Fast Company by Speedy Bill Smith with Dave Argabright


by Speedy Bill Smith with Dave Argabright
The world of racing and high performance is surprisingly full of industry icons; colorful men who started with next to nothing and built performance industry empires through sheer grit, determination and passion for cars and racing. Men like Howard Johansen, George Hurst, Ed Iskenderian, and many more formed the core of America’s hot rodding movement and among them Speedy Bill Smith stands as tall as any.

Speedy Bill Smith

Speedy Bill Smith

Those in the know recognize him as a tough racer, a dedicated hot rodder, proficient businessman and the founder of America’s oldest and most prestigious speed shop, Speedway Motors. You’d be hard pressed to find a rodder or a racer anywhere who hasn’t bought a piece of speed equipment from Speedway Motors over the last six decades. Few people of note in the performance industry have not met, raced against or done business with Bill Smith. And no matter when or where you might have met him, he’ll remember you like it was yesterday.

Now Bill has teamed with award winning author and columnist Dave Aragbright to tell his life story with all the fascinating details that have made Speedy Bill and Speedway Motors legendary representatives of a multi-billion dollar industry spawned in the fading shadows of WWII and groomed through the meteoric rise of technology that characterized the second half of the twentieth century. If you remember the first time you and your buddies dragged home a discarded flathead or maybe an early hemi and tore it apart in your dad’s driveway you can easily relate to the forces that motivate Bill Smith.  

A car guy from birth Speedy Bill was raised in an era where parents taught and demanded respect, hard work and responsibility. Bill is all that and he’s one tough customer too. Now eighty years plus, Bill is still hard on the gas, having survived a lifetime of serious medical setbacks, racing accidents, lean times and more on his amazing journey. You may recognize racing greats like Jan Opperman, Doug Wolfgang, Lloyd Beckman and Tiny Lund. All of them and more drove for Speedy Bill and they beat the best in the business with car’s designed and built by Bill. In the early days Bill was not only a speed shop owner, he was a track promoter, flagman, tire changer, engine builder and anything else that would further his racing endeavors. Bill loved to win and he worked hard at it.

The book leaves nothing out. Bill describes the early days, the lean times and shaky business decisions that backstopped his racing efforts. It’s more than just a recitation of events as Bill recalls them. It’s a tell-all revelation of Bill’s life including everyone he’s ever raced against or dealt with in the racing and high performance industry, everyone that he loves and a few that pissed him off too. We used to call it the speed equipment industry and somehow that’s still more fitting than the contemporary monikers the industry has taken on today in its quest for legitimacy. Speedway Motors is a major powerhouse in the performance and racing industry, but in Bill’s mind it’s still a speed shop and that’s the way he likes it. While recognizing and successfully applying present day business models, Bill has managed to retain the flavor and all the gritty character of the early days of hot rodding. Customer’s no longer install their speed parts lying in the dirt out behind the shop, but one suspects it’s a practice that Bill would still tolerate where car guys and hot rodders are concerned.

The heart of the book reflects years of tough dirt track racing with all the racing lore that makes you wish you had been there. The stories are legendary and Bill shares all the murky details. Almost everyone has driven for and quit Bill at some time or another. Some returned, some didn’t, but the racing moved on and winning was Bill’s primary focus. Still within the pages one can sense Bill’s love and concern for many of his friends, drivers crew chiefs and others that populated his life and spectacular racing career. One can also perceive his reverence for the significance of discarded cars, engines and other memorabilia that meant so very much back in the day.

Much of that is reflected in the incredible Smith Collection Museum of American Speed, perhaps Bill’s proudest accomplishment next to Speedway Motors and a lifetime of winning races as a car owner. Bill recognized the value of preserving Americas racing heritage and he has assembled the finest museum of racing and hot rodding in the country. It’s a must see for anyone passing near Lincoln, Nebraska and well worth an overnight stay. Bill goes to great lengths to recognize the significance of those who helped make it happen starting with his wife Joyce and his four sons. No one goes unrecognized and that’s a testament to Speedy Bill’s stalwart character. While it’s generally pretty tough for hot rodders and racers to pick up a history book, this one’s different. There’s nothing you can’t relate to in this book and that’s because Speedy Bill is one of us. This is bench racing at its best because Bill has so much to tell us. And given the right circumstances, he likely wouldn’t pass up a chance to come and sit on a tire in your garage and swap lies with you. Only in Bill’s case it’s all true. How about you?

  • Publisher:  American Scene Press
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9719639-6-2
  • ISBN-10: 0-9719639-6-7
  • www.americanscenepress.com

 

Note: A special Limited Edition Gold Embossed version of this book is also available from Speedway Motors

 

SOURCE:

Speedway Motors
340 Victory Lane,
Lincoln, NE 68528
1-800-979-0122
http://www.speedwaymotors.com

 A few of Bill and Speedway Motors Achievements

2009 
NSRA Best New Product Award
Goodguys Best New Product Award
Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award

2008   
Hot Rod Industry Alliance Business of the Year
National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award

2007   
Rod & Custom Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award
Big Car Racing Association Hall of Fame
Nebraska Land Foundation Trailblazer Award

2006   
Hot Rod industry Alliance Hall of Fame
NSRA Best New Product Award
USAC Distinguished Service and Contribution Award
Nebraska Wesleyan University Alumni Achievement Award
Lincoln High School Distinguished Alumni Award

2005   
Model T Ford Club of America Speedster and Racer Hall of Fame

2004   
Honoree at NHRA Hot Rod Reunion

2003   
Grand Marshall, Cornhuskers Vintage Nationals

2001   
Grand Marshall, Goodguys Street rod nationals
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

2000   
National Sprint Car Hall of Fame
NSRA Lifetime Achievement Award
Commercial Rehabilitation Award
Diamond Benefactor Award, Cedars Home for Children

1999  
 Belleville High Banks Hall of Fame
Grand Marshall, Belleville Midget Nationals
Inducted into Nebraska Great Navy
Behlen Building of the year Award
Community Improvement Award
President’s Award, Near South Neighborhood Association

1998   
Top One Hundred Hot Rodders, Hot Rod Magazine
Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame
Grand Marshall, KKOA Nationals
Community Improvement Award
President’s Award, Southwest Business Association

1997    Community Improvement Award
1996    Classic Car hall of Fame, Auburn, Indiana

1995   
Stroker McGurk Award
Key to the City, Lincoln, Nebraska
Builder’s Award, Downtown Development Association

1994    Community Improvement Award
1993    Cornerstone Award from City of Lincoln
1992    Performance Pro Award, Argus Publishers

1991   
Community Improvement Award
NSRA Man of the Year

1986    Pioneer Award, Performance Warehouse Association
1984    SEMA Hall of Fame