The Speed Shop

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A photo of Bill in his roadster taken in front of the The Speed Shop. Opened in 1948 by hot rodding pioneer Bill Waddill, The Speed Shop became a popular destination for car enthusiasts and a vital resource for specialized automotive parts. Photo from The Fred Thomas Photo Collection.

The Speed Shop was a custom speed equipment automotive performance parts store located at 3318 Fenton Road, in Flint, Michigan. The shop played a crucial role in the development of the hot rodding scene in the Midwest during the mid-20th century. Opened in 1948 by hot rodding pioneer Bill Waddill, The Speed Shop became a popular destination for car enthusiasts and a vital resource for specialized automotive parts.[1]

At a time when performance parts like dual and triple carb manifolds, high-compression finned heads, and custom ground cams were hard to find outside of major cities, The Speed Shop filled a significant gap in the market​. Waddill carried a wide range of custom engine accessories. The Speed Shop specialized in engine rebuilding but could also perform custom body and chrome work, such as chopping tops and channeling bodies. The store's popularity grew as interest in drag racing and improved car performance spread eastward during the 1950s and 1960s. This growth necessitated a move to larger premises, showcasing the rising demand for performance automotive parts and modifications​.[1]

Waddill advertised The Speed Shop in major hobby publications, attracting a customer base beyond Flint's boundaries. This advertising strategy helped the shop gain national recognition and increased its influence within the hot-rodding community​.[1]

The Speed Shop also served as a hub for local car enthusiasts and was the venue for meetings of the Gear Grinders of Flint, a hot rod club co-founded by Waddill in the same year he opened the store. The Gear Grinders, which was initially comprised of twenty-three members, became a prominent club in the Michigan hot rodding scene, participating in various regional drag racing events and car shows​.[1]

The Speed Shop was more than just a store; it was a cornerstone of Flint's automotive community during a pivotal era in the development of car culture. Its significance lay not only in providing hard-to-find performance parts but also in fostering a community of car enthusiasts, contributing to the spread of hot rodding culture in the Midwest, and facilitating the growth of local automotive talent​.[1]



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