Smitty Smith is your traditional, dyed-in-the-wool gearhead. Born and raised here in sunny Southern California, Smitty was brought up amid the pervasive Car Culture that has become so synonymous with the region. At 61 years young, Smitty has been wrenching and getting greasy for longer than most of us have been alive. Learning lessons both harsh and enlightening along the way, he’s got nearly 50 years of experience and wisdom aiding him in his pursuit of automotive adventuring.
Speak with Smitty for even a short time and it’s incredibly apparent that this guy lives and breathes cars. He’s even built a great career for himself in the automotive world. Just goes to show that when you love something enough and work tirelessly towards your goals, you really can do what you love for a living. That’s when a job becomes more than just a paycheck and becomes just as fun as it is fulfilling.
With all of that gasoline in his veins, it should come as no surprise that when Smitty came across this 1937 Ford pick-up a mere four houses away in a neighbor’s backyard, he had a pretty clear vision of what this old truck could be. With that in mind, a deal was struck and $1,000 later, Smitty was rolling this Ford down the alley back to his house. From there, Smitty’s good friend Bob Curtis handled shipping the truck up north from his home in Del Mar, California to Kruger Kustom in Jefferson, Oregon where a bulk of the transformation took place.
Once up in the Pacific Northwest, Smitty’s vision started becoming reality. The body was removed from the frame and all components were then completely disassembled. The decision was made to utilize an IRS from an ’87 Dodge Dakota and an IRS out of a 1967 Corvette was sourced. It was discovered during the chassis build-up that the ’87 Dakota frame had a 117″ wheelbase, identical to the Ford’s stock frame. Smitty was then faced with the decision to do a complete frame swap, but he opted to continue with his original plan and use the stock frame with updated front and rear suspension. Edelbrock Performer IAS shocks were then installed on all corners. Smitty says he’s glad he went with the Independent front and rear suspensions because not only does the truck ride incredibly well, but it handles just as good! Four disc brakes make sure the truck stops as good as it goes.
While the frame and suspension were being sorted out, a ’79 Chevy Small Block was bored and stroked to 383ci. Being a long-time employee over at Edelbrock, this SBC was treated to the best motor goodies that the company has to offer: Rolling Thunder hydraulic roller camshaft, lifters and push rods, red roller rockers, Aluminum Performer RPM heads, RPM Air-Gap dual-quad intake topped off with dual 500cfm Thunder Series AVS carburetors. When placed on the Dyno, the engine produced a nasty 420 hp and 460ft/lbs of grunt. March Performance provided one of their Ultra Front Drive Serpentine systems and a Be Cool electric fan helps keep the engine temp down. A tried and true MSD ignition system provides spark while a completely stainless steel exhaust system consisting of Hooker headers, Edelbrock SDT mufflers and tasteful chrome tips provide a healthy rumble. Helping put the power on the pavement is a Lokar shifted C&O Automotive 700R4 coupled to a Continental torque converter.
- Engine make/year: 1979 Chevrolet Small Block, bored & stroked 383ci (Dyno Tested 420 HP 460 FT/LBS), 9.6:1 Compression
- Bore: 4.030” (KB Hypereutectic -18cc Pistons)
- Stroke: 3.75” (Scat 4340 Crank, Speed-O-Motive 4340 5.7” Rods) Stainless Harmonic Damper
- Camshaft: Edelbrock Rolling Thunder Hydraulic Roller Camshaft, Lifters & Pushrods, Edelbrock Red Roller Rockers
- Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Aluminum Performer RPM Heads, 170cc Intake Runners, 2.02”/1.60” SS Valves with 70cc Chambers
- Intake: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap Dual-Quad Intake
- Carburetors: Dual 500cfm Edelbrock Thunder Series AVS Carburetors
- Headers/Exhaust: 304 SS Hooker Headers, 2-1/2” 304 SS Exhaust with Edelbrock SDT 304 SS Mufflers and 304 SS 2-1/2” to 3” Exhaust Tips
- Ignition: MSD Billet Distributor with MSD 6AL Box, MSD Blaster 2 Coil and MSD 8.5mm plug wires
- Transmission: C&O Automotive 700R4, with Continental Torque Convertor 2400 Stall with Lock-Up
- Shifter: Lokar 23” Double Bend with LED Indicator Selector
- Rearend Type: Corvette IRS with 4.11 Posi
- Misc: Edelbrock Performer IAS Shocks ALL four corners, Russell Performance Brake Lines with Speed Bleeders, Russell Performance Plumbing throughout
Up inside the truck’s cab, a bench seat out of an ’87 Ford Ranger was cut down to accommodate Smitty’s 6’4″ height and heating elements were added to the seat back and bottom to help keep the occupants cozy in colder weather. A complete set of Autometer gauges keeps the driver up-to-date on what’s happening in the engine compartment. Vintage Air and a Kenwood deck keep things comfortable while an Ididit column topped off with a Lecarra wheel keeps Smitty in control.
