Shine Speed Shop Takes the Spotlight
If you’ve spent any time in the hot rod and custom hobby – or even watched the car shows on cable – you probably know Jimmy Shine and his business, Shine Speed Shop.
Jimmy – born James D. Falschlehner in Southern California – is no flash-in-the-pan, TV-created car guy. He paid his dues, starting as a youngster working with his dad and brothers on their various racing projects and continuing through his nearly 20 years with So-Cal Speed Shop.
Along the way, Jimmy built a variety of cars, starting at the ripe old age of 14 when he bought an all-steel ’40 Willys pickup for the princely sum of $950, plus a $25 trailer rental. Over the next two years he added a 327c.i. Chevy/TH400 combo that rested in a hand-built square-tube chassis with a narrowed 9-inch Ford rearend and a four-link rear suspension. Total investment: $6,000, with the added bonus of a resume of new skills and the confidence that he could pursue his dream.
Jimmy became a father in 1991 and spent the early-’90s holding a variety of jobs while owning a variety of rides: a ’30 Ford coupe, a ’47 Indian Scout, a ’55 Chevy pickup and a ’56 Mercury Monterey among others.
A Life-Changing Call
As these stories often go, an unexpected phone call opened the door to a productive 18-year stint at one of the country’s premier hot rod enterprises.
Pete Chapouris of Pete & Jake’s fame was looking for a few young, enthusiastic fabricators to fill positions at his shop. Jimmy snagged an interview and the rest, as they say, is history. Jimmy began work at So-Cal Speed Shop in 1997 and immediately jumped on a steep learning curve.
In those early years, Jimmy worked alongside an all-star team of talented craftsmen, helping with many of So-Cal’s iconic builds. One of Jimmy’s personal builds – a channeled, bare-metal ’34 Ford pickup – garnered noteworthy exposure in its own right and influenced a generation of rodders. Experiences for Jimmy during this time also included reality-television exposure on “Hardshine,” “Weaponizers,” and “Car Warriors.”
Spurred on by selling his ’34 Ford at a Barrett-Jackson auction, Jimmy and his wife Nikki decided to make the move in 2015 and go out on their own, opening the Jimmy Shine Work Shop in Orange, California. So-Cal’s Chapouris was a driving force behind the move, helping with advice and encouragement. Anyone who’s ever made that jump, though, knows it’s not easy, no matter the support.
“The evolution of Shine Speed Shop over the past four years has been a learning curve I can’t explain,” Jimmy said. “What I learned from Pete and So-Cal almost doesn’t apply. It is an experience that is unspoken as a warrior in the trenches. Not so much as what to do but more importantly what not to do.”
The best advice didn’t involve shop techniques or financial advice, even though both are important. “My advice from accomplished men was if I’m not totally scared, don’t do it,” Jimmy said. “I was totally scared; that empowered me to gamble my family’s life knowing that I was not one to jeopardize them.”
Over four short years as a freestanding operation, the shop has grown in size, reputation and customer base. While the shop’s main focus is on full builds, Jimmy and the crew handle a variety of tasks for customers, from maintaining iconic race cars like the Old Yeller hot rod, to a wide range of upgrades and repairs.
The shop is staffed to handle any type of task, though two areas – paint and upholstery – are handled by a few close collaborators. Southern California is home to countless top-line professionals, so those tasks can be delegated without shipping cars halfway across the country.
One growing segment is freshening up older hot rod builds. “We call those shave-and-a-haircut projects,” said Jeff Allison, who handles a variety of chores, including marketing, vehicle design, and the shop’s merchandise line.
Refreshing a ’90s-era build can be cheaper than a ground-up project, Jeff said, whether it’s for the original owner or a new owner who sees the potential in an aging build. These updates often include new paint and interior, upgraded power plants, and suspension to make the car look and drive better.
A look around the shop today reveals another emerging trend. Customers are bringing in vehicles that wouldn’t have been considered just a few years ago: larger ’60s and early-’70 cars, plus ’70s and early-’80s pickups. “The more odd or obscure it is, the more you’re seeing,” Jeff said.
For example, current projects include a ’60s Buick Riviera, a ’64 Cadillac, and an ultra-rare ’63 Olds Jetstar hardtop. Often the non-traditional cars have a personal connection to the owner. “The Riviera and the Caddy have family connections,” Jeff said. “These aren’t original-restoration projects but will be more in the direction of mild customs. People don’t want to do a bunch of crazy stuff to them – mostly upgraded power trains and suspension.”
While memories are driving some of these unusual projects, supply and costs are steering some people away from traditional platforms – ’32 Fords, ’69 Camaros, ’60s Mustangs, Tri-Five Chevys. “The more desirable stuff is harder to find every day, but they are still out there,” Jeff said. “They still want that era, but they don’t want to spend $10,000 for a basket case unless they have to.”
Predicting the Future
As it should be with any successful venture, keeping up with changes in the market is crucial. That’s why the Jimmy Shine Work Shop is now Shine Speed Shop.
One reason for the name change was to emphasize that the shop is a team effort rather than just the work of one individual. In addition to the name change, the company logo was redesigned, a new marketing strategy developed, and the popular merchandise line expanded to match the change.
A good measure of a shop’s success is the number of repeat customers. While Shine Speed Shop is young in years, it does have several repeat customers who are happy with the results and come back for more.
“This is the toughest industry and only the strong will survive,” Jimmy said. “Important lessons are only learned from time. In the coming years I see adversity, trials, tribulations and the test of our collective mettle.”
“We as a team will persevere and prosper.”
Photos by Marc Gewertz