When you here the name Dick Cepek, you automatically think off-road. Dick Cepek the man was an avid adventurer and outdoorsman that enjoyed hunting, fishing and all types of outdoor activities. Once he moved out west exploring the south western desert regions and becoming an off-road enthusiast was part of a natural evolution. From there, he grew his passion into a business that eventually turned into a large aftermarket off-road accessory company items such as tires, lights, suspension as well has his trademark "Baja Proven" camping supplies for all types of vehicles and atvs.
Dick Cepek first moved to South Gate, Ca in 1959. He acquired a Land Rover to explore the local southern California deserts. While he was out exploring the terrain, Dick soon realized that the tires that were available in those days were not suitable for the type of terrain he was encountering in the local deserts; he kept finding himself in difficult situations whether having a flat tire or sinking in the soft sand. So it all began with him calling countless manufactures to find or have built a street legal wide tire. Eventually, he finally came across Armstrong tire and discovered that they had a farm implement tire that might meet his needs and he convinced them to have it DOT approved. The tire was called the Hi-way Flotation tire, which was introduced in 1961. The next issue he ran into was not having a wheel wide enough to fit this wide of a tire, however Dick found a local wheel builder to build what he needed and this is where his legacy began. Dick, being an enthusiast, also had many friends with the same passion and wanting to travel to the same places as him. He started by selling the wheels and tires to his friends and other enthusiasts out of his garage. In the beginning he didn't sell to make a lot of money but just enough to take himself and his family out on the weekends not only to play and explore new areas of the desert without getting stuck but to feed his passion as an off-road adventurer.
In 1963 Dick Cepek, with his wife Dottie and son Tom, with the Washburn family took the tires on their vehicles for the ultimate test. They drove the length of the Baja peninsula totaling 1000 miles. At this time Dick Cepek was so impressed with the tires that he coined the phrase "Baja Proven". To him this was the ultimate test of any product that he sold and kept on his shelves. Dick went back to the peninsula in 1966 with a friend Ed Pearlman to tackle the trail once again. This is officially the first "Baja 1000". Dick and Ed finished in second place. Next year when he went back he ran into disaster when a hurricane stopped them in their tracks and they stayed in a foxhole until it passed. This was the last time he raced in that event.
Not long after his last experience on the Baja Peninsula, Dick opened the doors to the first real "Off Road" retail shop in 1967. Not only did he sell a wide variety of wide off-road tires and wheels, he started selling everything associated with off-roading. He sold jacks that would work in soft sand, desert survival books, tents, auxiliary lights and anything and everything required for successful trip into the desert. After four years of opening the doors of his first store, Dick Cepek Inc became an international seller, selling his products to foreign countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Italy and the Middle East. Two years later he started a Wholesale division, to distribute products to other local retailers and to far off lands. This became an immediate success, due to his aggressive catalog and advertising program. Shortly after the opening of the wholesale division, he opened the doors to the second retail location in El Cajon, Ca. From there, it becomes history. He opened multiple stores in the Southwest region of the United States; also in 1988 opened a "Dick Cepek" retail store in Japan.
Dick Cepek continued to develop his own branded tires with the emphasis on performance and quality that his company has been becoming so well known for. Through the use of computers he was able to accomplish improved tread designs, with lower noise levels and increased tread wear. His first branded tire was the Gumbo Mudder. Cepek was an innovator. He had developed an aramid wrapped designed tire in the early '80s, the Dick Cepek Radial X-C, for increased sidewall protection. Another thing that Dick is applauded for is his Dick Cepek Lighting. Stamped with the "Baja-Proven" phrase, Dick produced Off-road spot, auxiliary and fog lights. Dick Cepek did not just sell his branded products. Many of the large manufacture names we are familiar with today he also sold in his own stores. Cepek was the largest Rancho Suspension distributor along with other names such as Super Swampers, Appliance Mojock and Ultra Wheels just to name a few.
Dick Cepek Inc. was and is known for off-road. His products and his tires have been all over the world from the deserts of the Middle east to the glaciers down in Antarctica. Most of all those two words of "Baja-Proven" had more of an impact on the products he sold since you had the confidence that the product has had the test and stamp of approval by the man himself, Dick Cepek.
Today Dick Cepek is still running under the flag of Mickey Thompson.
Written by Robert B. Dejarnette