|Canadian Legend "FJ" to Hall of Fame|
Bruce Biegler - January 9, 2009
Editors Note: DragRaceCanada, on behalf of all Canadian drag racing fans, extends it's congratulations to F.J. (Fred) Smith who is the 2009 drag racing selection into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Normally this prestigious honor would have been part of the annual gala event to be held in February at the Metro Convention Centre downtown Toronto. But as fate (and economics) would have it -- this year's event has been cancelled much to everyone's disappointment.
Officially Fred's CMHOF induction is now deferred until February 2010, however family and friends have decided to hold an independent event, specifically to honor Fred. This Open House will take place on Sunday, February 22nd at the Coach House at Ruthven Park National Historic Site, Cayuga from 1:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m. The public is cordially invited to attend. Further information on that can be obtained by calling 905-772-5535 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Smith is a true icon -- but not only within Canada -- within the sport of drag racing overall. Here is a bio on his amazing career which has spanned a very long timeframe and remains to this day on-going and dynamic:
It was a day in the summer of 1958 and Don Garlits was making a guest appearance at Kohler dragstrip. Because Fred was not old enough to have a license, his dad dropped him off at the gate. Fred was hooked on drag racing. Little did he know that drag racing involvement would eventually become a career.
Throughout his high school and university years, he raced as a hobby with a variety of cars....37 Ford Coupe, 55 Chevy, 58 Pontiac to name a few. His 1967 Beaumont that was raced at the Niagara Dragstrip, became internationally known as the Canadian Chevelle. While teaching at the Cayuga Secondary School, Fred continued his involvement with friends who relied heavily on his automotive and drag racing knowledge.
But it was in 1976 that he built a 1967 Camaro that became a NHRA legend. He campaigned the car almost every week-end at NHRA Divisional and National events in Canada and the United States from 1976 to 1983. The car was originally built as a modified car and was known for it’s innovative 4-link suspension, wheel stands and wicked horsepower. In 1982, after teaching high school for 16 years, Fred resigned from his teaching position at Cayuga Secondary School and established Smith Performance Specialties as a state of the art high performance engine and chassis fabrication business.
In 1986 during a rain out race, Fred approached General Motors personnel about the possibility of their involvement in developing a front wheel conversion drag race car. The rest is history. The first car built by Fred became the prototype for all front wheel conversion race cars in the National Hot Rod Association. That achievement, beyond any doubt, saved the Super Stock eliminator from extinction. The Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was featured in the Oldsmobile display booth at SEMA in Las Vegas in 1987. The partnership with General Motors Oldsmobile and later Pontiac enabled SPS to become a Super Stock mini factory. Endless class wins, National event wins, Best Engineered awards and records achieved by our own cars as well as racers of the Smith Performance Super Stockers put “F. J. Smith” in the forefront internationally. These racers contributed hundreds of points towards Oldsmobile winning the Manufacturer’s Cup for numerous years. The shelves in the office are loaded with 59 Iron Man trophies won by Fred for overall Eliminators, class wins and Best Engineering awards.
There have been numerous highlights in his family’s drag racing life. One is definitely Fred’s recognition at the Car Craft All Star Drag Racing banquet at Indianapolis Hilton in 1992 and the presentation of the first Car Craft Sportsman Chassis Builder award to Fred. He eventually won the Car Craft award again in 1993 and the final year of it’s presentation in 2000. He was nominated for that Honour every year of the Award’s existence.
It is interesting to note that drag race cars built by SPS in the early 1990s still command a high dollar on the market. “Built by F. J. Smith” carries a tremendous status. And some of these race cars still continue to dominate the Super Stock NHRA and IHRA point series. For many years Fred sat on the Safety Foundation Institute chassis committee and played a significant role in the development of the Spec 25-1 for “door slammers”.
For many years Fred sat on the California-based Safety Foundation Institute (SFI) Chassis Committee and played a significant role in the development of the Spec 25-1 for “door slammers”.
In 1995 the Can-Am Stock/Super Stock Series was developed and Fred has continued to play a MAJOR role in it’s continued success. Because of the significant traveling costs and time constraints, many Stock and Super Stock racers are unable to compete internationally at NHRA and IHRA events. However, this series has allowed these racers to continue their lifelong passion to race with the best Ontario, Quebec, New York and Michigan can offer. Fred has increased the sponsorship lists from a meager 4 or 5 in 1995 to over 25 major sponsors including Strange Engineering, Edelbrock, Mr. Gasket, MSD, Comp Cams, TCI, Auto Meter and ATI.
From his first taste of high performance race engines, his high performance small block Chevrolet race motors have been tuned and tweaked to perfection. Racers far and wide rely heavily on his engine dynometer to give them tried and true facts and figures.
Fred is a fiercely proud Canadian drag racer and has become a mentor to numerous young drag racers. He has little patience for couch potato racers and does not suffer fools gladly.
In his office hangs a photo of Zora Arkus-Duntov (Corvette legend) , Bill Jenkins ( Small Block high performance Chevrolet) and Fred taken at the SuperFlow Dyno conference held in Colorado Springs in 1991. These three were keynote speakers at that conference. The photo is affectionately known as “Two and a half Legends”.