The Speedway Motors 4x Sedan
The story of this little purple sedan is also the story of two brothers. Not related by blood, but instead by mutual respect and a shared tenacity and desire to win that would stay with both of them for the rest of their lives. This is the story of “Speedy” Bill Smith, Lloyd Beckman, and the Speedway Motors 4x sedan.
By 1960, Speedway Motors had been around for 8 years. For all those years (and several before) “Speedy” Bill had been racing. He was a driver first, but the fear that his mom would find out about his on-track exploits overshadowed any reward that victory lane could offer. Even though he was no longer behind the wheel, Bill was just at the beginning of a lifetime of racing and winning. His real success would come as a car builder and owner. Turns out, the discipline and tenacity that it took to build a business from the ground up also served him well as the man in charge of a racing operation.
The Speedway Motors 4x sedan was built by Bill and mechanic Marty Bassett. It was the culmination of everything they had learned about building racecars up to that point, and for its time it was pretty revolutionary. As with most great racers throughout history, Bill strongly advocated a “creative” reading of the rulebook. The rules said the engine could only be moved so many inches behind the front crossmember. But Bill had an idea. How could he increase rearward weight bias and stability, but still pass tech? Bill’s clever solution was to leave the front crossmember alone but move the front axle forward. This increased the wheelbase, put more of the engine’s weight over the back tires, and there was nothing in the rulebook saying that he couldn’t.
In another clever move, Bill and Marty put the driver right in the center of the car, not off to the side where he would throw things off balance. There were adjusting bolts on both sides of the Model A rear crossmember to allow Bill and crew to precisely dial in the wedge in the car. To top it all off, they fitted a ’32 Ford sedan body to the car. A swoopier coupe may have been a more obvious choice, but “Speedy” Bill rarely followed the pack. Compared to the other cars on the track, he said this one “looked like a funeral hearse.” But man did it run.
By the time the sedan was finished, Lloyd Beckman had already been driving for Bill for a while. Bill’s previous driver, Woody Brinkman, was forced into early retirement when his wife found his racing helmet in the trunk of their car. Apparently, she had been unaware of his racecar heroics and was not a fan. So, Woody recommended Lloyd Beckman, a motorcycle racer with the reputation for being a fierce competitor. Woody’s sudden exit from the scene put Bill in a bind, so he decided to take a chance on Lloyd.
The rest is history. Lloyd hit the ground running, and with the 4x sedan beneath him, he was almost untouchable. The car made its debut on July 4th, 1960 at Capital Beach Speedway and won the first night out. Then, a week later, Bill, Lloyd and the sedan won again. A week later, another win. This went on for the rest of the 1960 season. They won 11 straight and took the Nebraska Modified Racing Association title as well.
Their dominance continued into the 1961 season. You might think that the old philosophy of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” would apply here, but in fact, “Speedy” Bill encountered the exact opposite situation. People were so tired of seeing Bill and Lloyd cruise to victory every Friday night and so convinced that they were somehow cheating that they started to boycott Speedway Motors. At this point, Bill’s little shop in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska relied largely on walk in business from the locals. These were the same locals who were getting their butts kicked at the track. This put Bill in a pickle. Is it better to keep on winning and let the business suffer, or was it time to start throwing some races to revive the business? Ultimately, Bill chose to handicap Lloyd a bit and pulled the big engine that they had been winning with and installed a tired 302. When Lloyd caught wind of this, he was furious and vowed to drive even harder to make up the difference. And he did. Even with the handicap, Lloyd kept on winning.
There are conflicting stories about how the winning streak came to an end. After 16 straight feature wins, either the tired old engine finally gave up or they had a flat tire. Whatever the case, the streak was over, peace was restored, and Speedway Motors survived.
Bill and Lloyd would race together on and off for years to come. Like all brothers (whether related by blood or not) there were rough patches and there were good times. Lloyd could be found in Speedway Motors cars all through the 60’s and 70’s. He even drove for a second generation when he won the season championship at Lincoln’s Midwest Speedway in a sprint car being run by Bill’s oldest son Carson Smith. 29 years after his first lap for Bill and he was still running at the front of the pack.
Time rolls on. Bill and Lloyd are both gone now. Racing looks a lot different now than it did in the 60’s. But here sits the 4x sedan in the Museum of American Speed, lovingly and accurately recreated by Mark Randol and John Layne of Kansas City. It’s a monument to a simpler time in racing, the early days of Speedway Motors, and one great partnership between two very determined and talented racers.