Vintage Parts of Arizona-Est.1974
How It All Began
When friends Frank Pittenger and Wally Lassila took a weekend trip to Show Low Arizona to purchase some old car parts, they likely didn’t know where it would lead. With $151 in each of their pockets, they set off excitedly to purchase some Model A bodies, tops, and fenders. After acquiring their newly discovered treasure, they did what anyone does when they score a great haul...they set up at a local swap meet and sold it all!
What was next? Frank and Wally took all their earnings, reinvested in more rusty gold and did it all over again! With a few successful flips under their belts, they concluded that this could be a good side business. So, they set up shop as Vintage Ford Parts of Arizona. Being that Frank and Wally still had day jobs, the store was only open afternoons and weekends.
As the store grew in popularity, the hours expanded, and they realized they could use some help working the counter. Along came a young Frank Streff who had been busy working at another local Model A business that was closing its doors. Recognizing that same passion and drive that they both embodied, they swiftly hired Streff to run their parts counter. The store quickly turned from a side hustle to a solid 6 days a week full time business. And so Vintage Ford Parts would continue on that way, a busy growing shop that would supply the local classic Ford enthusiasts with quality parts and service.
The "Little House" Grows
After years of hard work and differing company visions, Streff eventually became the sole owner of Vintage Ford Parts of AZ in 1990. Frank’s wife, Mary, came on board soon after. Being active in the old car hobby herself, she brought a lot to the table. The shop would see many exciting changes in the next few years. from added inventory to expanding into Chevy car and truck parts, plus a full Hot Rod Line. Soon, "Vintage Ford Parts of Arizona" became "Vintage Ford and Chevy Parts of Arizona."
It was around this time that Dave Sexton and Brian Benzing came along. Like Frank, they were full of passion and knowledge of vintage cars and trucks. They were a perfect fit for the business. Before long, Vintage Ford and Chevy Parts of Arizona was bursting at the seams of the little house on McDowell, and it was decided that it was time to build a bigger and better store. The new building was already in the planning stages when Frank got the call from Pete Chapouris.
In 1998, Pete Chapouris, Alex Xydias and the newly reestablished SO-CAL Speed Shop were looking for a few good men (and woman) to expand into SO-CAL stores. Frank and Mary were invited to Pomona to talk business. It was a perfect fit; they soon became SO-CAL Speed Shop Arizona. With the new bigger building SO-CAL-AZ and Vintage Ford & Chevy Parts was fondly referred to by Alex and Pete as the “Flagship” of the company. It was even featured on the cover of Hot Rod & Performance 2001 buyers guide as the retail store of the year. Vintage Parts of Arizona would go on to be So-Cal-AZ for 22 amazing years!
"More Than A Hot Rod Shop"
Although VPA was now a part of SO-CAL Speed Shop, Frank and the crew thought it important to put their own spin on the shop by branching off in whatever ways they could to be an asset to the vintage automobile community. One of VPA’s most successful endeavors has been their monthly Second Saturday event that has been happening now for 13 plus years! Every Second Saturday of the month at 6a.m. the store opens its parking lot for a car show, shu-box swap meet, and free coffee and donuts for everyone. It has been a great way to stay active in the community, see new and old friends and admire the results of hard work put into the vehicles that attend. Rain or shine, hot or cold it has been a huge success and is enjoyed by young and old alike.
Vintage Parts of Arizona also hosts educational seminars and How-To workshops a few times a year with companies such as Vintage Air, Classic Instruments, Ride Tech, and Dakota Digital bringing their knowledge and expertise to enthusiasts. The team at Vintage Parts believes it is important to add value to product sales with complimentary events such as these and takes pride in having a knowledgeable staff with great customer service. These are just a few of the ways that make them “More than a hot rod shop.”
The Benzing's Take the Wheel
In 2017 Frank Streff and his wife Mary made the decision to move out of the driver’s seat, so to speak and handed the keys over to long time trusted manager Brian Benzing and his wife Angie. Brian Benzing, having been Frank’s right hand man and an integral part of the shop for over 25 years was a perfect fit to continue the Vintage Parts of Arizona Legacy. Brian said, "Angie and I are excited for all the adventures this new road has to offer. With such great examples as Frank and Mary; in all they do, we are prepared and excited to take this trip, full throttle."
They did just that! Brian and Angie brought on more members to the crew, adding to the wealth of knowledge that their team boasts. Brian also took on a full restomod project in 2017 when he purchased a 1965 Chevy Malibu. They documented the whole build on social media so everyone could follow along with the #MondayMalibu progress. The crew used parts that they sell at the store and it’s been a great way to showcase so many great brands.
"Back To Their Roots"
The biggest change would come in 2021. After much thought and deliberation, Brian and Angie decided to take the business down yet another exciting road! On April 1st, 2021, it was announced that So-Cal-AZ would be transitioning back to its roots. Back to where it all started in 1974, with a couple of pals going to pick up some vintage parts, So-Cal-AZ would now be known as Vintage Parts of Arizona.
There's something to be said about embracing the past, taking what you have, stripping it down and restoring it to what it was or hopefully making it even better. Isn't that what this old car hobby is all about? Many exciting things would happen in 2021, like releasing the company’s new logo along with new apparel and a revamping of the shop’s exterior.
The shop has seen many changes over the last 4 decades but through it all, Vintage Parts of Arizona remains the same in so many ways. VPA is still a group of friends who love passing along a deal to fellow classic auto enthusiasts. The business has expanded, crew members have come and gone, the keys to the office have changed hands a few times but Vintage Parts of Arizona has remained a staple in the classic automotive community and they plan to continue proving themselves to be, “More Than a Hot Rod Shop.”