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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.

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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.

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From early rods, to ’50s rides and beyond, Shine Speed Shop can handle just about anything. The “Likefire” ’55 Chevy on the right is a nod to the influential Limefire ’32 Ford roadster built by Pete Chapouris.

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.

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Billy F. Gibbons’ “Whiskey Runner” ’34 Ford coupe was in the shop for a little work while we were there. Shine got to know Gibbons during his So-Cal Speed Shop days.

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.”

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Professional Leap

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.

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Branden Johnson TIG welds a bracket for a project.

“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.”

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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.”

Shop Evolution

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.

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Shine’s reputation for craftsmanship and reverence for history has led people to trust him with historic hot rods like Old Yeller, the ’50s race roadster driven by the likes of Carroll Shelby and Dan Gurney.

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Paulo Dosdoglirian fits headers to the famous Old Yeller roadster, which was in the shop for repairs recently.

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.

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Emerging Trends

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.

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Like other builders, Shine Speed Shop has seen more post-’60s vehicles rolling through the doors. This custom G-body El Camino belonging to Billy F. Gibbons is a great example.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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The Shine Speed Shop showroom is well equipped with art, memorabilia, and merchandise.

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.

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Jimmy Shine has found his calling and followed his passion to create Shine Speed Shop.

“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.”

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The Shine Speed Shop team includes, left to right: Jeff Walton, Jimmy Shine, Nikki Shine, Paulo Dosdoglirian (behind Nikki), Branden Johnson, Jeff Allison, Louie Lopez, Mike Arnold, Erik Skovseth, AJ Lopez, and Justin Dressler.

Photos by Marc Gewertz

Dave Doucette is a long-time Goodguys member with a career in newspaper, magazine and website journalism. He was one of the founding editors of USA TODAY, editor of two daily newspapers and co-owner of a magazine publishing and trade show company. He owns and operates Real Auto Media. His first car was a 1947 Ford; he has owned Camaros, Firebirds, El Caminos and a 1956 Chevy that was entered in shows from California to Florida before being sold last year. He was one of the original Goodguys Rodders Reps and served as president of two classic Chevy clubs. Doucette grew up in South Florida, avidly following the racing exploits of local hero Ollie Olsen and, of course, Don Garlits. He remembers riding his bicycle to Briggs Cunningham’s West Palm Beach factory to peak through the fence at his Sebring and LeMans racers.

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