Among the many voids left by the death of Brad Smith in a high-speed boating accident last summer was the lack of anyone who could tune a MEFI-controlled marine engine at the Joplin, Mo., shop that bears his name. While his father, Bob Smith, who simply goes by “Pops,” and key employees Sayre Shilkett and Scott Aiken could build and dress an electronically fuel-injected engine, Brad Smith was the only Smith Power team member who could tune one on the dynamometer.
Eddie Young (right) of Young Performance Marine spent four days last week at Smith Power teaching the shop’s team the basics of MEFI engine controller programmng.
A close friend of Smith and his family, Travis Reed (read the story) has simply refused to let Smith Power, much less its legacy, die with its founder. So after months of planning, Reed hired veteran marine engine builder Eddie Young of Young Performance Marine near Nashville, Tenn., to teach Shilkett the basics of MEFI tuning on the Smith power dyno. Young spent four days at the shop last week.
“Pops taught Brad everything he knew, but Brad did not teach Pops everything he knew,” says Reed. “I hired Eddie to teach Sayre (known as “Slayer” at Smith Power) how to do all the MEFI tuning.”
“He’s a sharp kid and I walked him through it,” said Young. “MEFI tuning can be fairly complicated and overwhelming, but I am confident they can build new MEFI-controlled engines and service their existing customers. I will be back down there, and they can always call me. I suggested they start working on engines in the 500- to 600-hp range, where they have a fair amount of leeway.”
Coming out of semi-retirement/consulting for Smith Power, “Pops” will continue to finish the blocks. Akin, the shop’s wiring man, and the rest of the crew will dress them. Shilkett will handle the tuning.
“The only thing we don’t have is a fabricator—Brad was a master fabricator and painter,” said Pops, who specialized building in hot rod engines before joining his son on the marine side. “My dad was the same way. It skipped me, but Brad got it all. I pounded everything I knew into Brad’s head, even though I didn’t always think he was listening. But he was listening, all right.
“It was great working with Eddie,” he continued, then laughed. “He’s the second-smartest engine builder I ever worked with, the first being Brad, of course.”
Asked why he left his own engine shop for four days to help what is for all intents and purposes a competitor, Young paused for a long moment before answering.
“Because they needed help, quite honestly,” he said. “I cannot imagine what kind of situation they are in and what kind of state of mind they’re in. I called Brian Smith, Brad’s brother, the day after Brad’s accident. I was hesitant to do it—I didn’t want them to think I was trying to drum up business. I said, ‘If you need help, please let me know. If that means helping you get something finished or doing service or whatever please let me know.’
“What if that happened to me?” he added. “How much of a jam would my employees and my family be in? I would hope that someone would help them out.”