The temperature creeps around 100 degrees as I pull into the parking lot of a strip mall style complex build purposely for automotive use. In the distance I can hear the sound of racing engines coming from the circle track at the Orange show speedway where the Saturday night racers have begun their qualifying runs for tonight’s main event. As I open the door to my truck, I feel the heat, and smell the dust from the San Bernardino California climate, as I look over towards the front of the complex searching for the office of No Limit Engineering.
En route to the main office, I’m greeted by a Golden Retriever named “Scooter” as he performs his duty of welcoming me to the shop while looking for a hand out of any type of people food. Arriving at the front counter of the office two friendly looking girls are busy, answering phones, packing boxes, while controlling chaos, as they both greet me with a smile and ask if they can help me.
“I’m looking for Rob,” is my response to the girls’ question, which they rebut with “he’s out in the shop and will be right with you.” As I wait for him I’m able to take a look around at the surrounding area of the main office. Tall shelf’s flank one side of the room, filled with components waiting to fill orders from customers, while on the opposite side of the room is an assembly area, where a new chassis occupies a major portion of the showroom area. I’m drawn towards one of the large walls filled with photos, and magazine articles from the past which date back to the early 80’s. It’s entertaining to look at some of the styles and trends from the earlier decades that have been shaped by people like Rob with his influence, sweat and hard work.
Glancing throughout the photos and articles, you can’t help to notice the awards and trophies that he has accumulated over the years. Upon inspection of these awards, I was surprised to find a few with serious importance. Multiple awards from the F-100 nationals, a Goodguys Truck of the year award, and a whole collection of 1st place finishes from the Goodguys autocross challenge fill in the rest of the wall completing the look.
Suddenly I hear a voice say out to me, “I’ll be right there, I just want to finish cutting this part out on my machine” as I assume this to be Rob. After a few minutes the man with the same voice returns back into the room and introduces himself as Rob Macgregor. We shake hands as I think; wow this is the uber suspension engineer that loves old trucks, but then I say to myself, don’t judge a book by its cover, as we start out the interview with a tour of his 15,000 square foot facility. Playing part tour guide, part operations manager I can tell that Rob is a self made man as he shows me everything from the welding stations, to the frame jigs, to the machining area, where at each stop he contributes a little something to the production of each part made. I’m impressed of the array of new computer controlled equipment that is used just as hard as the old world fabrication equipment that complements the creations of parts built specifically to drive old trucks fast and hard. He begins to preach to me that most of the trucks that he makes parts for are sixty years old, so you got to make them right to last another sixty years. Moving on he tells me more about the shop area, but my mind can’t focus on what he’s explaining, as my curiosity wonders, “where did this guy come from and why does he care so much about trucks?”
It wasn’t until we sat down in the office where the answers to my curiosity began to be satisfied; there I was able to ask him about his roots and inspirations that continues to drive his passion to build parts for some of the most outstanding trucks that we see on the road and at the shows today. Not much to my surprise, Rob is a truck enthusiast through and though, but I wanted to know what turned a college graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, who had a career with a predominate company in the defense industry into the proprietor of a hot, dusty, and loud fab shop?
I learned that at an early age, Rob’s family moved from the surfside town of Huntington Beach California to the sleepy farm like community of Norco California, where back in the seventies Norco and the neighboring city of Corona was a wide open area filled with horse pastures and fruit orchards, a perfect place for a young kid to seek adventure everyday. He began to ride motorcycles on a daily basis, where he eventually started racing “flat track” at Corona raceway. Back in those times motorcycle racing wasn’t viewed as a career path, so in between school time and the events that he was involved with, Rob took a job cleaning up at a local machine shop not to far from his house. There he continued to seek information of all things mechanical while earning some money for motorcycle parts.
After graduation, Rob went off to a local college and continued to work odd jobs to help support a young man’s lifestyle. Just as most young men, fast cars and motorcycles distracted him of his studies which was very hard to ignore in Southern California at the time. Back then, Rob’s personal means of transportation was a 1956 Chevy pickup, which he showed me where it is still tucked away in one of the storage units in the back of the shop. I enjoyed hearing about his times in this truck as he shared with me the story of how he dreamt of opening up his own shop while he was late for a Chemistry final.
Rushing to get there on time he thought that he could cheat the next light so he gave his ol' '56 some gas and sped up to 70 or so. Just before the point of no return, the light turned yellow, where all he saw was brake lights ahead! Rob pushed on the clutch and pressed on the brakes -- NO BRAKES – the pedal dropped to the floor. He pumped frantically -- NO BRAKES! Looking for an alternative way to stop the truck he reached for the emergency brake handle but, the 9" Ford rear end had no e-brake cables hooked up so he down shifted the Munci to 3rd, - still going too fast! Downshift to 2nd - bad idea - too much load on the driveshaft so the front U-joint broke free and wasn’t equipped with a drive shaft loop. The drive shaft started to pound the asphalt and floor of the truck as traffic ahead had come to a stop. Last chance, pitch the ol' Chevy sideways and head into the grape orchards.
