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Beck's Original 8 Story HQ

Beck’s Original 8 Story HQ

Beck Distributing

Beck Distributing Corp. was founded in 1914 in New York City by a young man in his 20’s named Irving Beck. He saw a future in accessories and spare parts for motorcycles, which were starting to become popular. He started importing motorcycle accessories such as leather helmets, goggles, white scarves, leather gauntlets and riding suits.

When WWI broke out, he landed a contract to supply US Army with sidecars made in Australia for dispatch riders who provided communications on the battlefield. He had made his first big sale. After the war was over, Irving started to follow the rapidly growing motorcycle market with a catalog of repair parts and accessories. He established his headquarters at 68 East 131st street in Harlem section of New York City. His eight story building was soon filled with goods that he imported from England and other countries.

By the beginning of WWII, Beck Distributing was established as one of the leading suppliers of motorcycle parts and accessories in the US. Focused on British bikes such as Triumph, AJS, Norton-Villiers, they also cataloged parts for American bikes such as Harley-Davidson and Indian.

1947: The emergence of the import sports car

Inside Parts Warehouse

After the war, Americans had money to spend and wanted something new and different than the cars coming out of Detroit. A few British cars started trickling down from Canada such as the Austin Devon, Dorset, Morris Minor and then in 1947 the first MG-TC Roadster. Direct importing was soon established and the MG-TC and the MG-TD started the import sports car craze. British car makers were anxious to find U.S. distribution for their parts, so they went directly to the successful motorcycle parts distributor they had been selling for years – Beck Distributing. Beck was now in the auto parts business! Sports cars such as MGs were rode hard and needed a considerable amount of maintenance. Typically, these small 1250cc engines needed a valve job at 15,000-20,000 miles and at 40,000-50,000 often needed a complete overhaul. That was good news for Irving Beck! His business thrived and in the mid 50’s he started looking for more distribution. One of the first was Brigham-St. John, Inc. founded in 1954 in Los Angeles. Randy St. John, a partner in that firm, would later become President of Beck/Arnley Worldparts. Another was HNB Foreign Car Parts in Chicago, who opened its doors in 1960 under the ownership of Matt and Bob Niesen. The business rapidly expanded.

After the initial flood of British cars came the French – the Renault Dauphine, Peugeot, Simca and Citroen. Then the VW Beetle came in early 60’s. This car, more than any other, changed the automotive world forever. Over ten million Beetles were sold in the U.S. The birth of the Bug also spurred furious competition for the parts business, where none had been before, and suddenly it became an industry.

Acquisitions and Changes in Ownership

  • 1969: Beck Distributing merges with Arnley Brake Shoe Company, a company started in Pittsburgh in 1956.
  • 1972: Beck/Arnley has grown into 33 locations coast to coast, including eight distribution centers for motorcycle parts and a manufacturing facility in Pittsburgh.
  • 1979: The retail-wholesale stores were sold or closed and the motorcycle side of the business was shut down.
  • 1984: GKN purchases Beck/Arnley. They also purchase Worldparts, which was established in 1973 as an import division of Maremont. The decision is made to consolidate product lines and combine the two companies.
  • 1988: Echlin purchases Beck/Arnley Worldparts. Over the next few years, more purchases were made including Vera Imported Parts, EAP, and Lazorlite.
  • 1998: Dana Corporation purchases Beck/Arnley Worldparts.
  • 2005: Heritage Equity Group purchases Beck/Arnley Worldparts.
  • 2008: Uni-Select purchases Beck/Arnley.
  • 2015: Icahn Enterprises L.P. purchases Beck/Arnley.
  • 2016: Federal-Mogul Motorparts purchases Beck/Arnley.