Racing not only kept the Speedway name out there, it also gave Bill a chance to market to racers in an expanding region. “I was really getting outside my circle, and that proved to be very helpful,” Bill says. “I’d go to Kansas, Colorado, Indiana, or Florida and meet various people. They figured out I was in the performance business, and they’d say, ‘Are you carrying those new wheels?’ ‘Have you got a header kit with flanges and bolts?’ ‘Do you have gears for my quick-change rearend?’ ‘I busted my ring-and-pinion tonight, can you guys ship me a new set?’ I’d smile and tell ’em what they wanted to hear: ‘Sure, I can do that.’”

Bill began having Joyce type up price sheets to take to the races, and by the early ’60s they were printing a catalog to promote the mail-order side of the business. Bill was also advertising in national magazines like Hot Rod and learning how to reliably ship parts to customers he might never meet in person.

“In the ’60s, there was no UPS service in Lincoln, or in the center of the United States,” Bill says. “I tried Parcel Post from the U.S. Postal Service, but they weren’t very dependable at that time, so I had to figure out another way. I began using Greyhound and Continental bus to ship a lot of orders. Both companies gave us overnight service within a 500-mile radius, and they stopped at every small town in the country. We knew their schedules, and if we could get the order on the bus in the late afternoon, the customer would have it in the morning. Every evening you’d see me driving to the bus station in my pickup truck, loaded with packages and bus freight bills.”

Fiberglass And Kookie Ts

Shortly after opening Speedway Motors, Bill began experimenting with fiberglass as a means for building lightweight race car bodies. He worked with a local fiberglass manufacturer to produce a ’glass ’27 Model T roadster body in 1953. It didn’t take long for drag racers to see the benefit of these lightweight bodies, and Speedway Motors was soon offering ’32 Bantam bodies and other models popular in Altered classes.

Speedway Motors opened its own fiberglass manufacturing facility in 1962. By this time, the “Kookie Kar” T-bucket craze was in full swing, popularized by Norm Grabowski’s roadster on the TV show 77 Sunset Strip. Speedway Motors was able to capitalize on the trend by building fiberglass ’23 T roadster bodies, which were paired with purpose-built frames. These became some of the first body-and-frame kit packages in the street rod market and paved the way for a completely new branch of the hot rod industry.

Since producing those first T-bucket kits, Speedway Motors has developed hundreds of different fiberglass street rod bodies, parts, and kits that have helped thousands of rodders craft their dream cars. By offering affordable, easy-to-build kits, like the T-bucket, Track T, and ’32 LoBoy, Speedway has helped keep street rodding affordable and accessible for entry-level enthusiasts.

Balancing Two Worlds

In the decades following those early days, Speedway Motors enjoyed steady growth by focusing on the two things that drew Bill Smith to the business in the first place: racing and hot rodding.

On the racetrack, Speedway Motors hit a winning pace in the ’70s as a string of legendary drivers slid into the cockpits of the company’s 4x Sprint Cars. One of the best was Jan Opperman, one of the original “Outlaws” who outran 56 of the country’s top USAC Sprint teams on his way to victory in the 1976 Hulman Classic “The Race that Changed the World.” Two years later another standout, Doug Wolfgang, ran the number 4x Sprinter to 26 feature wins from coast to coast, with a highlight victory at the 1978 Knoxville Nationals—the Indy 500 of open-wheel dirt track racing.