One man and a single car garage
In the day and age of professional shop built race cars, and mail order engines… everything you need to go fast can be a phone call and a credit card away. Finding somebody willing to work on their own car, and build everything from scratch is becoming rare. Chassis, roll cage, engine, transmission, electrical system, fuel system, and the Nitrous system, all built by one man in a single car garage.
Garth Lightfoot of Springfield Ohio, Has been Street Racing before the ink was dry on his drivers license in 1989.
“My dad John Lightfoot was always into cars and racing. He liked Fords. I don’t have a problem with any other makes. I’ve had a couple Dodges, but I’m partial to Fords.”
Garth’s first car was a ’76 Maverick. A simple 302, 4spd car.
When we asked Garth how many cars he’s owned over the years, he couldn’t easily recall, but figured he has owned at least 15 Race Cars. When asked how many of them had been used to Street Raced, Garth replied, “All of them.”
It would stand straight up if you weren't careful
Garth has been a mechanic his entire life, known by many as the man to go see with any kind of problem involving cars or trucks. When a major back surgery forced him to take some time off work, Garth sold all his race cars and parts, Including his famous black Austin powered by a Big Block Ford with a serious shot of Nitrous.
“The Austin was a really good car. The engine was set way back in it, almost under the windshield and it would hook up good on the street. It would stand straight up if you weren’t careful.”
Along came The henry J
Garth began to get back into Racing after recovering from a major back surgery. A Foxbody Mustang and a Mercury Capri were purchased, and raced for years. He explained, “But the newer cars just didn’t feel right, and I started looking for a new project.”
One day, Garth came across a Craigslist Ad for a 1953 Henry J, and he arranged to go look at it. The old Kaiser was found parked in a barn.
“The floor boards and rockers were completely gone. But I just couldn’t walk away from it. I just had to have it. I struck a deal on the car, and we drug it outside. It wasn’t until I had it up on the trailer that I realized how bad it really was. But, it had a clear Ohio title. “
The original plan for the Henry was to cut off the ancient front suspension and frame rails, and put a modern front frame section on it. The original rear frame rails would be reused, and a 9” Ford would be bolted in place of the original rear axle. Of course, a nice fresh Small Block Ford would be set between the front frame rails.
Unfortunately, the original frame was in such poor shape, there was just no way to save it. Garth pulled out his trusty Jegs Catalogue and started making a list of parts. A Jegster Roll Cage kit and frame rails were ordered, along with all the necessary suspension parts to mount the ladder bars and the new Ford 9” rear axle with Disc Brakes.
Up front, the Henry sports Mustang II suspension, with rack and pinion steering and modern disc brakes.
Garth sold the original front fenders and hood that were nearly perfect and offset the cost of some of the go fast parts he needed.
Parts Including a new one piece Fiberglass nose, truck lid, and doors from ScottRodsCustom.com. The plan is to use Lexan for all the window glass. The original steel roof, dash, and quarter panels will remain.
I’ve got plans to use one of my home made Nitrous Plates that I’ve used for years on different engines.”
The Henry J also needed a new power plant. Garth had kept his trusty Big Block Ford from his Mustang, but decided to sell the Big Block and instead utilize a very healthy 427ci Small Block Ford. Garth was very stingy about specifics on the internals, but would verify it had 13:1 compression, a healthy solid roller camshaft, and of course a couple Nitrous kits.
“The intake is already plumbed for a fogger, and I’ve got plans to use one of my home made Nitrous Plates that I’ve used for years on different engines.”
Garth's 427 Small Block ford
Currently the engine sports a Holley Dominator Carburetor set up for Alcohol, and its own belt driven fuel pump. But the Nitrous system will have its own stand alone fuel system for Race Gas. The idea being that alcohol helps keep the engine cool, it makes more power, is less prone to detonation, and is less expensive than race gas.
Homemade Nitrous Plate that has been used for years
The plan is to make it to the first midnight madness
Garth has a lot of work to get done before Racing season begins. The plan is to race the car for the first time during the $20,000 to win “Midnight Madness” season opener at KD Dragway in South Webster, Ohio. The 1/8th mile outlaw track has become famous for hosting “Street Racing style events”, that has drawn attention from all over the country.
“When you first go to KD and you see the shut down going up that hill, its pretty intimidating. But once you make a pass, you just want to do it again. It’s incredible how much its helped bring back interest in heads up racing in Ohio. We can’t wait to go.”
We can’t wait to see you there Garth.