I have just received the news that Speedy Bill Smith of the Museum of American Speed has left the race track. We had the pleasure of meeting him last year at the Speedster & Racer Reunion, a true enthusiast and an inspiration to the old car and motorsports world he will be sadly missed
My condolences to the family
Doug sorry to hear that as I didn't get to the last speedster function, as I'm down also. I've been to many an auction w/ Bill. My condolances (sp) to his sons and families. He will be missed as he also lost his wife last yr.. God Speed Bill
I was at the museum last year and Bill was absent because his wife had died the previous week. I hope they are together and happy now.
A major loss for the hobby, his family, and many other people the world over.
Drive carefully Bill!
Shortly after I sold "The Riverside Fronty DHOC special to Speedy, the deal included at his insistence that he give me a personal guided tour of the museum, the collections of engines and heads plus a tour of a couple of warehouses filled with cars parts and more engines and collectibles.
When we arrived at the museum Speedy hopped on his electric scooter and off we went. Now I'm 70 and the guy that was with me is 55. We started at 9:30 am and he did not stop for 5 hours, not even a potty stop, a water break or nourishment. My friend and I had several pee breaks a couple of water stops and damn near passed out from famine. Bill never slowed down or stopped talking for the entire time.
It was an incredible day, his knowledge and understanding of the cars, parts and history was incredible. We both felt like we were in class and Bill was the professor, what an opportunity and an education. The entire time he kept coming back to the Riverside Special and how I forced him to pay far too much, in fact he said several times it was the most he ever paid for a race car and he really should not have bought it at that price.
Being the old horse trader he was during our negotiations it took several weeks to finalize a price which included a donation on my part to the foundation. Once we agreed on the price and terms I thought the deal was done, wrong!!!!!!. Bill called me a couple of days later and told me he had a problem. The cost of shipping was far more than he expected. He again reminded me of the outrageous price I forced him to pay for the Fronty. Then came the kicker, he wanted me to pay 1/2 of the freight from Seattle to Lincoln. He told me if I did he would be able to sleep better. I reminded him that I had sold him the car for nearly 100k less that the previous owner, but he was not to be deterred, I finally gave in and paid 1/2 the freight. An old horse trader just has to have the last word and the satisfaction of making his side of the deal sweeter.
Bill, you old horse trader, I know you are up there making deals and organizing races, you will be missed by thousands of you closest friends from all over the world, God speed and condolences to your family.
I had a nice talk with him last June in his museum before dinner when I was returning from the rest room. I was waiting for dinner and was to be inducted Hall of Fame and had won my class at the Hill Climb. I did not know who he was and as I approached him he smiled as he sat in his wheel chair in an empty hallway. I thought he was just a nice old man and we spoke of the hobby and the friends we had made because of it. I told him what a nice time Mary and I were having and that we appreciated the time and effort taken in the design of the program and events. He smiled and said " Well have fun, that's why we are all here."
Later on at the dinner he walked over to our table to meet Mary. A very nice man indeed and Mary and I are pleased that we got to meet him in person.
From our Local News here in Lincoln
1 HOUR AGO • BY TODD HENRICHS / LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR
From the day he built his first race car, a roadster made from a 1930 Model A, Bill Smith's hobby was his life.
D. William "Speedy Bill" Smith, whose interest in racing spawned a world-renowned, Lincoln-based marketplace for racing parts, died Friday. He was 84.
One of four sons, Clay Smith said Saturday if he had one word to describe his father, it would be "grit."
"He was a fierce competitor in racing and business," Clay Smith said. "He loved what he did, and that's what he wanted to do every day."
Smith's death was announced Saturday by Bob Baker, the executive director of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum. Smith's induction in 2000 is but one footnote in a legendary career.
His decades as a car owner in racing circles spanned from go-karts to dragsters, jalopies to Indy cars. Often purple. All carrying the number 4X.
