Bright Lights, Big Rigs
Published on Sun, Aug 25, 2019
By: Glenn Oyoung
Big rigs and classic cars combine in one visit to UPI’s Long Beach headquarters
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if you know United Pacific Industries then you might just be a big rig driver or a classic car owner. If not, you may not have heard of UPI as its customers and dealers commonly refer to it.
Since procuring the Carcadia at Route 66 x LA Car “Banana Boat” ’57 Chevy, I have been exposed to many new companies that I didn’t know about. As a 90’s import tuner I’ve traded Options Auto Salon and Autobacs for Danchuk and Summit Racing.
One of the first new suppliers was UPI, after I realized that modern drivers are used to modern brake lights. The original taillights on my ’57 were not bright enough to get people to actually decelerate which as you can imagine was a problem. I turned to Google and soon became a UPI customer, picking up LED brake lights and a LED and Halogen headlight conversion kit. I’m a fan of not being rear-ended and also being able to actually see at night and the new UPI lights did the trick.
When UPI’s PR agency invited me to head down and have a chat with their marketing team, they were pleasantly surprised that I knew who their client was. Turns out, I’m not alone — UPI has a loyal following amongst classic car buffs as well as the nation’s semi-drivers. Jai Baek, UPI’s marketing and creative director showed me around the facilities and walked me through the company’s history.
Anything but the dog or cat
UPI’s roots are in big rig lighting and big rig accessories. Prior to my visit I didn’t realize that UPI had such a large stake in that industry. As we walked through the warehouse I caught a glimpse of trays of chrome spike lug nuts that always remind me of Ben Hurr, which prompted Baek to share with me that the big rig drivers are loyal enough to UPI to buy branded blankets and hats. Responding to my surprise, he shared “Anything for trucks, we have it — anything but the cat or dog.”
Responding to my surprise, he shared “Anything for trucks, we have it — anything but the cat or dog.”
I was blown away to learn that UPI has about 26,000 products for big rigs compared to over 7,000 for classic cars.
Bright Lights, Big City
From there, it was a “natural transition” into classic car lighting for UPI. The owners are classic car fans. The biggest movers today are LED headlights and taillights like the ones I bought, followed by interior lights (think dome lights), and third brake lights.
As lighting technology advances in modern cars, the opportunity is there for UPI to bring that into the classic car world. A cool example is the integrated LED turn signal mirrors that UPI is now producing. I could see that being very popular, especially since so many classic cars are big and relatively hard to maneuver — anything that gives the impatient drivers in modern cars a heads-up is good for both parties.
… anything that gives the impatient drivers in modern cars a heads-up is good for both parties.
UPI has offered steelbody panels for the Model T and 32 Ford for many years now. The measurements are taken here in the states and sent overseas to factories in Taiwan for production. According to Baek the idea is to not only replicate the parts, but to make things like fit and finish better by using modern engineering and production methods.
I was greeted by a beautiful duo of rides in UPI’s lobby that reflect the company’s past and future. A Roy Brizio-built 32 Ford is joined by a Maxlider-built Ford Bronco that debuted at SEMA last year.
The Bronco is a really interesting product line, especially given the amazing Bronco builds coming out of places like ICON 4×4. Those of us who are not emirates or start-up CEOs can still get a cool Bronco build going thanks to UPI’s Bronco parts. You still need to supply a chassis, the engine, and a drivetrain. UPI has you covered when it comes to the body panels, lights, and much of the trim. Add a resto-mod Bronco to my bucket list.
As I walked around UPI’s operations I was struck by the interesting combinations that run afoot:
- big rig trucks and classic cars
- old-school car culture and state-of-the-art engineering, manufacturing, and fulfillment
- cultural melting pot of influences — for example, the Ford Bronco and 32 Ford with the biggest Chinese good luck statue I have ever seen in a company lobby
As I walked around UPI’s operations I was struck by the interesting combinations that run afoot
It seems it’s those unusual combinations that make UPI so successful where it plays. In the case of UPI’s Bronco line and their expanding C10 line, I expect more and more people to discover the company. These two venerable marquees in the off-roading and truck world continue to grow in popularity with the hipsters who are just coming of age and able to afford project rigs. If they are anything like me, they will want to outfit their projects with modern conveniences… and avoid being rear-ended by non-gearheads who are used to things like LED indicator lights.
For more information on UPI, visit upauto.com
To see UPI’s Ford Bronco line, download their Bronco brochure.