At 18, He Strapped a Rocket Engine to His Bike. Now He’s Taking on SpaceX

Peter Beck was more productive than most teenagers. He spent much of his youth tinkering in the family’s garage workshop in small-town New Zealand, amid welding and milling equipment. At 15 he built an aluminum bike from scratch.

At 16 he bought a rusted-out Austin Mini for $300 and refurbished it end-to-end, rebuilding the engine and suspension and fixing all of the body panels. Beck’s parents, a museum director and a teacher, encouraged their son—within reason.

Mum would bring dinner down and set it on a bench for me, but it would just get cold,” Beck says. “Eventually she would yell out, ‘You have to stop angle grinding and get to bed.’ ”