new ideas my dad was involved in over the years. Pioneering is part of our DNA, and it's something I want to carry on into the future."
Shelby American Inc. is the automaking arm of the company created by racing and customizing legend Carroll Shelby, who died on May 10, just a few months before Boeckmann's August announcement. In addition to producing high-performance, high-end Shelby-branded versions of the Ford Mustang, including the GT350 and the GT500 Super Snake, the company also markets individual performance parts.
Boeckmann's shop operates as a sort of franchised factory or satellite office to the Shelby American factory in Las Vegas.
Galpin offers service to Shelby vehicle owners from around the country who want to modify or add Shelby-brand performance components to their vehicles, such as suspension parts, superchargers, interior trim and special lighting. In the precise world of Shelby enthusiasts, Boeckmann's shop installs parts according to Shelby specifications and documents the changes as "Genuine Shelby" in the Shelby Registry. The registry is the official record book for the life cycle of each Shelby car on the road, protecting its value at auctions or resale.
Until now, Shelby owners would have had such modifications done either at the Las Vegas factory or at the only other authorized modification shop in the country, operated by Tasca Automotive Group in Rhode Island.
The West Coast mod shop fits inside Boeckmann's existing Galpin Auto Sports operation, which has already seen its share of colorful activity. Until the end of 2007, Boeckmann and his shop played host to the MTV customization series "Pimp My Ride," which helped inspire a new generation of interest in vehicle individualization.
The significance of a mod shop is that there are more Shelby enthusiasts than there are Shelby owners, says John Luft, Shelby American president, from his office in Las Vegas. That means that the potential for people aspiring to Shelby parts -- even for non-Shelby vehicles -- will always be greater than the volume of Shelby car sales.
"Seven out of 10 Mustang owners would like to own a Shelby," Luft explains. "And there are millions of Mustangs out driving around. They can at least buy the parts."
Tradition of innovation
The new venture carries on an old family history for Boeckmann, since his father, Galpin Motor Co. President Bert Boeckmann, and Carroll Shelby were friends for decades. The senior Boeckmann championed Shelby to Ford in his early days, helping bring the hot-rodder and the Mustang together in the first place.
The senior Boeckmann, 82 and still reliably manning his office daily, is a recognized innovator in auto retailing. A farm boy who reluctantly joined Galpin Ford as a salesman, Boeckmann had purchased the dealership within 15 years of his first paycheck.
He introduced vehicle leasing to individuals in 1960, 20 years before Ford Motor Co. embraced the concept. In 1966, he opened a full-service restaurant inside his new store in Los Angeles' northern suburbs. He capitalized on the Beach Boys-era Southern California surfing culture with stylized vans for hauling kids and surfboards.
He allowed a technically skilled young German immigrant who was working as a car washer -- Heinz Prechter -- to cut sunroofs into some of Galpin Ford's inventory. The factory's enthusiasm resulted in Prechter's creating American Sunroof Co., or ASC.
And still in the 1960s, Boeckmann asked his shop to refit some of his trucks with oversized wheels, roll bars, custom paint and raised suspensions -- a move that helped usher in the 4x4 truck segment.
This is the retailing tradition that the second-generation Boeckmann is carrying on.
"It's an old tradition for us," the son says. "But it's an old tradition of always looking for new ideas to try.
Mulally as a model
Beau Boeckmann is asked often whether he would do another "Pimp My Ride" type of show. But the program's ending occurred just as a downturn came over the U.S. industry. Boeckmann found himself taking on more responsibilities at Galpin Motors, and he says that he is too busy these days.
He runs the Ford store with his father and brother, Brad. Sales there are up 20 percent over the first half of 2011. Beau also handles the company's luxury brand stores -- Jaguar, Volvo, Lincoln, Aston Martin and Lotus -- in addition to running Galpin Auto Sports and Galpin marketing in general.
Galpin Auto Sports itself is a marketing tool for the family dealerships since it creates a flashy performance brand image that generates attention for all Galpin activities.
In July, he also led the launch of a Volkswagen open point store, which initially sold enough vehicles to become the VW's brand's second highest-volume U.S. store.
Brother Brad runs the family's Honda store in Mission Hills, Calif., and other Galpin businesses that include a thriving rental company that supplies work trucks and on-camera vehicles to Hollywood's film studios.
"We manage Galpin differently than we did five years ago, and frankly we're still looking at new ideas for how we can manage all the pieces," Beau Boeckmann says.
"I've been looking into how Alan Mulally manages all of Ford around the world as CEO. His managers are able to keep him up-to-the minute on everything he needs to follow. I'd like to establish a micro version of that process here.
"My dad's here working six days a week, but we're evolving. We have different metrics tools today than we did even in 2005 or 2006."
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.