Well-known automotive parts supplier Howard "Ralph" Eckler, 74, the owner of Eckler Industries, died April 23.
In 1961, Eckler's company — then called Eckler’s Corvette Parts — started as an outgrowth of a one-man body shop that he operated in Rock Island. In 1972, Eckler published his first parts catalog and it became a hit with Corvette owners.
Eckler loved Corvettes and turned his skills in fabricating Corvette parts and accessories into a successful company with a worldwide reputation. Eckler was inducted into the Bloomington Gold Corvette Hall of Fame. By 1973, the company had grown larger and moved to Titusville, Fla.
In 2002, Eckler’s moved into new products. It acquired leading companies that supplied Chevrolet and Ford restoration parts. Eckler’s also became a supplier of restoration parts and accessories for Porsche and Mercedes.
The company achieved success in the non-Corvette niches by acquiring other firms and building and improving on their expertise in a particular car or product line. It then applied its own marketing and sourcing experience to grow the acquisitions. Ralph Eckler felt that this was a way to blend the specialized support of a small company with the pricing and shipping speed of an industry leader. In addition to its headquarters in Titusville (10 miles from the Cape Kennedy Space Cente), Eckler’s also maintains a warehouse in Lockport, N.Y.
Eckler was also a fishing enthusiast. One of his most notable achievements was winning the Bahamas Billfish Championship in Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas by landing a 1,030-lb. Blue Marlin. He held the record for many years. He also enjoyed NASCAR races.