While all of the rebuilt bits and pieces came together, the custom body work took shape. Keeping things subtle, modifications were minimal: a frenched license plate is flanked by a set of frenched ’47 Ford car tail lights all set within a custom rear roll pan. The bed rails were modified to use 1.25-inch round tubing rather than the stock square rails, giving the bed a cleaner look all around. After the body work was completed and everything was laser straight, Smitty decided on House of Kolor Triple Black, sprayed by Human Touch, in Jefferson, Oregon.
As far as Rod Authority is concerned, there’s almost nothing as classy or as sinister as a straight black paint job. The results speak for themselves. The finishing touch was a set of Pete Paulsen Steelies; 14×5.5 up front and 15x8s out back, powder coated red and adorned with Stainless Steel caps and trim rings. Tires are Dayton Radial Wide White’s, 185/70R14s and 235/75R-15s, respectively. When all was said and done, the only thing left was to drive the old gal and have some fun, which Smitty does on the regular.
Now that we’ve gotten to know Smitty’s truck, let’s get to know Smitty a little bit!
RA: Tell us a little about yourself.
Smitty: I went to Venice High School and later spent a year at Santa Monica City College, all while working at local Speed Shops. I ended up working at Service Center Speed Shop in Inglewood where I later became General Manager for the local company stores. I also worked for Mr. Gasket in ’80 and ’81. I’m blessed to have grown up around cars. My Mom and Dad used to race 30’s Ford “Jalopies” at Ascot back in the early 60’s.
RA: So cars are in your blood?
Rod Authority: What do you do for a living?
Smitty Smith: I’ve been with Edelbrock Performance the last 23 years. Did Customer Service for 8 years, then Tech Support for another 8. Now I’m the Technical Sales Coordinator and also handle Media Technical & Application Information.
RA: What’s your earliest car-related memory?
Smitty: You mean like working at a Gas Station at 14 years old? (laughs)
RA: Who would you say is your biggest influence, car wise?
Smitty: My Dad when I was younger, but as I’ve gotten older it’s just in me, that’s all I can say.
RA: What is the most important car related lesson you’ve learned?
RA: What motivates you?
Smitty: For me, I just love to wrench. It’s like therapy. When you see the results of all that hard work, it’s all worth it.
RA: Any advice to someone interested in our culture who maybe doesn’t have any prior experience?
Smitty: Dive in and go for it. I’m blessed that I was born around cars and have been around them my whole life. But if you weren’t and you’re passionate about them, just go for it.
RA: What do you think about the current trends and styles that we’re currently seeing in Classic Car culture?
Smitty: There’s a lot of new stuff out there, I prefer the old school thing. Some guys would rather have a 2010 Mustang, I’d rather stick with the old stuff. Guys around the shop call me “analog” because I prefer things that way (laughs).
RA: Is there anything in particular about this truck that you’d like the readers to know?
Smitty: When I built this truck I had my dad in mind. I had the airbrushing in the glove box done for him. It’s kind of a tribute to him.
Smitty: Yes, I’m happy with it. Very happy!
RA: What’s your favorite thing about it?
Smitty: The look. It looks how just I envisioned it. Also, I still can’t believe how amazingly it rides!
RA: Do you have a particularly fond memory associated with the truck?
Smitty: My good friend Bob Curtis is like my brother, we’ve known each other since the 4th Grade. In 2007, Bob had a car show at his house where we unveiled it, which was terrific. Then, I was blessed when Vic Edelbrock Jr. arranged to have the truck debuted at the 2007 SEMA show. I’m lucky to have had a lot of help from good friends.
RA: What was the most stressful part of the build?
Smitty: Compiling all the pieces, gathering all the things you need to build a car from almost nothing. Also getting everything I wanted implemented into the build. I’m a big guy, so I wanted to be sure that it would be comfortable.
RA: Has the truck won any awards or honors?
Smitty: Oh yeah! I’ve won 7 first place trophies, 2 of which were Best of Show at John Force’s Holiday car show. At the 60th Grand National Roadster Show in 2009, the truck won 1st Place, Semi-Custom Pickup.
RA: Are there any shops or individuals that you’d like to thank for their help in putting your truck together?
Smitty: I had huge help from Lokar, Vintage Air, Autometer, Be Cool, March Performance, MSD, Ididit, C&O Automotive, Continental Torque Converter, my brother Bob Curtis who got it picked up and sent to Kruger Kustom in Oregon for me. And of course my wife.