The 26R at the Historics, August 2003
While weve known some of you since the very beginning over 35
years ago, and a lot more many of those years, the vast majority, our computer
says, have been around 10 years or less. This we put down to owner turnover,
longtime enthusiasts finally realizing their dream, and younger owners just
discovering the Lotus genius. Whatever the reason, Im told that a lot of
you may not know from whence we came. And since anniversary celebrations always
generate retrospective thought, heres a short history of Dave Bean
It all kinda happened by accident. I was working as an engineer in Southern California bomb factories and racing Lotus 7s and Elans in the late 60s and early 70s. Getting parts for a Lotus back then was tough, trick parts for a racing Lotus even tougher. Simple ones I made, the more complicated I designed and had made. Often times the right part was available in England, but getting the right part in a timely manner from an English manufacturer was (and sometimes still is) a challenge. I soon found I had a knack for designing simple (too dumb to make it complicated) and cheap (too broke to do it otherwise) components and dealing successfully with Brits (the patience of Job).
Because we won races, other competitors would seek us out for advice, parts, and finally engines. Back then, the best racing pistons for English Ford and Lotus engines were made by Hepolite, but were virtually impossible to find. A quick letter to them revealed that no, they had no one selling their racing pistons in the U.S. would we like to? I withdrew the $2500 from my savings account and put in a modest stock. A small ad in Autoweek quickly retired the inventory, and the profits were plowed back into more pistons. These, too, quickly disappeared, and we were soon moving $5,000 and $10,000 lots with great frequency.
Nobody seemed to have those really neat AP racing clutches either. So we bought some of those and found a ready market. We discovered a company called Spax, who made inexpensive (then) adjustable perch shock absorber and soon became their U.S. agent. We became unofficial Cosworth stockists by seeking out blown up formula car racers at the track and taking their orders for rebuild parts. After towing home Sunday night, wed ring Jack Field at Cosworth (Monday morning there) and place our order. If luck was with us, wed have it by weeks end, and as far as the racer knew, wed delivered it from our own stock.
Up to this point, it had been an after hours, hit & miss, out of the garage deal whose sole purpose was to supplement the racing budget. But it kept taking up more of our (by this time my wife, Roberta, was getting involved) spare time.
This was also about the time I was beginning to pick up rides in other peoples cars. But as often as not, a really good ride would slip away simple because I didnt know about it or was at work instead of at the right place at the right time. Obviously, what was needed here was a racing related business, so I could be at the forefront of racing happenings. This wasnt quite the leap of faith it sounds because by that time I was working as a consultant (this is where youre not good enough to be hired by a company, but they will give you a contract to tell them what theyre doing wrong). We moved into Pete Brocks shop in El Segundo, took on a bank loan and, unfortunately, an equal partner. It took off like wild fire. We soon had six employees, 14-hour days, and new term in our vocabulary: Negative Cash Flow. All race car projects got put on hold, and the company I started for the express purpose of furthering a racing career essentially ended it. Not until recently has there been enough time or funds to consider racing. The partnership soon soured, and we took this opportunity to make good our escape Los Angeles and start fresh in Santa Barbara. In dismantling the partnership, we gave/sold the AP clutch business to friend Mac Tilton, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our Lotus road car business came to be when Lotus Racing West, both a Lotus race and road car dealer in the Bay Area, decided to sell Volvos (?) instead and offered their parts inventory. We bid on the racing parts, but got the road car parts, too. This required that we do something about selling them. Modest ads in the Lotus club newsletters quickly dispersed them. So, now we had a market, but no supply. What now?
If I were to plan an environment for a budding business venture, I couldnt have done a better job than that provided by the 70s U.S. Lotus franchise system. The instability during this period provided literally both the market and the supply. Dealerships and distributors came and went with such frequency that it seemed like I was always being offered someones parts inventory at silly prices, of course. During all this football, the only reliable, day-to-day, year-in/year-out source for the car owner was us. What we couldnt get from the bankruptcy circuit, we would get after a little ingenuity revealed their identities from either the original source or an alternative, who, if bludgeoned hard enough with the quality control axe, would make a suitable facsimile.
Through it all, I always felt a little guilty. I loved the cars, respected the marque, and admired the ingenuity of the engineering. Yet here I was, peddling their parts on the side. I made a couple of efforts to go legit, but was rebuffed.
In 1978, Lotus came to us. Seems the new Esprit cooling and oil systems were shelling out engines faster than dealers or the distributor could rebuild them. Because we were both Lotusphiles and engine builders of some repute, we seemed the logical people to help with their little problem. I bid the job thinking it would be a nice supplement to our racing work. Imagine my surprise when an 18-wheeler pulled up and disgorged 16 greasy, burnt-looking lumps into our tiny shop! Over the next year, we did over 50 engines, short block, and cylinder head rebuilds for LCA. This may not seem like a lot until you consider that they had only sold 200-odd cars at the time. We soon found out we could offer something to the factory as well. A knowledgeable engine man seeing the failures in the field proved to be valuable feedback to continuous engineering and quality control. I was soon on first name basis with Tony Rudd, Graham Atkins, and Arnie Johnson.