And it was at the race tracks where Smith first began passing out catalogs for Speedway Motors, the company he founded in 1952.
Today, Speedway Motors is not only America's oldest speed shop but it also ranks among the world's largest manufacturers and distributors of parts for racing and street rod markets.
The sprawling Speedway Motors campus in west Lincoln includes the 135,000-square-foot Smith Collection Museum of American Speed.
"Bill is a real honest to goodness embodiment of the American dream," racing historian Bob Mays said Saturday.
Mays is a kid in a candy store working in Smith's museum. He said Smith's favorites were a replica of a 1931 Bucciali and the 4X sprint car Jan Opperman drove to victory in 1976 in the racing hotbed of Terre Haute, Indiana.
The Tony Hulman Classic was televised on ABC's "Wide World of Sports," and of the victory, well-known racing writer Chris Economaki said, "The outlaws from Nebraska came to Indiana and blew their doors off."
A showman, a character and, foremost, a businessman, that victory in the Speedway Motors-sponsored machine meant everything to Smith.
"He's a man that was extremely passionate about what he did. It didn't matter which of those endeavors," Ray Valasek said Saturday.
Valasek first met Smith when he came to Ord to promote a sprint car race that Valasek was driving in. They hooked up again over the years, testing racing oils, drawing plans for a square-tubing roadster, serving on the board of Nebraska's racing hall of fame.
As one might imagine, many of the inductees over the years have been tied to Smith in some way. Smith pulled Opperman, who twice ran the Indianapolis 500, out of Beaver Crossing, where he'd moved from California to build a racing career.
Legend has it that Doug Wolfgang came from South Dakota and would sit in Smith's office every noon hour, asking to drive his car.
In 1978, Wolfgang and Smith teamed up to win the Super Bowl of sprint car racing, the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals.
But it was Smith's connection with Lloyd Beckman that was legendary in these parts. Together, they won 16 features in a row — spanning from July 1960 to June 1961 — at Capitol Beach Speedway in Lincoln.
"When Bill and Lloyd were at their best, they were almost unbeatable," Mays said.
Smith's tenacity and a stubborn refusal to lose played well on the race track, as well as in the business world.
"My dad told me early on that if I wanted to be a winner at any game I played, I'd better take a look at the players, see how the game was played and figure out how to win at it," Smith said in an interview in 1993.
He married his wife, Joyce, the same year he founded the business, and together they built what it is today.
Brad Swiggart on Saturday recalled times at big racing events like the annual Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Joyce would head back to the motel room to sort through a box of invoices.
They had four sons, Carson, Craig, Clay and Jason, who are all involved in the business.
Joyce Smith died in August of last year.
Clay Smith said his father had opportunities to leave Lincoln, especially since the business he was in was based mostly in Southern California, but he "was always so proud of being from Lincoln."
The business and Smith's museum continue to draw visitors and events to the city. In August, for example, Lincoln will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang with a big event.
Whether it was circle tracks or the performance-car circles, Smith was a celebrity of sorts, with his iconic black hat a magnet drawing people to him wherever he went.
In college at Nebraska Wesleyan, Smith studied to become a teacher, and until the day she died, Swiggart said Smith's mother would ask "Speedy Bill" when he was going to get a real job.
Smith, however, had made the most of his hobby.
On Saturday, Valasek recalled how Smith would often joke that he had to keep selling those fuzzy dice that hang from the rear-view mirror to keep a race car on the track.
You can still buy fuzzy dice on the Speedway Motors website. Four colors — red, blue, black and white — available for $3.99.
Bill and Joyce were just great people. They always had time for a visit. They didn't care if you owned a multi million dollar company or just had the shirt on your back. Entrepreneurs extordiniare, the fabric that built this country, full of passion for people and life. The brief visits I've had with them will always be treasured.
