Life comes to a temporary stop anytime we get a mailing from CarTech Publishing in Minnesota, because they have a demonstrated knack for editing and producing automotive histories that cram an impressive level of sheer information into a package that’s pleasantly easy to both digest and afford. One such package showed up on the doorstep recently that we’ve got to share, right now. The author is my longtime Hemmings cohort Bob McClurg, who moved to Hawaii after one of motoring journalism’s most stellar and comprehensive careers. An accomplished CarTech author, Bob’s latest endeavor is a comprehensive history of the shops – all of them, and there used to be plenty – where car enthusiasts gathered to shop, socialize and strategize about speed. If you’re even peripherally excited about either hot rodding or auto racing, you’ve simply got to have his book.
The American Speed Shop isn’t the first book that’s ever attempted to catalog the hundreds of retailers who sold speed equipment, and thus created a billion-dollar industry, but it’s certainly the most digestible and user-friendly such effort we’ve yet encountered. The author takes 192 hardcover pages, with more than 400 photos, to tell how this industry evolved. Each shop – and the appendix that lists them runs into the hundreds of entries – gets a useful capsule in the text, which covers both the Mom and Pop businesses as well as the mega-retailers that followed, led by the likes of “Honest Charley” Card from Chattanooga. It was amazing to find one such listing on the Manhattan Speed Shop in New York City, which operated a shop on lower Broadway for years, and also backed the dirt Modifieds that Roger Laureno and Whitey Kidd Jr. arced around Flemington Fair Speedway. The history of SEMA, the industry lobbying giant that these retailers created, is also fittingly told. The foreword is by the late Tom Madigan, an acclaimed journalist who penned biographies of pioneering speed magnates such as Vic Edelbrock Sr., Bill Stroppe and Mickey Thompson. This very impressive work retails for $42.95.