03-18-2012, 10:54 AM
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Eastern US
Total Cats: -5
Finished the season and decided to try something different. I talked to Bernie about a different set-up with 450/275 springs vs. the 700/325.
I also had experienced delays (like most here) so I said -----it! I'm going down there and meet the man behind the hoopla (quality-wise not business-wise).
The dude is only 600 miles away, a day's drive from my pad. Let's set a date and do this. Done. The weather was predicted to be nice, so it was done. Found a cheap hotel that did not rent by the hour and started the trip. Drove out Thursday and returned Saturday.
Well besides the obvious (loose nut somewhere), when I was a kid, I would ride my bike cross-town to meet my friends and get into mischief. I wanted to see the man behind this wonderful product that one can get in 2 weeks or 6 months (depends on how the planets align). Some folks are better at running a business than others, and the chatter here left me un-clear about some details. I wanted to understand what farnorthracing.com was talking about. I wanted to experience this from a builder not in a short phone-call, but by actually going through the ins and outs. The secrets I learned will stay with me for the most part. Some I will share if they benefit you and not hurt Bernie. So what better way to accomplish this than a face-to-face? And a handshake?
10 1/2 hours later I arrive in High Point, NC home of SD;
Stopped by the shop first where I met Bernie and Britney, both nice folks;
Did a quick tour and headed out for the hotel (I was beat) as I was eager to get out of my smelly Mazda 2;
Met Bernie and started going over the details: Bilstein vs Penske (he does both); His background; Why the delays; What goes wrong; Secrets of Bernie vs. Others; Customer Priority;
At lunch we headed over to Petty's Garage; Met a bunch of great folks there also: John Hayworth (sells and re-builds Brembo as well as other brakes) and a few other characters. We ended up a few hours there after which we stopped to pick up some take-out (no time to sit) and headed back to work on more shocks;
We spent 4-4 1/2 hours rebuilding my shocks; Yes it took that long, and Bernie is ------- quick: he knows what he is doing. He ended up dyno-ing and re-building one of the shocks about 5 times over until it came out perfect (in case you noobs wonder how he gets them matched so well). This is why he can do better financially if he can batch them and do 40 sets in a good week. I saw a whole bunch of used shocks that customers sent in for re-valves and was amazed by the amount of damage on the parts. I asked him how he can make money by replacing so much ----. He smiled because I now understood. He tries to get for free or buy for cheap donor shocks. He said that if he did not do this, folks would just buy new and live with them. Then I understood why other folks in this business need to sell features. I mean, why pay Bernie 300-1000 for a rebuilt when you can buy new for 450-1,000? So unless you want that special magic, there is no business case here. He does get business from customers that win races with his product and those take priority. Re-valving a set of new shocks is better than used. Re-valving Penskes is easier than Bilsteins (you get what you pay for). Bernie uses some custom tooling to allow him to get to the precision he gets.
So, we chatted some about other issues and opportunities, I grabbed my secret shocks and split.
I think I drove home. I detoured over some really nice NC, VA side roads and the BRP and Skyline Drive and 340 and somehow I found myself home holding a nice Brown beer some 13 1/2 hours later.
Secret Tip: How do you go faster in a Mazda 2? Do not slow down for the turns!
Install to be done in the next few weeks (I am waiting for another set from Bernie). Results will be posted. I will also update my other thread and share thoughts after one season I completed on his first dampers/shocks.