In 1997 I was in my buddy Scott’s garage building a Baja bug. We were using his dad’s leftover race car parts so we could race at Glen Helen. After two months of wrenching the only thing missing was seats. We had ordered a set when we started the build, but they took so long we decided to make our own. I welded up a few seat frames and went around to local upholstery shops to see if I could get someone to sew up the inner-liner and cover for me. We made two for our car, and six more to see if we could sell them and make a couple bucks.
After we had our butts handed to us at Glen Helen, I loaded those 6 seats in the back of my 1994 Ford Ranger and headed to B&R Buggies in Oceanside. Gary at B&R said he had been waiting for an order of seats for a while as well, so he would buy our 6 seats. If we could make some more he would take them too. I went back to Scott’s garage and told him we needed to come up with a business name because we were going to start making seats.
This was only a few days after my 21st birthday. Since I grew up going to Ocotillo Wells, the first thing I had to do when I turned 21 was going to the Iron Door Bar and sign up to be an Official Asshole. With my membership dues paid, we sat in the bar and Scott came up with the name Premier Racing Products. At the time we were going to make shocks and other suspension parts and we thought Premier Racing Products was a good name that would allow us to make several parts, however, PRP Seats is what stuck.
For the next 4 years, PRP struggled along, making seats in the corner of Scott’s parent’s plastic business and in garages. The new Long Travel Dune Buggy market was taking off and PRP was along for the ride.
From a Hobby to a Business
In 2001 Scott and his parents made plans to move on. So my wife, Velinda, and I decided we would take PRP over and run it out of our garage. At the time I was working at an Accounting office in downtown San Diego. Velinda just had our first child, so she worked her ass off running PRP and taking care of our newborn daughter. We had a guy named Javi sewing in our sun room patio, and I was assembling seats in our garage at night after I got home from work.
In 2002 we got a call from the guys at Kartek Off Road, they were ready to switch seat suppliers. So I went up for a visit, took an order, and left there with $6000 cash. I had never held that much money in my life. I ran home to my wife so excited, telling her I think we can take a chance at running PRP full time and I can quit my job.
From 2002 to 2007 the industry saw huge growth and with the housing bubble came $100,000 sand cars. Everybody had one. We were making seats as fast as we could and, since money was no object, we did all sorts of crazy stuff. We made seats with Tour Bus fabric, Crushed Velvet, Velour, Seat heaters, and even Seat Massagers built in. It was a very exciting time to be in the off-road industry.
The UTV Era
In early 2005 the guys at Rhino Craft came by the shop and asked me to make seats for the Yamaha Rhino. I thought they were crazy. No one that seriously off-roads would ever buy a 4 wheel drive golf cart! I was totally wrong.
2008 to 2012 was a struggle for PRP. The economy was slow, off-roading was not a necessity for most, and we felt it. But that Yamaha Rhino had sparked a new industry and in 2008 Polaris announced the RZR and the off-road industry will never be the same because of it. The UTV ended up being the savior for PRP Seats.
In 2011 I hired the first in-house sales guy PRP ever had. Jason Hayden came on and worked the phones like a madman, calling Polaris dealers all across the country and spreading the word about PRP. Since we shared an office I got to hear him answer all of the questions. Who is PRP? What are suspension seats? Why do my customers need those? We were still a small company, so not many people knew PRP or saw the value of aftermarket seats.
By the end of 2012, we had an amazing but scary opportunity in front of us. Polaris was going to build a special edition RZR, and they wanted to use our seats. The potential order was going to be a massive amount of seats. I knew how many seats we made back in 2005-2007, so I knew we could handle the volume, but we were going to have to make these seats at or below cost.
After thinking about it for a week or two, we thought we should do it as long as we could put our name on those seats. It would answer all of the questions Jason was getting. Who is PRP? What is a suspension seat? Well, it’s the seats that are sitting in the Jagged X RZR in your showroom. We are PRP and we made those. The response we received was overwhelming. Now dealers were calling us asking if we made seats that will fit their other RZR’s. We took off from there.
We developed a whole line of products for the RZR’s. Some came from customer suggestions, others came from personal experience.
Probably the biggest idea came while I was on a RZR ride from Barstow to Vegas, to Laughlin, and back to Barstow. The entire time the side of my knee was smacking against the door. I was stuffing jackets and anything I could to stop it, but by the end of the ride my knee was bruised and bleeding. The very next day in the office we designed a Door Bag with a Knee Pad. A few weeks later we took it to Rally on the Rocks and it was a huge hit.
2013 to 2017 has been an awesome ride. PRP has grown to over 60 employees, and we have the best crew. Our rapid growth has thrown our team some curve balls but we always try our best to stay humble, stay honest, and listen to our customers. We have always been very customer focused, listening to suggestions and letting those suggestions guide our product development and services. So I want to thank all of our customers and vendors for supporting PRP throughout the years and helping us become the company we are today.