Many people who grow up in Seattle’s suburbs have a fondness bordering on obsession for the region’s natural beauty. Betim Berisha, owner of Huntington Beach, CA., based BBI Autosport, shares the fanaticism. But he is crazy for cars. So much so that he’s deserted virtually every other pursuit throughout his life to work on cars. He didn’t even have time for high school. It took him away from wrenching
Car Stories – Betim Berisha
As he grew older Berisha bought a Ford Mustang and started building its 351-ci V8. He was only fourteen, and started working at a Texaco where co-workers helped on the Mustang too. But by cleaning a shop hose early on, simply because he was bored, he learned that taking an extra step could pay dividends when his shop manager, who disliked him, mentioned it to the owner in a praising manner.
It was around that time that he began skipping school to work on cars. His mind always focused on the next step, Berisha went through a series of jobs and opportunities where in he began working on Porsches and developing his knowledge. He recalls that the first mechanical work he ever did, for pay, was changing the shocks on a mid-‘80s Porsche 911 Targa. Prior to that he was sweeping up, washing cars, or moving them.
From the beginning, Berisha knew that he wanted to work on Porsches due to a chance encounter. As a youngster, he played in his uncle’s front yard when a blur flew past. It was a Porsche 959. He later learned that it was Bill Gates, as Berisha’s uncle lived close to him. He still remembers it vividly and says that it was that encounter that sparked his love for Porsches. It was the only one in the area.
Following a multi-year stint on the Alex Job Porsche racing team, Berisha moved to LA at age 23 after flying down to help a team with a Tribute to Le Mans race hosted by the Porsche Club. He fell in love with the lifestyle and weather, and was urged by his mother to go explore, “Don’t get stuck here.” Not that he was stuck in Seattle as he was always hungry and impatient, but he appreciates the nudge.
He found a job quickly and lost it nearly as quickly “because of my sharp tongue.” But unemployment led him to the Porsche Motorsport center where he miraculously landed a job dyno’ing engines for Porsche. Berisha lasted almost four years there until he shifted to part time track support and founded BBI on the side. Looking back, he’s amazed at how little he knew ten years ago when founding BBI, even though he’d been to Le Mans multiple times, along with Daytona, Sebring, and countless other tracks.
Berisha recognizes that he’s been “very fortunate,” but also believes that he’s made the right moves, met the right people and achieved what he promised. And bucking the current fashion and romance for modifying air-cooled Porsches, BBI focuses on later, water-cooled Porsches.
But much like his early obsession with cars, Berisha fixated on modifying Porsche’s top street cars: adding twin turbos set-ups to GT3s, among others, not realizing that his “small” modification would require multiple changes to other systems. As BBI matures, the realization that many of Porsche’s compromises make sense has set in. But some folks are just as zealous as BBI is, and they share Berisha’s passion.