Hot Rod Garage Oklahoma – Fine Rides with Family Ties
The Hot Rod Garage in Oklahoma has been doing things the right way for over 20 years now.
“What better way to make a living than to do what you love with your family?” Those words spoken by Jason Smith of the Hot Rod Garage in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, resound with gratitude and sincerity. And he’s right. Given the choice, who wouldn’t want to have fun and stay close?
Jason’s father, Jim Smith, is a longtime street rodder and a lifelong car builder. He was on the ground floor of the street rod movement in the early 1970s and an active event official at many of the early NSRA events. He was a friend of Goodguys founder Gary Meadors before there was a Goodguys, and their friendship continued for decades, with Gary and guys like Roy Brizio and Ed Hagerty dropping by every year to visit the shop on their annual pilgrimage to the famed Chili Bowl midget races in Tulsa. Old street rodders cut from the same cloth, they all are.
Over the years Jim tinkered with old cars, either building them for a living, or actively on the side as a hobby. As with many street rodders, the expansion of a young family saw his ’32 five-window replaced with a ’34 sedan that Jason spent miles of his childhood in. As he grew, Jason stayed into cars, and in the late 1990s took an active interest in the paint and body trade after high school. His father finished up a career in the insurance business as Jason’s sister left for college life and early adulthood.
“They had a bit of an empty nest thing going on after the insurance business,” Jason says. “When I told dad I was thinking about starting a hot rod shop, he asked what I thought about going into a partnership with him. Since he’s always been a machinist, a welder, and a fabricator type of guy, and I was more into the paint and body, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Their complementary skills were enhanced when Jason’s mother Sharon agreed to handle the daily office chores. The Smiths laid out a business plan over the Thanksgiving holiday of 1996. They rented a small shop in Sand Springs, and hung their shingle out at the following winter’s Darryl Starbird show with a few of his dad’s finished cars, a project car and a sign saying they were open for business. In 2017 they celebrated the shop’s 20th anniversary.
Jason’s wife Shelly joined the team a few years ago to handle the ever-growing business end of things. Her experience in the CPA field has been just what the Hot Rod Garage needed to stay in step with the bills and growth.
Along with this growth came more employees. The shop’s “one body guy and additional fabricator” has grown to nine full-time employees and two part-time guys – one a young college kid learning the ropes. In addition to paint, the crew has guys specialized in things like mechanical upgrades, fabrication, final assembly, and glass and wiring. The Smiths are proud to say that several of their employees have been with them for more than 10 years.
Jason credits the elevated levels of quality in street rodding in general as a factor in them landing business in the classic restoration and exotic markets. Those kinds of cars have been helpful for the shop in times of hot rodding lulls. One customer road races a Bizzarini, while another has them working on an antique Model T speedster. It’s not unusual to find them tackling the restoration paintwork on Packards and other brass-era greats.
In addition to full builds, the shop handles everything but upholstery in-house, and does a lot of EFI installs, mechanical upgrades, and whatever else a street rodder or vintage car enthusiast might need.
Top accolades for the shop include QuikSilver, a radical ’57 Chevy pickup that won the Barrett-Jackson Cup, was named Goodguys 2013 LMC Truck of the Year, in addition to being a Great 8 finalist at the Detroit Autorama. Hot Rod Garage has also turned out a few AMBR contenders, several Pebble Beach cars, and even a ’49 Cadillac they raced in the La Carrera race and up Pike’s Peak.
At the end of the day Jason says that’s the real secret to their success: cool customers who want cool cars. It’s usually the friendship created along the path of the car’s construction that makes a great vehicle. It’s ingrained into the car’s essence and when it’s genuine, it’s unmistakable.
Street rodding was founded upon good times with your friends and family, and the Hot Rod Garage is the embodiment of that ethos, and a shining example of what can be done when people care about cars, quality, and family.