Dennis Smith of Jefferson equates going very fast in just a few seconds to exhilaration, and he gets there with a souped-up powder-blue 1983 Ford Ranger pickup truck.
Speed wasn’t the first thing on Smith’s mind when he bought the pickup truck in 1987 as a way to get back and forth from work. Then his son, Matt, started driving it to high school.
“Back then there was a high school series at a track in Scribner, Neb.,” Smith says. “We started converting the truck for racing in about 1990, when my son was a sophomore. The original engine was a 4-cylinder, and we converted it to a 4-cylinder turbo-charged engine.” Then they took that engine out and put in a 302 V-8 engine. One of the souped-up engines was fuel-injected and came from a 1990 Mustang GT.
“It’s had six engines, and the seventh one is on a stand in the garage right now,” Smith says. “We just keep working to make it faster.”
Stronger engines are needed to keep shaving time off, even if it’s just a small fraction. “Every time we do something new to the truck, it does go faster,” Smith says.
When he first started running the quarter mile, he drove it in 13.5 seconds. Last year, he ran it in 10.72 seconds at 129 mph. There’s no doubt that Smith likes to go fast. “Where else can a person go and drive 120 mph and no one is going to give him a ticket?” Smith asked. “Any time you go that fast, it’s a thrill.”
Dennis also gets a thrill out of showing off his spit-and-polished pickup truck. It sounds like thunder as he pulls it out of the garage, and that’s even with mufflers. He showed the pickup this year at the Hot August Nights car show and Jefferson’s Bell Tower festival.
A lot of people are drawn to the pickup at shows, Smith says.
“It pulls people because they don’t expect it to do what it does,” he says.