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(RIP) Speedy Bill Smith


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill at the Eastern Museum in PA


Speedy Bill at the Chili Bowl


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill and wife Joyce


Joyce


Speedy Bill receives an award from the Nebraska Foundation


Speedy Bill and Dave Argabright


Speedy Bill and Joyce a while back


Speedy Bill and Herb Fishel former Executive Director at General Motors


Speedy Bill getting a lifetime achievement award from Starbird


Speedy Bill and Joyce in his office


Speedy Bill


Speedy Bill with his wife Joyce


Speedy Bill with Wags


Speedy Bill with Shane Carson


Speedy Bill with Bob Trostle


Speedy Bill with a groupv


Speedy Bill with Brad Sweet on the podium


Speedy Bill bench racing at Knoxville


Speedy Bill in 2009 getting the Peterson Lifetime award


Speedy Bill with Lindsey Vaughn


Speedy Bill in a golf cart


The front of the Speedway Motors Shop


Speedway Motors shop counter


One of the kit cars you can get from his catalog


Speedy Bill with Doug Wolfgang


Speedy Bill with his sprinter


Speedy Bill with a roadster in front of the store


Speedy Bill by his sprint car


Speedy Bill standing on a tire


Speedy Bill with a kit for a roadster


Speedy Bill's signature


Speedway sign


Speedy Bill poster


A banner


History theme of Speedway Motors


History collage


Another banner


And another


Speedy Bill with his sprinter


Speedy Bill with a Speedway Motors car


Speedy Bill with an older race car


Speedy Bill with # 4


Speedy Bill with a trophy


# 4x


# 4x


# 4x

The Speedway Motors Museum


Speedy Bill at his museum


Speedy Bill and the Smith family


Speedy Bill visiting in th emusem


Speedy Bill and Joyce in the musem


Speedy Bill's # 4x driven by Jan Operman and Doug Wolfgang


Nice racers


Another sprinter


# 49 sprinter


Sprinter


Sprinter


Sprinter


Sprinter


Sprinter


Two Sprinters


Sprinter


Backin' it in section


Modified


An old modified


An oldie


Another


A wider view


Nice racer


A real oldie that is awesome


A flathead racer


Old racer


A 6 cylinder racer


Another oldie


A sweet oldie


Another one


A rear engine roadster


Central Excavating # 81


A room of beauty


A 50's Pontiac racer


An old old car


A famous old indy car


Another shot


A brown indy car


A land speed car


More land speed racer


More land speed cars


a motor


More motors


A Chrysler Hemi


Motors


more


Another view


Drag racing motors


Flathead


Hemi


Ford OHV motor


Injected Hemi


Moser motor


Injected Chevy


???


Big one


V16?


Looks like a beverly hillbillies race hauler


More cars on display


An old pickup


An old fastback


1931 Cabriolet signage


The car


Tony Nancy dragster


Street rod


Street rrod


Street rod


The 5 millionth Ford

Pedal Cars





























On one of the CRA tours, we had a chance to go to Speedway Motors in Lincoln, NB and visit with Speedy Bill in his shop. He suggested we let everyone know that he would open the existing museum at a certain time, and we did. When we all adjoined soon thereafter, he personally took us around and explained everything. It was pretty special as his stories were amazing how he started the business and put things on the bus to ship to customers in those days. He and Joyce would go all over on the weekends looking to pick up stuff for his collection that eventually grew into todays huge museum that is packed with good stuff. Unfortunately, I never got back to see the updated one, but my bucket list is still in play, someday.....

Bill along with his lifelong partner and wife Joyce started Speedway Motors in 1952 and turned it into the world’s largest source of performance parts.

Along the way the Smith’s were big supporters of all forms of auto racing from the ownership of their famous purple number 4X race cars to sponsoring many of America’s dirt track racing series through Speedway Motors. While its the Speedy Bill Memorial its hard not to remember Joyce as well. They were lifetime partners and their partnership made Speedway Motors a household name in performance parts.

March, 2004 - Jim Donnelly

Bill Smith's position in the performance industry would be already secure, given the fact that his retail speed warehouse also manufactures thousands of specialty parts. But that would leave an artillery-sized hole in his biography. He's an entrepreneur, but also a hardcore racer who gave some true legends their first shot in premium-quality equipment, and he's still doing it.

"Speedy Bill," as he's come to be called, founded one of the nation's oldest speed shops, Speedway Motors, in 1952. Then, as now, it's located in his beloved Great Plains hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. Smith never shucked husks, but instead grew up as the son of a neighborhood mechanic. One of his earliest memories is playing with pot-metal toy cars in his sandbox behind the garage where his father kept the local Model Ts running. Somehow, his father's skills rubbed off on the young boy.

