Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Beck 904 A7
Racy Story

The birth of the wide-body Beck 904 GTS

As told by John Mathys

Photos by Mike Roemer Photography Inc

Even though there are a lot of thoroughbred cars in my stable, I was looking for something extra special to run track days. Great circuits near me like Road America in Elkhart Lake (Wisconsin), Autobahn in Joliet (Illinois) and Blackhawk Farms in South Beloit (Illinois) would be best experienced in a classic European sports car, but it had to be something unique. It was all because of my upbringing.

I grew up in a family that was in the automotive business, which left me with a deep addiction to everything with engines and wheels. My earliest exposure to cars came from hanging out at my granddads’ and uncle’s machine shop and auto parts business. This experience led to a full-time summer job, mixing paint and delivering auto parts to body shops and auto centers around the Green Bay, Wisconsin, area.

While growing up, I was exposed to so many cool shops with hot rods and muscle cars. I even met a secret Ferrari, Alfa and Lamborghini mechanic just outside of Green Bay. I soon became obsessed with everything automotive, especially European cars of the day.

When I was 12 years old, for instance, my good friend’s father bought a Maserati Ghibli, and we were in charge of stripping the paint to get it ready for a fresh respray. If that doesn’t get a kid hooked on European cars, I don’t know what would.

Over the years, I worked hard and always kept my dream of having a killer car collection. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, my business partners and I built a thriving dental supply business called Dental City. Fortunately, with our success came the ability to acquire some collectable cars. Over the years, I have hunted down great finds and have built a small collection of cars that includes a 1967 Porsche 911, 1969 Camaro Z/28, 1969 Porsche 911 Outlaw, 1974 De Tomaso Pantera, 1977 Ferrari 308 GTB, 1979 Dino Ferrari 308 GT4, 1980 Porsche 911 (backdated to an RS), 2004 Lamborghini 12-cylinder Murciélago, 2005 Lotus Elise — and now a Beck 904 GTS. Why the latter?

When deciding to build a track-day car, I wanted something different — something vintage, fast, reliable and easy to maintain. It also needed to draw attention, lots of attention. I think I’m stuck in the 1960s and early 1970s when it comes to most of my cars, so when it came to a track car, I knew it had to be something vintage-cool.

While looking around one day, I stumbled on a video of Chuck and Randy Beck with a recreated Porsche 904. When I saw the car in photos and videos, I just couldn’t shake the car from my mind. I had to have one!

So I contacted Chuck while on a business trip to Atlanta, and he picked me up at the airport and took me to his shop. We spent over four hours together, talking about the car and taking it out for a spin. I was hooked.

After Chuck dropped me off, I remember saying, “That’s it, I’m in!” It was funny because everyone I told about the car was really doubtful of what I was doing. I didn’t care; I was having them build me my dream car.

My wife, Diane, and I then traveled to Bremen, Indiana, home of Special Edition, and met with Carey Hines and Randy to discuss the build. At that time, Randy’s one-off, wide-body car was in the shop. I remember seeing Randy’s car for the first time, and it was blow-your-mind cool, so I asked Carey and Randy if they’d be willing to build me a wide-body production car. With a little coaxing and a deposit, the deal was cemented and the schedule was set for the first production 904 GTS wide-body competition model.

Working with Carey and Randy was great, with only one minor complaint. You have to be patient because there’s a waiting list, but it’s worth it. Special Edition has roughly a two-year build time for 904 GTS cars. The company produces cars for customers all over the world — Japan, Europe and the U.S. — and even one for famous McLaren-designer Gordon Murray.

The Beck 904 GTS is really a spec-built, one-off street/race car. It has a combination monocoque and tube chassis and is an interpretation of a 1964 Porsche 904 race car. Chuck honed his chassis craft working with Carroll Shelby and the famous Shelby racing team.

Much of the chassis design is based off a Chevron race car, fitted to the body shape of a Porsche 904. Chuck told me he designed the car for himself after a failed attempt to buy a real Porsche 904. It’s a great story; one of many Chuck will tell you if you manage to spend a bit of time with him.

This car is spec’d to my personal request with wide-body flares, fully adjustable race suspension and custom-built Fuchs RSR wheels built by Randy at Special Edition with BBS halves. After spending hours looking at silvers and color combinations, I chose Polar Silver with a vintage race livery. I drove my wife crazy looking at silver paint swatches and interior leathers and designs before, believe it or not, I ended up painting it the same color as Randy’s car. I just loved Randy’s car, and I didn’t want to screw it up. Now, I love my car!

Stefan Schleissing from GTS Classics built a set of one-off, lollipop-style seats in black with orange pinstripes with Italian leather bolsters. The cockpit is finished off with 356 carpeting, a Wevo shifter, vintage Porsche gauges and a Momo steering wheel. Adding in safety for the track is a custom roll cage with removable door bars, a fire suppression system and Crow Enterprizes racing harnesses. It was important to have the car as safe as possible for track days, but I still want to occasionally drive it on the street.

For the drivetrain, I sourced a 915 Porsche transmission that was rebuilt by Rancho Performance and a recently built 3.2-liter engine that was punched to 3.4 liters. Well, maybe a slight bit more, as it produces an estimated 290 hp. That might not sound like a lot, but the car only weighs 1,745 pounds, wet. So needless to say, the car is quite fast with that kind of power-to-weight ratio. I’ve pulled away from my business partner’s Superformance Roush 427 Cobra, so I’m very happy with the pace of this car.

Only having the car for a short period, I’m still sorting out some details, as is to be expected, prior to putting it on the track. To date, I’ve driven about 500 miles on the road and shown the car at a few events, including the Elkhart Lake Vintage Concours d’Elegance. While there, I couldn’t believe the positive feedback on the car. One of the people staging the vehicles said to me, “This is by far the coolest car yet!” I was pumped.

As for my friends, well, they may have been skeptical previously, but they have all been blown away by my reincarnation. My buddy Dan Newel helped me pick up the car, and when we walked in and first saw the completed project, he was blown away by the quality, fit and finish. He was not expecting to see a car of this caliber. Looking wide-eyed at me, he blurted out, “I had no idea you were having a hand-built, spec’d race car built by true artisans. These guys are building cars at a high level.”

To me, cars are kinetic art, and my Beck 904 GTS is one of the most stunning representations of this concept that I have ever seen — a true masterpiece.

Comments for: Racy Story

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like