From Prototyping to Production for Hot Rods and Sprint Cars
Speedway Motors is a storied business in the world of hot rods and automotive racing. In fact, they claim to be America’s oldest speed shop. Their business isn’t based on just selling parts off warehouse shelves, but rather catering to people building (not just bolting together) cars and hot rods in their garages and shops.
Engineered for Racing and Consumers
It would make sense for a speed shop to have a race team. There is a lot of crossover between the parts that are sold and the builds that the Speedway team races.
Jared Cote, a senior product engineer at Speedway Motors, explains, “Our market is street rod parts, muscle car parts, race car parts… Our customers build everything from a ‘32 Ford to sprint cars.”
Speedway Motor’s clientele is often building the same vehicles their race team uses. In fact, many of their new product concepts come from one of the many employees who also enjoy these automotive hobbies outside of work.
David Wallace, who is in charge of all the machine shops and manufacturing at Speedway Motors, describes his customer as anyone “from a normal guy building a car in his garage to somebody trying to build a show winning car.” It’s a pretty wide group of customers.
Because their customer-base is wide, the company has created a wide base of products and capabilities. “Speedway Racing Engines will build any type of motor you want,” Wallace explains. “We have a lot of CNC and manual equipment for metal cutting, and we also have welding fabrication, assembly, lasers and press brakes, different areas for MIG and TIG welding. We even build all our own fiberglass bodies in our fiberglass plant.”
Prototyping in the Field
From concept to production, Speedway Motors keeps most of their work in house. Their race team is also known as their verification team. Leveraging in-the-field prototyping helps the company’s small engineering team speed up their time to market.
“Our ideas for new products usually come from merchandising, ownership or another employee within the company,” Cote explains. “The engineering team will create the design. Dave [Wallace]’s team in the manufacturing area will build the prototypes. And then usually, the prototypes will go to the race team/verification team to test the parts. Then it’ll come back to us for a second round of prototypes or production prints to be made.”
The engineering team utilizes a number of different tools to develop their parts. Often, they’ll 3D scan a car body or other specific parts for fitment and reverse engineering. “We use Geomagic for the scan data and then we design everything in SOLIDWORKS,” Cote says.
Cote and his team also use a combination of SOLIDWORKS Simulation (for finite element analysis) and a CMM (coordinate measuring machine) to calculate the durability of parts.
“Recently, we were doing some testing on a torque arm and we were working on getting some CMM probe points. We also 3D scanned it,” Cote explains. “Then we installed the arm on a car with our race team. After we got done running a car with it, we went back and checked those points and rescanned to see if it had any signs of high stress or permanent deformation, to see if there’d been any kind of failure during testing.”
They’ve also used brittle-coating to test parts, which fractures in response to surface strain beneath it.
From Design to Production
Speedway Motors manufactures the parts that they sell. Their onsite facilities provide an array of CNC and fabrication capabilities, and are an essential element to their business. While their engineering team will send the production team production items, pre-production parts and prototypes to be manufactured, the shop also utilizes SOLIDWORKS for their own needs.
“We use a lot of assemblies,” says Wallace. “We make a lot of machined parts, sheet metal parts…simple parts, but then they all get put together in an assembly to make sure that we’ve got a working finished product. And we’ve been using CAMWorks inside SOLIDWORKS for a long time in the shop.”
However, designing products isn’t the only place they use CAD. In the fabrication and welding shop, Wallace’s team uses very specific welding tables. “They have a 50mm grid pattern, which allows us to tell Jared [Cote] and the rest of the engineering team what specific fixturing we may need to hold a part that might be made of five or six sub-components. We’ll do all the fixturing right out of engineering,” Wallace says.
“We’re a pretty small engineering group, so we do a lot of manufacturing engineering, as well as the design engineering,” Cote adds.
Wallace continues, “A lot of our fixturing we do in SOLIDWORKS, so when there’s a product change, we can control the fixturing change easily. It used to be that a lot of our fixtures were … we’d build a good part, but we’d hand-build the fixture off of that. If you change the part and your fixturing is by hand, it makes it really hard to replicate anything. By doing everything in CAD, if there’s a product change, we can both easily change the fixture and control the accuracy of the end product with the workholding.”
Having the ability to keep both engineering and manufacturing based in one software makes it easier for Speedway Motors to change things as time goes on and affords better control over their end product.
As Speedway Motors races towards faster time to market with new products, they are also looking to provide value for speed shop enthusiasts.
“We understand that our customers want to know how parts are built and fabricated because we have so many customers that are buying specialty parts,” Cote explains. “So, we offer a simplified engineering drawing on many of our top-selling house branded products. These drawings give the customer critical dimensions, which allows them to decide if the product will work for their application.”
Because most of their customers are building cars from the ground up, or close to it, they often need insight into the design and manufacturing specs of Speedway Motors products. “When you call the Customer Experience Team, we even have dedicated race car and street car techs on staff to answer customer questions that are specific to the type of vehicle they are building,” says Cote.
Speedway Motors takes pride in having such a tight connection to their customers and their passion; both Cote and Wallace (and their teams) work very closely together.
“Our engineers are always in the shop, so they are always seeing the new tools and machines that we’re using. We can show them the shop capabilities, and then they make improvements to their designs based on what we’re capable of by adding new tools,” Wallace says.
Internal collaboration and customer connection seem to be keeping Speedway Motors headed in the right direction. With a team that is engineering and manufacturing parts that they are as passionate about as their customers, they may actually deserve their claim as “America’s oldest speed shop.”