After a few plants and stakes, the driveshaft dug into the dirt, and folded under the axle snapping the pinion. But, it finally stopped. Afterwards, while trying to hitch a ride to school and make his Chem final, Rob thought about the physics of hot rodding which lead him to think about how brakes and suspension should be as important as tunnel rams and roller cams, plus to be able to go fast you have to have the confidence that you’ll be able to slow down and stop safely as well. So he set out to build the best brake and suspension systems for classic trucks and hot rods for himself at first, but it soon expanded to a select group of his friends.
Receiving his degree as an Electrical Engineer, Rob walked away from the defense industry to focus on building vehicles where in 1984 he made the decision to open up a shop to the public which he called No Limit Engineering. A few years later, he learned of a position on Nissan’s IMSA race team, which at the time was the underdog team of the GTP class. Little did he know that this team of guys would soon become the future legends of the sport that went on to win countless races including three consecutive ISMA GTP class championships in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Racing and professional work had been good to Rob, but his heart and soul was in his little fab shop. There he could engineer solutions to problems, and make classic pick up trucks fun and safe to drive at high speeds. Many of his innovations are still manufactured right in his shop in “San Berdoo” California. Being one of the heavy hitters of the F-100 world, Rob has proven his worth over the last 27years. Always a giver, he prides himself as the type of person that wants to help guys build and drive they’re dreams. Evidence of his generosity can be traced back to when he would build a chassis before every F-100 super nationals that he could attend only to turn around and give it away to one lucky show attendee. The best part was that this idea wasn’t just a one time publicity stunt, but a ritual that he did 10 years in a row.
By 2004 Rob and his No Limit crew put everyone in check by building the Goodguys Truck of the Year titled “The Princess.” Countless hours went into the engineering and fabrication of this bright orange meanie that even mimics an Autobot from the Transformers while on full display. By then all of his show winning creations contained No Limit’s “off the shelf” parts and accessories including his “Wide-Ride” / “Fat Bar” suspensions, “Tilt hood” kits, power brake solutions, and the line of aluminum fuel tanks.
Having proven himself on the show circuit, Rob yearned to go fast again, and in 2006 learned through a fellow industry giant, Bret Vokel from Ride Tech that a road-racing legend named Boris Said was looking to build a truck that he could play with on the weekends. So Boris and Rob collaborated on what was to become the No Limit “Big 10 Chassis.”
While Rob and his crew were working on the first Big 10, he began to think about how much fun it would be to build a truck to take customers in for joy rides. Upon learning about the efforts of the Goodguys event promoters forming the Goodguys Autocross challenge, Rob pushed for a truck class at all the events so when he sat down with event director Ed Capin and discussed the details, Ed asked Rob straight out, “will you show up with a truck?” Rob’s answer was “you bet! I’ll do anything I can to help promote it.”
So the decision to build a ’55 F-100 to compete at the events was made and three months later the truck dubbed “the silver bullet” entered its first event at the Del Mar Nationals. Its debut came with mixed reviews as the truck itself was not really a full assembly. Missing doors, a hood, running boards and the rear fenders, it looked more like “the silver cart”, more than a ’55 F-100. Having only been running a few hours before the event for the first time, the silver bullet took it’s first of many wins on the 2010 schedule earning an invitation to the Optima Ultimate Street Car challenge last November.
Never one to slow down, Rob has continued to research new ways to improve how trucks can perform. Unlike many of his competitors that keep their information a secret, sharing his knowledge is something that he takes a lot of pride in. Evidence of his selfishness can be seen at the track where most of the day you’ll find him with a infrared gun, recording tire temperatures or a measuring tape helping out fellow entries, and sometimes his own class competitors. He even offers his advice on the web where he curates a thread on www.67-72chevytruck.com site titled “Make it Handle.” There you can read where people have asked questions about how to improve their trucks handling. Rob enjoys answering their questions, in hopes to inspire more people to get out and drive their vehicles for fun. Proof again of his efforts is the No Limit Challenge that was held last November. This event is a “run what you bring” event, and was held at his home practice track, Adam’s Motorsports Park in Riverside California.
As time went on I asked him about his feelings on the current state of the industry and what was next for the No Limit crew. He took a pause, and responded; “you know, to keep things moving forward, (laughing) the ’67- 72 C-10 is kinda like the Camaro of the truck world, and we’re building a couple of killer ’67-’72 C-10’s that will be out next year but, the ’73 square-body is 38 years old, and was in production until ’87 so they’re starting to come on real strong as well, and as far as how the industry is doing after what has been dished out over the last few years, I have to say that the PPG Nationals in Columbus Ohio was packed this year which should be a good indicator of how strong the future looks.” He continued to add that he and his wife Tina have had a blast traveling around the country going to shows, meeting tons of new people, and driving the wheels off that silver Ford. “I can’t see the trips to shows and events slowing down anytime soon” he ended.
It just goes to show you that you really can’t judge a book by its cover, and that we need more guys like Rob figuring out new ways of allowing guys like us to have more fun with our trucks or as an example of how hard work does pay off. In this day and age it’s nice to see a guy like Rob, a guy that followed his passion by implementing his education and past experience to the greater good of his community while showing no resistance to try something new for a change, good or bad. The good fortune that he has created in almost 30 years of business has been the joy of his ideas becoming reality, the industry alliances, that have been created, and all the pictures to prove it. Along the way he has gotten into some trouble, and made some great friends while doing it, but his attitude has remained that you got to try something new to be remembered…
His main focus has been and always will be on brakes, steering and suspension.