October 29, 2017
Speed Shops in Maine
When you talk about speed shops in Maine, the number is limited. During the 1960’s there were a number of small speed shops typically located in someone’s garage. On trips to the Big E for FFA events, I would notice New England Speed just before the Interstate 90 entrance from Route 290 that went through Worcester. I never made it to that shop. I think they went out of business sometime in the 1990’s.
A Google search with some follow-up on my part and Bob Alexander yielded seven businesses which are reputed to be hot rod speed shops. I would welcome any input from readers about speed shops in Maine.
These are the names of shops I found:
Thayer’s Automotive, Hermon Western Maine Speed Shop, Otisfield
Double S Speed Shop, Portland Wayne Elston’s Speed Shop, Carmel
East Coast Performance, Lamoine Portland Speed, Portland
Baxley’s Speed Shop, Windham
Baxley’s Speed Shop
Maybe some day I will get to the other six speed shops. I contacted Charlie early in October and asked if I could visit him and he said he would be pleased to host us for a tour and Q & A session.
My son-in-law, Marc Cole seems to be my accomplice when I desire to find automotive adventure while we stay with him in Westbrook. He jumped at the opportunity to visit Baxley’s, which was less than 15 minutes from his home.
Marc and I looked around the front lot at Baxley’s before going inside to meet Charlie and his employee Dylan Dupee. Our Q & A took place in the customer entrance of the shop which was well-lit and clean.
I have been in some speed shops where the customer greeting area could be scary for fear of stuff falling or dirt cascading down from magazine collections from decades back.
I met Charlie at several of the Cumberland Motor Club Autocross events at Loring and the Bill Dodge autocross in Westbrook. I knew some information from those conversations not only with him but with some of his customers.
One of the first questions I had to ask Charlie was why a speed shop in Maine? Charlie smiled and replied, “Why not?”
The pathway to a speed shop in Maine from his hometown in Columbus, Georgia featured several twists and turns. When he was young, he would hang out at Columbus Dragway, a 1/8 mile drag strip where his father, Rudy Baxley, raced Pro-Mods. It was at the drag strip that he got his first taste of speed; its sounds, smells, and excitement.
Baxley about his first car, “At 15 I bought my first car, a ’78 4 door Nova for $550. It got slammed and painted. I was ‘the guy with a car’ and it was treated as such.”
“I had to learn to fix it very early on as we had unknowingly used 2 stroke mix in the gas tank and the carb needed a rebuild, so I tackled it.”
The Nova gave way to a few Mustangs and a couple of years in tech school in Georgia. After graduating, Baxley went to work for Power Engineers, Inc in 2000 as a drafter.
When he was relocated to Idaho he had a Datsun (Nissan) sports car. “I practically gave away a mint 240 SX because I didn’t know how to drive it in the snow,” said Baxley. “Got a Jeep, then with the need for power and performance lingering…bought my first turbo car, a 2005 Mitsubishi Evo.”
With the Evo providing a platform for Baxley to learn the art and craft of auto mechanics, his first upgrade was new rotors and Hawk brake pads. In addition to autocross he also did some drag racing.
The Evo also was his first experience in tuning. He said,”It was very aggressively tuned when I got it. I fixed some shady stuff and paid for a more conservative Etune.”
“During that process, I learned what to look for and didn’t like what I saw. So I bought some books and did a ton of research on the internet…then flashed my own car and began the journey of ECU tuning.”
“I relocated to Maine with the same engineering firm in 2008, then designing High Voltage Substations”, said Baxley. “I was doing a lot of electrical, structural and civil design and cad work.”
“I had started to help other folks online and in person with their tuning and began to branch out and take on some side work. In 2015, I officially started Baxley’s Speed Shop as a side gig.”
Bye-bye full-time job hello ownership
“In June 2016, I left the engineering world and went full-time. After a year it was obvious I had the need for commercial space to move forward, so I got the space in Windham and here we are! Currently tuning Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan/Infiniti, Mazda, Ford, Chevy, Dodge and some stand-alone ECUs. We service and repair pretty much any make or model. Lots of stuff planned and couldn’t be happier about it all.”