Frank, that was a great evening wasn't it. A room full of old car guys and gals chewing the fat describing our deeds of old. The older & wiser we get the faster we were. The hospitality of the Smith family & staff made the 16 hour flight a very small price for the fellowship we enjoyed. I feel shore that Speedy Bills legacy will continue, it's a great family company actually an institution based around a common passion. Go Speedy Bill catch up with Joyce and spin your wheels.
A great man who created a great museum. Hope his heirs can keep the business and museum running so it doesn't end up like Bill Harrah's museum..
I believe the business and museum are in very good hands. All 4 of his sons will keep his legacy alive.
I met Bill when I was the announcer for the races at the Winchester Speedway during the Centennial celebration. He was really interesting to talk to; he and the track owner sat a visited most of the afternoon in the announcer's booth.
I saw him several times after that and he and Joyce were always friendly and gracious to me. As John said, they didn't care who you were, rich or poor, newby or oldie, they liked people and treated all the same. He leaves behind a great legacy and a company in good hands.
Here's a link to the video that we shot of Speedy Bill's Museum last year during the Speedster Hall of Fame event. I'm glad that we got to see him.
Bill and I talked several times on the phone and I both gave him and sold him parts for the museum. A couple of times there was a knock on my door and he and Joyce were there--they wouldn't come in for some reason but we did sit outside and enjoy lemonade and small talk. He always told me I paid too much for my "junk" but that I needed to spend the long dollar on the Mercury Speedster project. Bill and I had dinner together when I was inducted into the hall of fame and he gave me an autographed book---this is a good read about life struggles and ultimate success, Bill had a really hard start with serious health issues but as always won the race. He made himself and his legacy with family, and being a smart man, a really clever business man who took advantage of the right time and right place. He always gave credit to his family first for support and my hat is off to him (but never saw him with his hat off!).
Bill and Joyce had more than I could ever want but were happy to sit in my front yard and relax with a cool drink and small talk. Just an older couple that encouraged me and told stories about when they were our age and life experiences.
A race well ran Bill and credit was and is always first given to Joyce--the same thing I have done on my induction plaque that hangs in the Speedway museum, credit to my wife also for being a helper to me by your example of acknowledgment.
Picture of your webmaster with Speedy Bill and son Clay on the Lincoln tour.
Bill talking to the group on our tour visit. Like the posts above have mentioned Bill knew everything in the museum and liked to tell stories.
Thanks to Rob Heyen, Maurice & I we able to sit with him at lunch.
My condolences to the family, he will be missed.
Below is "Speedy Bills" Obituary in today"s Lincoln Journal Star.
Bill's Celebration of Life will be held at 5 pm on June 14th at the Museum of American Speed. The family is asking that you please share with them your memories of Speedy Bill: Bill Smith Memorial Museum of American Speed, 599 Oak Creek Dr. Lincoln, NE 68528, PO Box 81906 Lincoln, NE 68501. This can also be done online at: ForBill@MuseumofAmericanSpeed.com
Smith, D. William "Speedy Bill"
By the Lincoln Journal Star
D. William "Speedy Bill" Smith, of Lincoln, passed away at his home on May 30, 2014. He was born to Donald R. and Mabel G. (Bower) Smith in Lincoln, NE on June 22, 1929. Speedy Bill lived the American Dream.
Bill attended Hawthorne, Irving and Lincoln High School ('47). As a young boy, he was industrious and discovered a boundless passion for cars! Bill worked at the 44th & 'O' EN-AR-CO station to buy his first car ('17 Model T) which he in turn used to start his first business, "Bill's Hauling", at the age of 14. Mechanically talented, Bill paid his way through college by repairing and selling cars.
Bill attended Nebraska Wesleyan University where he pledged Theta Chi and met a smart, pretty young freshman with a beautiful smile named Joyce Uphoff. During his college days, while studying to be a teacher, Bill raced motorcycles and roaring roadsters.