We finally worked ourselves out of a job, but one of the bennies we got hooked on was direct access to Lotus parts. When Rolls Royce took over U.S. Lotus distribution, our casual alliance looked in jeopardy. Im afraid we really must insist, my good man, that you become a proper dealer to keep our parts deal. So we did. Its all very trendy, especially in Santa Barbara, to convert a funky old building to some modern retail purpose. In this case, we transcended funk and trend by converting the adjacent casket factory into the dealership.
Although we never considered ourselves car dealers in the proverbial sense, we did sell a fair number of cars. After 5 years, though, the bloom was definitely off Turbo Esprit sales, and we resigned our franchise and went back to what we did best selling performance and restoration parts for early Lotus cars and developing fixes and upgrades for the later models.
But the times, they were a-changin. While we had an extensive in-house machining and fabrication capability, we found that we were contracting out more and more manufacturing as both our quantity requirements and economical batch quantity for computer controlled machining converged. We ceased in-house car work and restoration on economical grounds. The city of Santa Barbara was becoming more expensive and adversarial to manufacturing. It was time to get outta Dodge.
In 1990 we moved lock, stock, and barrel to our current Sierra Foothills site. We hardly noticed the downsizing from a peak of 18 employees to 8. We still have a compact (one man) machine shop that still does minor manufacturing, but mostly it serves as a prototyping and R&D facility and race car fab shop. After 25 years, Im finally finishing what I set out to do! A major portion of our products come out of small shops tucked away in these hills. We use at least four CNC shops that are within a half-hours drive. Our aluminum foundry is 45 minutes away, and our iron foundry right here in town. Believe it or not, it is now cheaper having parts made here than in England OR Asia! We do still import parts from the U.K. Lotus factory parts, of course, and I still sell the Hepolite pistons that were our first product almost 40 years ago.
We are still a sucker for a Lotus parts inventory buyout. In 1996 we got the grand daddy of em all. Lotus Cars USA decided to divest themselves of all early Lotus parts (Elite/Eclat and earlier). We posted the winning (and possibly only) bid and got to spend the cold winter of 96/97 sorting a semitrailer full of parts. We were also appointed the official Vintage Lotus Parts Distributor for the U.S. and Canada. I much prefer being back in the fold. More direct pipeline for parts, quicker information, and Arnie and I can talk to each other on the record again.
Our new, leaner and meaner company now consists of myself and Roberta (spouse and accounting barracuda); Tom, Ken, and Daren (your friendly salesmen on the phone); Maggie (bookkeeper); Curtis (the shipper dude) and Paul and Corey the machinists. Still being trendy, our 8000 square foot warehouse is a converted lumber mill, the 2000 square foot machine shop is an ex-barn, and the 500 square foot race car garage was a ranch bunk house.
Our purpose in life is to supply the right part as quickly as possible, preferably from stock. We accept all major credit cards and use all popular parcel services. We accept orders via phone, fax, or internet although, due to the esoteric nature of most Lotus parts, sometimes voice contact is required. The name of the game is human contact. We will install a voice mail system over my rotting corpse!
We look forward to serving you another 35 years.
Dave Bean Engineering provides for you the most comprehensive selection of Lotus car, English Ford racer and Jensen Healey parts, from headlight to taillight, start to finish and all points in between. The purchase of Lotus Cars USA's complete vintage car inventory sets us apart as the official Vintage Parts Distributor for the United States and Canada. Our expertise in the Lotus line spans nearly thirty years and each technical sales employee has a comprehensive association with the Lotus marque.
Dave Bean Engineering is located in the heart of the Motherlode Gold Country, on Hwy 49 in San Andreas, California. No, no relation to the famous earthquake fault. San Andreas is a small, quiet town about an hour's drive south-east of Sacramento. Dave and Roberta Bean encourage you to take a drive into the beautiful foothills and purchase your parts direct. This saves on shipping, plus you can experience the area's adventurous history, exquisite wineries or a festive weekend faire, there is always something happening. We are open Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm. PT Phone: (209) 754-5802
Tommy Smith is our racing and engine expert. Though he never has much to say for himself, his credentials say it all. His experience extends through Formula Atlantic, Can Am, and Italian exotics and beyond to Lotus 7, Lotus 47, Europa S2 and his favorite, Morrises. Tom is highly qualified to help you with on and off street modifications or vintage British originals. He arrives to work early to better serve those on the East coast and allow himself longer afternoons for his own projects. Tom has solutions. Available for consultation, at a modest fee, of course. firstname.lastname@example.org
There are rumors that Ken Gray is still working to pay off his parts bill on this '69 S4, but it looks worth the sacrifice. What a beauty!!! Besides being an Elan and Europa owner, Ken also sports a Cortina fetish. He has become the indentured crew chief on Dave's 26R race car and is a whiz at electrical problems. His recent experience with Elan trim and mechanicals could help to save you time and money. Ken will gladly help you also, with any Lotus project. Give him a call or drop him a message. email@example.com
Daren Daren has returned to the fold. He has a
wide knowledge base in strange and unique british cars.
Direct your questions for Daren to firstname.lastname@example.org
And not to forget.....
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