One of the advantages of having a storefront is the added space and exposure. One day Dylan Dupee was driving by the Windham shop and decided to stop to see if the owner of the speed shop might need some help. Baxley and Dupee talked and the Brighton native was hired as Baxley’s one and only employee.
Dupee comes to Baxley Speed Shop with a stint in the Marine Corps, school at Wyo-Tech, mechanic work in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and work on commercial trucks.
Hiring Dupee has added to the variety of projects and interests in the shop’s future. He hopes to see more drifting at local tracks as well as the “Drifting in the Streets” pro event in downtown Lewiston early in 2018.
Other projects they would like to take on include drag racing cars and spectator drag cars at oval tracks. Their next “Cars and Coffee” Open House is November 12 at 8 am.
Baxley Speed Shop works out of a 2000 square foot shop with a lift and lots of parking with security. The shop is located at 646 Roosevelt Road in Windham next to Windham Power Sports.
The Baxley family includes wife Ashley (married in 2011) from Simpsonville, South Carolina and son Eddy (5 years old).
What are people saying about Baxley’s Speed Shop
Viking Performance owner, Chris Molberg, who I featured earlier this year said, “Charlie Baxley is a an accomplished tuner on multiple automotive platforms. He applies his engineering background in his approach to tuning.”
“I’ve had many high performance cars and recently finished my third Subaru build, ” said Nate Hodgdon from Cornish. “Over the years I’ve dealt with many tuners and tuned ecu’s. They all seemed pretty similar, they put your car on a dyno spend a few hours tuning it and then send you on your way.”
“Charlie Baxley was the first one I’ve ever encountered that really involved me in the process and explained what he was doing to my car and why. I’ve learned a ton over the last year and a half working with him and he’s become a good friend.”
“He really loves what he does and dropped everything to pursue his dreams. We finally have someone willing and able to bring your turbo drive-train to the next level in the greater Portland area, take advantage of it!”
“Charlie Baxley and his shop performed a clutch replacement on my first generation WRX,” said South Portland’s Philip Winslow. “I was pleased with the whole personable process. Communication was an A+. I would continue to hire them for future work, hands down.”
Baxley sponsored autocross driver Ben Spatafora, Portland, had this to say about the SpeedShop, ” I’ve worked with Baxley’s SpeedShop since its infancy, when it was no more than a bay in his garage. In this time, I’ve been nothing but pleased with the work he has done on multiple cars for me.”
“He has tuned my Subaru STi to pick up some power and cleaned up the mapping from a previous tune from another reputable tuner. He has also diagnosed and repaired multiple issues with cars for me, ranging from a faulty fuel pump, to low compression in an engine. He runs a shop that puts out quality work, and stands behind it as well.”
Brunswick resident Ryan Wurfel had this to say about Baxley’s Speed Shop, “I only purchased parts and fluids so far but a very positive experience. Local shop that is race inspired and works to bring together all walks of automotive enthusiasts. Personable and knowledgeable approach right in our backyard.”
Austin Theriault update
I would love to be at the PRI Show in December. If anyone is going let me know. If you want an on-location reporter and want to pay my way feel free to contact me. (smile).
I am closing with my post about my four 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTIs that are for sale so I can cover the cost of clutch repairs on my John Deere 950 tractor. As of publishing time just before 1 am it has 7,211 views!
“My John Deere 950 lost its clutch and had to go to the John Deere hospital in Presque Isle. Since it will cost a bundle, I have made the decision to sell my four 1983 VW Rabbit GTI cars for $1995. The red GTI has had almost every moving part replaced or rebuilt. The three black GTI are in rough condition but have spare parts and possibilities. Snow is coming and my tractor bill is also coming due so make your desire to own these classics known. Sad to see them go, however, I hope they go to someone who will appreciate these cars which began the high performance movement in small cars.”
Closing with some engine music courtesy Dan Gurney-Westlake V8
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria