A mainstay in the NMRA QA1 True Street and TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout classes with his SN95 Mustang Cobra, Jeff Smith aka the “Stick Shift Dude” has no shortage of wins already under his belt, but the driver from Florida is already knee-deep in an overhaul process to ensure he earns even more.
“The Pumpkin” as his Competition Orange Cobra is known has certainly earned its keep over the years, as it carried Smith to wins in both the 2013 and 2016 NMRA Stick Shift Shootouts, the 10.00 class at the 2017 Street Car Takeover, Stick Shift at the 2019 Street Addicts race, and multiple 10.00-second category wins in NMRA and NMCA True Street over the years.
Despite its success, the car was never intended to be a dedicated track car.
“I bought it because I was tired of fixing my ’93 Cobra that I had for about a decade and raced all the time, and I wanted a street car,” laughed Smith, who won the first race he ever attended with his ’04 Mustang Cobra, which became an accidental racer car. “And, since the color is nice, everyone takes photos of it… and it escalated. It still has air conditioning and heat—other than lightweight seats, it’s still a full-weight car.”
At the end of the 2019 NMRA Drag Racing season, Smith was running in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He won the first round of eliminations, but someone “ratted him out” for only having a 6-point Maximum Motorsports bolt-in bar after he had made a 9-second pass.
“I wanted to keep running in NMRA, so I figured it was time to get the right stuff,” said Smith, who was disappointed after being disqualified but still made the long trek up to the Bluegrass State worth his while by picking up a new transmission from TREMEC that weekend. “Mike Kidd [at TREMEC] has been a huge help to me and my program, as well as the Stick Shift Shootout!”
When he got home to Florida, Smith immediately called Dave Dodge at Tig Vision in nearby Riviera Beach. The next available slot wasn’t until June of 2020, but Smith was able to get in a few months ahead of schedule due to other customers cancelling because of Covid-19.
With an 8.50-legal cage now fully in place in the Pumpkin, Smith decided to take things a step further when a surprise head gasket failure conveniently coincided with downtime due to races being cancelled by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I ran at NMCA Bradenton back in March and went like 9.70 at 145 mph and that was the second-quickest IRS Cobra with a stock engine, but it started to get coolant in the oil,” confessed Smith, who took the car over to his buddies at Advanced Cylinder Heads, including owner Jimmy Spinelli as well as Billy Eldert who had previously been with LaMotta Performance. “After looking through it, I decided if I was going to do it, and going to have to buy new parts, I might as well do it right.”
With a spare 4.6 Teksid aluminum block from an early model Cobra just sitting in his garage, Smith decided to ditch his old iron block in favor of a big upgrade and some serious weight savings. “A simple cam and head gasket job turned into a full-on build,” he laughed of his first four-valve foray that wound up busting his original budget well beyond expectations.
Advanced added a set of shiny new Gibtec pistons to the build, along with Ferrea valves, COMP cams, and fully CNC-ported heads that were done in-house at ACH, while Four Forty Powder Coating in Ohio refinished the valve covers and bracketry.
Working with Whipple, Smith also obtained a new Gen 5 3.0L supercharger to replace his old Gen 4 unit, which should seriously amp up the horsepower that his McLeod RXT1200HD clutch and TREMEC T56 Magnum manual transmission have to handle.
Smith hopes the newest version of his Pumpkin will run consistently in the 9-second zone so that he can move up to that grouping in NMRA QA1 True Street competition instead of his traditional 10-second home. He’s also hoping that the change will give him an advantage in the staggered-start elimination rounds of future TREMEC Stick Shift Shootouts, as he’ll have some extra power to run down his opponents on the top end.