It doesn’t matter if it is going 200 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats or being the very first one to recognize the value of picking up clean late model sportbikes at auction, Southwest Superbikes owner Mark Peterson has been on the gas since day one! Going a mile a minute, Peterson parlayed his need for speed and love of motorcycles into a successful business.
Well, actually this self-made speed demon is blasting along at 3.33 miles per minute (200 mph)… that is the clip Southwest Superbikes have blasted through the traps at the salt flats. “We set three world records on bikes that we customized in house,” Peterson says proudly. “We attained these records at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats. Along with setting these records, our bikes have put five people into the 200 MPH club.”
Southwest Superbikes has been in the motorcycle business since 1988, earning a reputation for having the fastest bikes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the Hayabusas source for the Southwest. There is even a Hayabusa 20 feet in the air on a scissor lift out front of the shop, while Mark’s personal 2003 record-setting bike is stashed away in the museum upstairs (more about that later). But Southwest Superbikes has expanded its focus beyond Busas and museum pieces. In fact, they were among the very first to jump on board with Audrey Menarik from Moto Liberty to promote The Motorcycle Camping & Adventure Touring Show back in December (profiled in the last issue).
“We are a full service motorcycle dealer,” says Peterson. “While we offer the largest pre-owned sportbike selection in Texas, we also have plenty of ADV bikes, cruisers and collector bikes on hand. We are proud to provide services to the motorcycle community because we are part of the motorcycle community… Each of our employees rides! Commuting, trail riding, cross country touring, adventure touring, as well as track time on road and dirt; We Ride!”
Peterson his been in the saddle since scoring his first motorcycle at a garage sale. ”I started working at a printing press when I was 13,” he says, admitting he had to stretch the truth a little claiming he was 16. “I took the money I made running commercial cutting machines to trade/buy/sell cars and motorcycles.” The very first deal Mark made was to get a Suzuki TS125 at that garage sale. “Never could touch the ground on that thing, so I sold it and moved on to a bike that fit.” The die was cast and many more deals started coming in.
“My first boss told me every good drunk wants a bar,” he adds. “I had some great mentors and bosses over the years, but they always shot me down… ‘you need to stay focused and get a career rather than playing with motorcycles.'” However his ability to buy a bike and turn a profit on it was his focus — and a ticket to a career in the motorcycle industry. He also recognized what a game changer motorcycle auctions could be very early on.
What Mark has to say about AIMExpo presented by Nationwide:
” I have attended every AIME event to date to get in front of the manufacturers, distributors and reps is by itself worth the effort to attend. The seminars, and informative meetings that are available are icing on the cake; not to mention getting to hang out with the industry friends that we don’t get to see often enough. The payback from attending AIMExpo far outweighs the time and expense put forth; it is invaluable to see, touch and try new product; speak to the manufacturers, meet up with industry icons and learn the current market trends. The show offers the key ingredients needed to prosper and move forward in the powersports business.”
By 1988, Mark had done enough “horse trading” to open Southwest Superbikes. It wasn’t always easy and he literally lived in the shop in the early years, but every single day has been rewarding. “I have worked since I was 13, and yet I still enjoy coming into the shop every morning. I get to mess with motorcycles during the day instead of having to wait until after work. The people I get to talk to work their butts off and they want to reward themselves, so when they come in and I can sell them a bike, it is life changing!”
Peterson’s enthusiasm is as infectious as it is genuine. “I still get the same feeling when I get a new bike… I can’t wait to go ride! I think it is so cool to be a part of that for all of my customers.” To fuel this passion, Southwest Superbikes still stocks the largest selection of pre-owned sportbikes in Texas.
In fact, the last time we checked in on Mark, two EBR 1190s, a Triumph Thruxton and three Suzuki Hayabusas were blocking the front door — having just come in from inaugural NPA auction in the new Dallas facility — and there was no room on the showroom floor for them. When we went into his office, Peterson had former AMA chairman and Dealernews VP Stan Simpson sitting in his office to pick up an old BSA, a potential Hayabusa customer on the cell phone, a call on hold on the landline and a customer chat going on the computer simultaneously. No lie!
“You caught me on a slow day,” says Mark, only half jokingly. By the end of our visit, Stan had loaded up two vintage bikes, two of the ‘Busas had been sold and a buyer was coming in for a look at the third as soon as he got off work.
Peterson believes in the old adage “you can’t sell from an empty shelf” so Southwest Superbikes is always stuffed to the rafters with a huge selection of bikes, literally. The upstairs area is devoted to a museum full of exotic race machines, including a 1956 Moto Parilla 175 Fox that had been campaigned in the Giro d’Italia back in the day that started him down the path of rare race bikes.
“We have always specialized in in pre-owned sales, and I was into the auctions early,” Peterson recollects. “A friend started the original Cycle Express motorcycle auction that morphed over the years into what is now National Powersport Auctions. So I nave been buying bikes at auction since the very first one.” To this day, he remains one of the top buyers and sellers at NPA’s Texas facility.
So what is the one bit of advice this veteran horse trader would share with a dealer who has never been to an NPA event? “Don’t let the excitement of the auction get the best of you. Its easy to get caught up in the excitement of it and raise your hand a few too many times!”
2361 Fabens Road
Dallas TX 75229
Phone: (972) 418-0555
Fax: (972) 418-5595