After Graduating from Wesleyan with a degree in Education, Bill married Joyce Uphoff on October 26, 1952. They founded Speedway Motors as partners that same year with Joyce providing a $300 loan to open their 20x20 storefront at 2232 'O'. Bill loved the speed shop and hot rodding. But racing was his passion.
In his long, eventful racing career from 1948 to 1980 Bill hired over 90 drivers including Tiny Lund, Johnny Beauchamp, Bob Burdick, Lloyd Beckman, Jan Opperman and Doug Wolfgang. In the 50's, while continuing to build and race jalopies locally, Bill built an Olds to run on the beach at Daytona in 1954. In 1956 Bill and Bobby McKee built a Pontiac for Tiny Lund to race with NASCAR. Bill's racing interests spanned from go-karts to dragsters, roaring roadsters to Indy cars...often in royal purple, always with number 4x. Bill's most memorable racing successes include Beckman's unbeatable 1960-61 season, Opperman's victory at the 1976 Hulman Classic and Wolfgang winning the 1978 Knoxville Nationals.
Speedy Bill's racing success has been recognized by dozens of organizations with Racing Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the likes of, Belleville Highbanks, Nebraska Auto Racing, National Sprint Car, NHRA, IMCA, BCRA, USAC and Model T Ford Club Racer Hall of Fame.
Through the years, while still racing, Bill's mechanical abilities plus his passion, tenacity, merchandising and marketing skills helped Speedway Motors prosper and continuously grow for 62 years. In 1961 Bill and Joyce also co-founded the commercial real estate company which came to be known as Speedway Properties and would go on to earn over ten Community Improvement Awards.
Speedy Bill was always in fast company! Bill's six-decade leadership of Speedway Motors earned him a wonderful reputation throughout the racing world and performance industries. He likely attended more races, car shows and trade shows than anyone in America. Since their inception, Bill walked the fields of Hershey, the aisles of SEMA and the lanes of nearly every National Street Rod event. His tremendous impact on the automotive community was widely recognized as he has received dozens of Industry and Lifetime Achievement Awards including the Robert E. Peterson, NSRA, NHRA, Stoker McGurk, and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also inducted into numerous Industry Hall of Fames including: SEMA, PWA, HRIA, National Rod & Custom Car, Classic Car, Rod & Custom Magazine and Hot Rod Magazine Hall of Fame.
A desire to preserve racing history led Speedy Bill, Joyce and their four sons to found of the Museum of American Speed in 1992. This non-profit racing museum allows the Smiths to give back to automotive community and to share their profound love and knowledge of racing and rodding history for future generations.
Bill loved Lincoln! He was especially proud to have been honored with the Lincoln High School Distinguished Alumni Award, Nebraska Wesleyan Alumni Achievement Award, Nebraskaland Trailblazer Award and being inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame!
Speedy Bill loved his work. He and his wife Joyce labored 60-plus hour weeks at Speedway Motors while raising their four boys. Bill and Joyce always felt blessed with their sons, who have had the pleasure of working in the family business with their remarkable parents.
Bill is survived by sons, Carson (Jane) Smith, Craig (Cathy) Smith, Clay (Beth) Smith, and Jason (Lisa) Smith, all of Lincoln; ten grandchildren. Preceded in death by his beloved wife and partner of 61 years, Joyce Smith ("Mrs. Speedway").
Bill's Celebration of Life will be held at 5 pm on June 14th at the Museum of American Speed. In lieu of flowers, please share with us your memories of Speedy Bill: Bill Smith Memorial Museum of American Speed, 599 Oak Creek Dr. Lincoln, NE 68528, PO Box 81906 Lincoln, NE 68501
(Message edited by adminchris on June 02, 2014)
Here is a shot of Speedy Bill talking with my Grandson during the Lincoln Tour 2 years ago.
Another tribute to Speedy Bill here. http://www.oldcarsweekly.com/news/hobby-news/speedy-bill-smith-crosses-finish-line?et_mid=677100&rid=241943517