Loud and Clear:
The Evolution of PCI Race Radios
Communication is often taken for granted in today’s hyper-connected world. We have the ability to communicate with seemingly anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world, but that hasn’t always been the case. Even today there are vast expanses of this Earth that, believe it or not, have no cell phone service, no internet, and leave you with no way to call for help should you find yourself in trouble.
Much of the Baja Peninsula, home to some of the longest and most brutal off-road races in the world, is still this way today. In the early days of off-road racing, racers would venture off into the desert alone; no GPS, no radios, only relying on themselves and maybe a paper map to navigate the unforgiving desert. If you fell victim to mechanical issues, or much worse, a crash resulting in injuries, your best hope was to be found by another racer who would then have to continue on for hours just to find help. If you were off course or lost however, chances are that remote desert floor would be your final resting place.
In the early 70’s, Bob Steinberger owned and operated a company by the name of Phone Consultants International, which sold car and briefcase phones to the socially elite, mostly Hollywood celebrities. Bob became friends with Bill Stroppe, who at the time was helping him build up his International Scout, and he received an invite to be a part of the pit crew for the 1972 Baja 1000. After two boring days of waiting around at race mile 800 with no idea of where the race vehicle was at, and having no way to communicate with the outside world, Bob suggested that having communication systems in the vehicles so the rest of the team could communicate with them might be a good idea…
Not long after the ‘72 Baja 1000, Bob installed radio communication systems in Bill’s trucks, but quickly found that these radios filled with fragile components could not hold up to the beating delivered by the pounding whoops and rocks found in off-road racing. This did not deter Bob from the idea though, he could disassemble the radios, and then reassemble them while better securing all of those fragile components inside the case to survive the jarring vibrations without falling apart, a practice they called ‘race prepping’. The radios proved themselves reliable and soon racers such as Walker Evans, Team MacPherson, and many others of the early 1970’s were coming to Bob for their communication needs, allowing PCI Race Radios to be born.
Now that reliability had been sorted out, the biggest issue with radio communications at these wide open, long distance off-road races was range. Racers and teams were asking for a way to be able to communicate over longer distances, and at the 1974 Mint 400, Bob came up with an innovative solution to set up a relay station out in Main Pit. He sent up three weather balloons with an antenna and five hundred feet of coax cable attached, and it was here that the first ever radio relay from a pit to the racers on course was made. During the race, a relay was needed by a team and they couldn’t remember Bob’s name, but they knew they needed to talk to the guy with the weather balloons, so they called out over the radio asking for “Weatherman” and the nickname stuck with him from that day forward…
In 2017, after countless relay responsibilities, Bob “Weatherman” Steinberger passed away, but the torch and the title of “Weatherman” was handed down to Bob’s son, Scott Steinberger. Scott began his career at PCI when he was 14 years old, working alongside his father learning the craft of building reliable communication systems, and creating innovative solutions to fulfill the wants and needs of racers and off-road enthusiasts as they evolved. In the mid 80’s the first in-car intercom systems were created, and in 1989, Scott and one other PCI engineer built the intercom system known as the Comlink 6, a system that has proven to work so well and be so reliable that PCI still builds and sells them to this day.
Taking a step back to 1983, PCI made the move from a hanger at the Long Beach Airport to a 4600 sq ft condominium in Signal Hill. The rise in popularity of off-road racing, and the growing demand from the ever evolving play-car market left PCI with the need to expand further, so in 1992 they bought the neighboring condo where they continued to grow and evolve themselves, building mezzanines, placing desks in hallways, and maximizing the space anyway they could.
In the late 2000’s, the new UTV industry began to grow at an exponential rate, granting easy access for mass amounts of families and potential enthusiasts all over to join the off-road community. As more and more groups of families and friends began riding together, the need to stay in communication with each other while out on the trails also grew. With cell service not always a guarantee when out in remote locations, radio and intercom systems quickly became one of the most popular accessories for UTV enthusiasts everywhere.
The rapid UTV industry growth sparked a whole new evolution at PCI. The compact and space limited nature of UTVs required the team at PCI to develop model specific mounting solutions for their radio, intercom, and GPS systems, and even the new sleek and compact RaceAir Boost was developed with the mounting constraints of UTVs in mind. Keeping tons of model specific mounting brackets in stock and ready to ship began to take up mass amounts of space, something that was already extremely limited at the historic Signal Hill location.
The search for a new building began in 2016, and finally in June 2018, PCI opened their doors to the public at their new headquarters in Cypress, CA. Expanding from a 7,500 sq ft building to a 23,000 sq ft facility has granted them the warehouse space needed to efficiently stock more products, including bringing on all new product lines, while offering same day shipping to customers. The technicians and engineers have the room and the tools they need to more efficiently develop new products, as well as for assembling and programming all of their own radio and intercom systems in house. Customer support teams have the breathing room to more comfortably help those in need of assistance, and there’s even a built in gym to allow the employees to better take care of themselves. Everything has been set up with maximum efficiency in mind, as even the race support rigs are stored in the warehouse where they can be easily maintained, prepped, and stocked with everything needed, ready to head to the next race to provide the incredible support that racers have relied on over the past 45 years.
The opening of the new HQ is a loud and clear message that PCI is committed to evolving and growing to fulfill the wants and needs of motorsports enthusiasts all around the world. From building the very first race radios and assisting racers with properly installing them through their race support programs, to setting up radio relay stations that allow racers to stay in contact with their teams over great distances, Scott Steinberger, and the entire team at PCI Race Radios are driven to provide the best possible service, support, and products to racers, and they’ve saved countless lives as a result. They take that same passion for quality and support, and they apply it to all of their products, so whether you’re ripping across the deserts of Baja in a trophy truck, or just out on a Sunday cruise with the family in a UTV, you know you can rely on PCI Race Radios.