Luis Quinones began working on vintage vehicles as a teenager living on a farm. His family had an old Chevy truck that hadn’t run in several years, but Luis and his brother brought it back to life. That’s all it took to spark a lifelong interest in vintage cars, and it eventually led Luis to start Speedy’s Transmission in Richmond, VA.
Today, Speedy’s works on all types of vehicles, from late-model vehicles with complex electronic controls to decades-old cars with complicated linkage.
“About 90% of what we do is light transmission repair,” says Quinones. “We build race transmissions, transmissions for towing, and haulers—big trucks, medium trucks, manual transmissions, race car transmissions and so forth.”
Quinones says that Speedy’s is the largest transmission repair shop in Virginia because they have 34,000 sq. ft. of space and 48 bays. Yes, 4-8. Not all bays have a lift, but there’s plenty of room for working on the daily drivers and enough storage for project cars and longer-term restoration vehicles. He says they also get customers from all over the country due to their work on vintage cars and transmissions.
“We race vintage cars,” Quinones adds. “So we are deep in vintage transmission knowledge from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. I have some customers from California, some from Washington state, and New York also. Right now, we have a 1959 Rolls Royce transmission we are building for a customer. It’s got very complicated linkage for the four-speed transmission.”
While many shops won’t touch older vehicles, Speedy’s embraces them even though Quinones admits: “there’s no money in it.”
Speedy’s employs 17 people: ten dedicated to R&R; two transmission rebuilders; two master technicians; and the rest in administrative roles. Quinones says that they’ve worked hard to create an appealing atmosphere for their enthusiast customers. “We have tried to create a style that is near museum quality and combines everything that we love most about the car world, from antiques to our favorite memorabilia.”
Not only is Luis bilingual in Spanish and English, which helps when it comes to serving the growing Latino community, but they also work on transmissions that other shops don’t want to deal with, like CVTs. Quinones says that they can rebuild CVTs from nameplates such as Nissan and others. But they are more labor-intensive compared to conventional automatics.
Quinones also stocks a few hundred transmission cores from the most popular applications that his technicians rebuild during slower times or overtime work. That way, he can sell a full reman and do the swap in a matter of hours, not days.
One of Speedy’s latest ventures is doing transmission work for a local Cadillac dealer. “A few months ago, we had a supervisor from Cadillac stop by our shop and ask if we work on classic cars from the ’70s and ’80s, which we do. Now we are getting a lot of work from this dealership. When they get an old Cadillac, they send it to us. It’s about three, four cars a week now.”
According to Luis, many technicians at dealerships today are only trained on their late-model vehicles and don’t know about the older transmissions. He says that the dealer sometimes ships them the complete car, and other times it may just be the transmission. It depends on what they can deal with at the time. He says, on average, Speedy’s rebuilds or remans about 20 to 25 transmissions a week.
One benefit that Speedy’s offers is free towing for customers who choose them to do their repairs (they also own a towing company). That can make a big difference to some customers who may not be able to afford the repair bill and the tow bill.
While Speedy’s lives up to their racing heritage in Richmond, VA, they are fortunate to be near a world-class racetrack in Virginia International Raceway (VIR), which is only about 45 minutes from the shop. VIR hosts several vintage events per year, so customers can drop off their racecar during the week and have it ready to go for the race weekend. Speedy’s Transmission Shop lives up to its name for Quinones and his crew.