October '21

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OCTOBER 2021 THE SHOP 41 mass-production work, but not for the onesie-twosie custom work he does. It takes him about an hour-and-a-half to two hours to bend a typical stock-look exhaust system. He estimates that his stock-style exhaust systems are at least 95% factory perfect and 99% correct fit- ting. His old Huth bender does the job. RUN A SHOP NEAR A BIG SHOW According to Jim Gunderson, the MSRA Back to the '50s show in Minneapolis does a lot for his shop, Classic Customs and Rods, as the giant, 10,000-car event has created a lot of the interest and enthusiasm in the Twin Cities area for hot rods and classics. "Around here, there's a huge difference in the value of a '64 Chevy and a '65 Chevy, because the '65 doesn't fit in at Back to the '50s," he points out. Gunderson's business was started in 2002. "At that time, I decided that there was a need for a shop in this area that could help street rod owners," he explains. "Many of them didn't build their own cars and didn't know how to repair them when they needed fixing." He built his business around repairing vintage cars and street rods. "I just started in one stall in the building over there," Gunderson says, pointing to one of several units he uses in a large industrial park. "I did a lot of wiring jobs, because the wiring on old cars doesn't last forever and decays very badly. I started alone and then my son, Joe, came in about eight months later. We've been working our way up ever since." Gunderson was looking forward to the Back to the '50s show returning in 2021. "There are 10,000 to 12,000 people who come here for that show, and they all drive the types of cars we work on," he explains. DIY STILL WORKS Greg Stelse decided he wanted to be in the old-car business instead of trucking. He bought an empty building that had housed a flooring business and turned it into Greg's Speed Shop LLC. ( He then erected a façade of 100-year- old Chicago bricks in front of the building. Inside, he created a replica 1940s Texaco gas station. He then added a second floor and created a two-story vintage clothing shop for his wife, Leah, to run, plus an upholstery shop, a café, a photo studio and a '50s-style beauty salon. Stelse and his employees did all of the remodeling work themselves. Before long, he was adding a 150-foot-long automotive workshop, again built mostly by his own crew. That was fol- lowed by a second 150-foot addition that he constructed using his in-house talent, except when outside specialty work was required. Currently, the Greg's Speed Shop team is erecting yet another large building that will become part of a collector car storage operation that Stelse is launching very soon. Meanwhile, he has also purchased 80 acres behind his shop, where he dreams of building a 1940s and '50s-style town. He wants to start with a Midwestern Town Square and keep going. In fact, he wants to buy an additional 100 acres to increase the planned size of the town. Although Stelse admits to being a dreamer, he has been successful in making his dreams come true. And he works hard. Greg's Speed Shop is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days per week. All this was accomplished in the small city of Waupaca, Wisconsin. The popu- lation of Waupaca was only 6,069 people in the 2010 census, but his do-it-yourself attitude has put his shop on the national map. He gets visitors from nearly every state and several countries, who often can't believe what he's built when they see the before-and-after photos. The continued growth of the speed shop is living proof that you can still do it yourself today. BUILDING ON TRADITION Steve Bimbi was in the right place at the right time to buy the rights to the name of a famous muscle car-era Chevy deal- ership—Nickey Chevrolet (with a back- wards K in its logo). Bimbi opened a new supercar headquarters called Nickey Performance (, now in Loves Park, Illinois. Nickey was a Chicago institution until 1977. Bimbi had a Western Illinois Uni- versity business degree and loved cars. His father owned a North Chicago shop that restored foreign cars. Bimbi worked on cars at a young age and got involved in buying and selling at dealer auctions. He became a car The original Greg's Speed Shop building after the brick façade was added by Greg Stelse. The newest building at Greg's will be used for car storage next to the existing shop.

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