July 29--You might never see them, but you sure do need them, especially if you own a hot rod, classic truck or muscle car.
They are stainless-steel fuel tanks made by hand by an El Paso company called Rick's Fuel Tanks & Accessories.
The father-and-son shop is owned by Hector Guerrero and his 28-year-old son, Rick Guerrero.
"We put a huge emphasis on staying local because we live here, first and foremost," Hector Guerrero said. "We employ people who are local. We buy our raw materials locally, but our sales are zero locally."
The clients for the Guerreros' fuel tanks can be found in 14 countries on five continents.
"We bring in money into the community, we employ within the community, we support local business but yet our money comes from elsewhere," said Hector Guerrero. "In 10 years, we've probably sold 12 tanks locally."
He said the interest is simply not here.
"You have to consider the culture here," he said, "If we sold dresses for quinceaneras or weddings, we would probably be the best at it. Or if we had a tortilla factory, we would be the best. But for fuel tanks? There isn't a market for that here."
Carlos Chong, owner of Jalopy's Rod & Custom at 908 Tony Lama, is one of the few El Paso businesses that use Rick's Fuel Tanks & Accessories.
"Sometimes we'll order a complete tank, but it all depends on the customer," said Chong, whose shop services vehicles for fabrication and restoration. "Everybody is going with modern engines. We're using a lot of high-tech engines, transmissions and drive trains and adding them to the old cars. They are required to have fuel tanks that are equipped with a fuel pump inside specifically for fuel injection."
Chong, who worked with the Guerreros about 10 years ago, has a background in building NHRA dragsters and Corvettes.
"They've become pretty successful at building those stainless-steel tanks," he said. "There is a big demand for it now because pro-touring racing is getting bigger. They are using muscle cars and making them into road race cars, and they are using a lot of his tanks."
Rick's Tanks and Accessories grew from a 1,500-square-foot garage to the 4,000-square-foot building it now owns.
Hector and Rick Guerrero were renovating classic cars at their first shop, called Rick's Hot Rods.
"Restoring cars was great, and it paid he bills for a while, but we were becoming dependent on paying our bills from our customers paying their bills," Rick Guerrero said. "Because of that, we looked at the market and saw a void for stainless-steel gas tanks."
A friend of the Guerreros', who was a dealer for another fuel tank manufacturer, knew they could produce quality tanks.
"He told me they were 13 to 14 weeks behind on his orders, so he asked us if we could do it," Rick Guerrero said. "We did the first one, placed a small magazine ad, and it just snowballed from there."
Rick's Fuel Tanks & Accessories caught the eye of Tim Strange, the host of Spike TV's series "Search & Restore," a show about completing unfinished projects and restoring classic cars.
"Tim Strange is actually a friend of mine I met at one of the car shows I attend to show our wares," Rick Guerrero said. "He had contacted me last season and asked me if we could be a part of it, and I said of course and we sent out a tank. I wasn't available to be on the show, but I told him next time he needed anything to let me know."
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