When you walk into BBC, you can find hundreds of vintage parts from brands like ACDelco, Dorman, and so many more. You walk into the car and machine shop, and it's the cleanest shop you could ever see. Beautiful vintage cars that have been very well taken care of. Old pictures from back-in-the-day, drag races, vintage cars they own, and more. The BBC Shop is like no other, making them different from the rest.
BBC Speed & Machine, also known as Bontempo Brothers Competition Speed & Machine, has been based out of Linden, New Jersey, for 40+ years. Joe and Mike have built their business from the ground up, starting in their parent's garage to having had several shops, each one bigger than the last, magazine features, credibility, and liability that is just so hard to come by these days.
You're probably wondering what makes them so unique. Well, BBC specializes in restoring and maintaining classic and muscle cars, focusing on motor rebuilding, driveshafts, differentials, auto-to-manual conversions, and much more. They can do the car work, but they also specialize in fabricating and welding stainless steel or aluminum, bore & hone motor blocks, resurface heads, flywheels, etc. You can say that they are a jack of all trades!
Over their tenure, they have left an everlasting impact on many people in their industry. In Summer 2022, BBC will close its doors for retirement. With that, we knew we had to sit with them for one last interview before their farewell. As we sat down with Joe and Mike, many stories from the years brought them back, along with many bittersweet emotions.
How long have you guys been in business, and how long have you been at this location specifically?
Michael: Altogether, the business has been around for 45 years. We have been at this location (Linden) since 1990, so 28 years.
How did BBC come to be?
Joe: We used to race, and I was working in a factory. My brother was working with my father. We used to race and start doing stuff for other guys at the race track. And then just one thing went to the other, and then we decided to open a business. We started in my mother's garage, working after work. Then we rented a building in Roselle, and we worked after work there on weekends. Then we rented a building in Linden. By that time, we were full-time.
From Linden, we moved back to Roselle to a more prominent building. When we started the business, some shops did machine work, shops that did rear end and did transmissions and stuff like that. But there weren't that many shops that did the cars. So we decided just to do what we knew how to do, and that way, he (Joe) knew about the car parts and stuff, and I (Michael) knew about the machine working, throwing our heads together, and putting a business together.
Was it just you guys at first, or did you have other crew members?
Joe: No, it was just Michael and me for a long time. Once we started getting busier and busier, we hired more and more guys. At one time, there were 14 guys in Roselle. The optimum crew for this building is just about what we have now - about four to five people. We have a girl who helps us in the office, two mechanics in the back, one helper, and another guy who works part-time, assembling parts and machines.
That crew works the best because you're not stepping on one another, and everybody knows what they're coming in to do. They are all very good at what they do.
What issues have you guys been faced with running a speed shop over the years?
Michael: Well, we've always been able to find parts. That's one thing we always do. We spend time on the internet to track down carts for the older cars. We have gone to countless swap meets, yard sales, flea markets, and junkyards. People would close their stores, they’d call us, and we would go buy their inventory. That's how we ended up with most of the stuff that we have here, which has worked out well for a long time. Getting specific parts is a little bit more complicated because everything comes and goes. A lot of stuff comes from overseas, and the quality isn't there.
Sometimes you have to order some stuff that we don't have. You order, and then you have to wait. And while you're waiting, the cars sit. One of the bad things about this business is that the building is only so big - you can only put so many vehicles in the building. So if you have four cars down waiting on parts, it doesn't give you access to many others. You can't take a lot of other jobs because you've already got four cars in the building that are taking on space that are just waiting on parts.
Where did you find your success in the industry or business? What were your specializations?
Joe: It wasn't just one thing because we were able to do so many things. We were able to rebuild rear ends, fabricate, manual transmissions, and build our own drive shafts. We make a lot of metal products and do a lot of work for the auto industry as well as other shops. We have a lot of pokers in the fire because we have the equipment here to do it.
So whereas a lot of places specialize in one thing, which is not bad, we have the ability to be very versatile with different things. Some people come in here, and they just ask us to make this or that with metal work.
Are there any specific makes of cars that you guys like to gravitate to? What is your preference?
Joe: We do them all. We do GM, Ford, Chrysler, and most American-made cars. No foreign car work at all. We have a large following, mainly for GM cars. It just worked out that way. But we work on any type of muscle car.
Have you guys ever sourced parts from the Internet aside from Craigslist or eBay?
Michael: Once in a while, we'll get stuff from them not too often. We have been able to use websites like yours to buy something small. For example, we needed LED dashboards for a ‘69 Chevelle, but they don't sell vintage parts. So we use them once in a while.
How do you think that online auto parts sales will change the business in the future?
Michael: We can't compete with the prices. And all these places, they sell stuff a lot cheaper than we can buy them for.
Do you find that brand is important when it comes to parts?
Joe: Well, it depends on what part. I mean, if you're working on a GM car, an ACDelco vintage part is the best. Certain parts have certain brands that have the best fit. It seems that everything is made overseas these days, and the quality just isn't there. For instance, when you buy a bracket from a Chinese manufacturer, it's close, but no cigar. Do you know what I mean? It looks very similar, but it just doesn't fit.
A prime example: we just had a guy last week that bought all the brackets online from a reputable place, and they didn't fit. They came here, and we had all the right stuff here and sold them to the guy. The quality is not there.
What tools were instrumental to your craft? What is the most used tool in the shop for both of you?
Joe: Our hands. I can't say that I use one tool more than the other. We use all the tools and machinery almost every day.
Where do you guys see the future of muscle cars or speed cars?
Joe: It's a tough call. The industry is still significant, but there are no more shops like this in the area. Maybe you have to get out to Pennsylvania or further away like the midwest. We see a lot of side job scenes, guys that are working out of their house.
As a shop, we have to charge X dollars per hour to cover our insurance and other costs. These guys work in their backyard, garage, hut, or whatever, and they aren’t charging a regular shop labor cost.
When we finally ended, we had two big questions for Michael and Joe. First, do you think there is any value in saying that a car has been at this shop? Secondly, what will you do now that you’re retiring? They were modest in saying that they aren’t famous or anything, but people that know BBC know that their car has been in good hands.
Michael and Joe agreed that being in business for yourself sacrifices time and family life. They put their blood, sweat, and tears into their business through all of these years, and they understand that it’s time to take a step back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was an honor for us to be shown around the shop, look at old photos, and hear all of their stories.