"You never quite know how some of this stuff stuck," he remembered. "At first, I tried to make a homemade rig powered by a Maytag motor, with no tools. I was actually trying to drill through metal with a wood drill; stuff like that. I had no idea what I was doing and had nothing."

Everything changed permanently during World War II when Smith ran into an itinerant local handyman and mechanic named Mario Koslowski, who, as Smith recalls, "could fix absolutely anything. He started out fixing telephone switchboards, but he could rebuild bikes, irons, anything you can think of."

Koslowski became something of a mentor to young Smith, paying him 1 5 cents an hour as an apprentice mechanic, or 25 cents if he took a repair job in trade. He also had a vast collection of dog-eared, greasy back issues of Popular Mechanics dating back as far as the 1920s, which he sold to Smith for a nickel a copy. They became his trade texts and, later, Koslowski sold him a 1917 Model T for $17.50. By age 21, Smith would have owned more than 100 of them.

Smith next attended Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, graduating with a degree in art. By then, he was already involved in racing cars and motorcycles on the scores of dirt tracks that then dotted the Plains. He found a position teaching industrial arts, but soon realized he was going to be a racer for life.

"The teaching job paid $2,750 a year, and since I was already involved with race cars and motorcycles, I realized I could make more by selling bits and pieces to the racers," he explained.

That was in 1952, and Smith opened Speedway Motors' first home in a 400-square-foot garage in Lincoln. He was intensely active in the post-war Midwest racing scene as it was then evolving, selling parts to drag racers and hot rodders, and campaigning cars in the emerging oval divisions such as the "roaring roadsters," jalopy stock cars, the supermodifieds they eventually morphed into and, ultimately, sprint cars.

Speedway Motors' breakthrough product, introduced in 1955, was a fiberglass replica of a Model T roadster body that was ideal for both oval and drag racers, since original T tin was becoming hard to find, even in heartland junkyards. Smith said his body allowed racers to chop 400 pounds off their cars with that single swap, a major boon at the drags, where the fiberglass body was immensely popular. It's still in Speedway Motors' catalog today.

Then, as now, oval-track racers formed a key part of Speedway Motors' customer base. Long a fabricator of race cars, Smith created the first mass-production body panels for sprint cars and other dirt racers, and the throwaway "outlaw" hood, which was standard in the sport for close to 20 years.

He's not synonymous with the muscle car market, but don't hold that against him, because the record reflects that Smith spent a fair percentage of his early career trying to get Detroit's early performance or multiple-carburetor setups to function properly.

"When they first came out of the factory, they never ran like they were supposed to, so the people who bought them brought them to me," he said. That led to an opportunity to field one of the earliest Pontiac teams in NASCAR, in 1956. As drivers, Smith enlisted Tiny Lund, who had raced roadsters in the Midwest, and another local hero, Johnny Beauchamp.

"I was like a little jack Roush," he recalled. "I built the first Pontiac headers for Lund." Both drivers would go on to have memorable careers at Daytona Beach: Beauchamp would lose the inaugural Daytona 500 to Lee Petty in a 1959 photo finish, and Lund would win it in 1963 while subbing for Marvin Panch, whom he'd rescued from a flaming sports racer a week earlier.

Among racers, Smith is still known as a guy who can make a career. No less than 85 drivers have steered his sprint cars to countless wins, including four-time Knoxville Nationals winner Doug Wolfgang and the great Jan Opperman. With his sons, he still fields Pikes Peak Hillclimb entries that have won as recently as 1995 with Robby Unser. His firm fabricates more than 6,000 products, up to complete race cars, and at 75 years young, Speedy Bill is still getting it done.

"If I didn't enjoy this, I wouldn't still be doing it 10 hours a day, seven days a week after 52 years," he chuckled.

This article originally appeared in the March, 2004 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.

The Museum of American Speed is a non-profit museum created by Speedy Bill dedicated to preserving and displaying artifacts of American automotive history. The museum is located in Lincoln, Nebraska and is housed in a 135,000 square foot facility.

The museum has been in operation since 1992, and was established by Speedway Motors founder "Speedy" Bill Smith and his wife Joyce Smith as a repository for a collection of automobilia amassed over 60 years.

Exhibits include racing vehicles dating from the 1920s to recent vintage Indy Cars, classic midget cars, Go-karts, motorized toys, antique and rare cars, automotive memorabilia, and Buck Rogers memorabilia, autographed guitars

Updated 3/26/18

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