Anyone familiar with the history of Drag Racing and Hot Rodding will certainly recognize the name of Angelo Giampetroni and Gratiot Auto Supply. Angelo, affectionately known by his friends as “Junior” went to work in 1946 at a small speed shop on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit called “The Hot Rod Shop for Hot Rod Boys” which was owned by Bill Toia. Angelo and Bill became close friends and remained so right up until Bill’s passing in 2009 at the age of 95.
The 1950’s ushered in an unprecedented growth in the hot rod and drag racing industries and Angelo was on the leading edge of innovations in performance and style. “The Hot Rod Shop” became “Gratiot Auto Supply”, the world’s largest hot rod shop in the late 50’s when Bill Toia made Angelo his partner, the company developed and grew into the 60’s to include 9 locations all over the Detroit area as well as a growing mail order, catalog, and a state of the art warehouse on Stephenson Highway.
Angelo began to develop and sponsor many iconic cars including the “Lil Billy”, a sleek 1927 Ford Track-T with a mid engine 428 C.I. Buick Nailhead. Another incredible Dragster was the Aggravation built by noted tinman and 2006 MMSHoF Inductee, Al Bergler. Aggravation was a bantam dragster with a blown Hemi engine. The “Chevoom” was a fiberglass bodied 1966 chevelle with a rear facing mid engine 392 Hemi. “Chevoom” was collaboration with 2001 MMSHoF Inductee Maynard Rupp. Both of these cars were Riddler Award winners at the Detroit Autorama. The Riddler award is the highest honor a custom vehicle can receive at this prestigious car show. As organizations such as NHRA, MHRA, and the MMAC grew, so did the sport of drag racing and hot rodding which propelled Gratiot Auto Supply into worldwide fame with the catalog and mail order business reaching other countries including Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, Sweden, and New Zealand with products from Hurst Shifters, Holley Carbs,, Edelbrock, and Weiand manifolds, Iskendarian cams, and Hooker headers just to name a few. At one point the famed Miss Golden Shifter, Linda Vaughn was a spokesperson for Gratiot Auto Supply. She famously posed along with Angelo for the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in front of a Sprint T, which was a 1927 track roadster that could be purchased fully assembled or as a build it yourself kit car.
Angelo recognized the rise of Custom Vans and high performance 4 x 4’s in the 1970’s as well as car audio so he followed the times and became a leader in providing parts and pieces for this booming segment of the industry. He said you have to keep up with the times as they are a changing and change they did as “Cruisin” Woodward and Gratiot avenues became more popular.
In the late 80’s and through the 90’s, Angelo became the marketing director for the Ford SVO/Racing program where he helped to introduce a whole new line of parts and accessories for the street rodding and street machine enthusiasts.
Angelo, through Gratiot Auto Supply sponsored many racing vehicles and teams, most notably the team of Mancini Racing. Ron Mancini himself is 2018 MMSHoF Inductee who traveled the country with the Gratiot Auto Supply name emblazoned on the side of the car.
From a young man taking a job in a hot rod shop to becoming the World’s Largest Hot Rod Shop, Angelo Giampetroni has left a huge and lasting impact on the Motor Sports Industry and is truly a legend in the Hot Rodding, Street Machine, and Drag Racing Industry.