At the end of an unnamed dirt road, tucked neatly between grazing ponies and sprawling farmland, Floridian Steve Smith harnesses his own kind of horsepower. Within what he calls his “man cave” is a collection that you might expect to find in a museum. For Steve, they are just some of his favorite cars.
“I’ve always loved hot rods,” Steve, who started going to the drag strip in Dallas, Georgia, with his oldest brother when he was about 9 years old, told us.
Those formative years left a lasting impression on him as he progressed to bending wrenches during summers and weekends at a friend’s body shop at an ambitious age of 14.
“My buddy with the body shop had a 1966 Comet Caliente,” Steve said with a laugh. “A 289 HiPo with a four-speed and no grille or bumper. It was dark green and had a yellow left fender and smoked like a tar kiln. I worked all summer for that car.”
Today, married over four decades with three children and eight grandchildren, Steve is a major player for a company that produces some of the most innovative, high-performance, and customizable line of body shop equipment. With years of automotive experience and a jaw-dropping list of legendary contacts at his disposal, it should come as no surprise that Steve’s list of “grown-up toys” would be just as impressive.
“The 7-Litre Galaxie is a very rare piece,” Steve says. “I had only seen one other when I was a kid and this is the second one I’ve seen in person. I had a ’66 Galaxie 390/four-speed that was Emberglo, and I always wanted another one like it.”
“I found the 7-Litre on an auction site and began to restore it,” he said.
It’s at this point Steve’s reputation and contacts came into play. He sent the original 428 and Ford Tri-Power to Holman & Moody and its legendary crew chief Jimmy Tucker rebuilt the engine, bored it .030-over; port-matched and planed the intake to fit; and made a custom camshaft.
While awaiting the fresh powerplant Steve replaced the original American mag wheels “to be as close as possible to the one I had as a kid.” He also swapped the original front disc brakes in favor of Wilwoods for clearance and carefully stored the originals.
Back To His Roots
When not terrorizing the Florida back roads, Steve can be found with not one, but two asphalt-pounding projects in the works.
“One is a ’69 Torino Cobra Jet I bought when I was 19,” Steve said.
He admits that having your own personal restoration shop and state-of-the-art equipment at your fingertips helps maintain the restoration.
Competing for Steve’s attention is this 1969 drag car. Don’t be fooled by the current state of this well-used shell, however, as what motivates it will leave you breathless.
“The car had been sitting outdoors few a few years when I got a call about it” says Steve. “It was a little worse for wear but it was all there except for the engine which was stored inside” he continued. “It had been removed years earlier, run in a boat, and then left.”
After verifying what he was looking at, Steve bought the car and engine on the spot. For his small investment, he brought home not only a workable Mustang shell, but a genuine, Holman & Moody-built 1969 NASCAR Boss 429 engine.
For now Steve says he’s unsure of the course he’ll take with the car and engine. Having a ’72 Dodge Challenger 340 Six Pack, ’70 Mach 1 with a 427 side-oiler and a ’66 Fairlane Pro Street car pass through his hands you can bet it won’t be long before this pony once again leads the herd.
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