Many years ago a customer had brought the wounded M5 into Checkpoint, and then never returned. After two years of not being able to reach the owner, Beck was worried that the car would become a permanent fixture in his shop’s parking lot, and so took out a mechanic’s lien on the car. After a short while, the car was his, and that’s how he came to own a $73 M5 ($73 was the filing fee for the mechanic's lien). To this day, many years later, the man still hasn't ever called back. Beck suspects he passed away.
Steve got his start wrenching for a living in 1978 whilst working at GT International, and then two other independent garages where he was exposed to the foreign cars of the time, including Italian marques and of course, BMWs, which were really starting to achieve success in America thanks to the 2002, E21 3 Series, and E12 (first of the 5 series) models. From there, it was all BMW–Steve worked a succession of positions at various BMW dealers in the Los Angeles area (including “world famous” Beverly Hills BMW), and it is where his path seemed to crisscross with that of another mechanic, Chris Toppenberg. At one point Chris was Steve’s apprentice at a dealership, and at another Chris was Steve’s supervisor. The men became friends, and in 1994, the two struck out their own claim, along with Steve’s brother, David, founding Checkpoint Automotive.
Steve doesn’t do too much of the wrenching himself on BMW’s anymore, reserving his time in the service bay for when trusted clients with non-BMW’s come in. Beck mentioned an '80s Porsche 911 that would soon be appearing at the shop, and said he preferred to take care of these cars himself. It also helps to keep his skills sharp. When he isn’t doing that he prefers to get into the shop early in the morning to greet customers, find out what problems they're having with their cars, and oversee the shop. And somewhere in between, when there is free time to be found, he works on that collection of vintage Ford steel which, as much as he can, he builds himself. That’s why you might be slightly jarred when you think you're taking your BMW to a repair shop, and see 1920s Fords everywhere. “When you build a car, it's your own,” he says. His philosophy also extends to how the car goes together, saying it is “gratifying to take a bunch of pieces [that are original and used to be part of other Fords] and put it together,” versus buying new parts from a catalogue, something many can do with these old Fords.
Whether for BMWs, old Fords, or a particularly sweet Shelby, Checkpoint Automotive seems to provide a refuge of sorts both for Beck's cars and others'. Just see for yourself.