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Swift Current resident brings home rare classic car


Vernon Smith figures he was about 20-years-old when he first laid eyes on a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster.

At the time, owning one seemed like an impossible dream. The cars were handcrafted and only 100 were produced. 

There are only a handful left in circulation and anyone who owns one won’t part with it easily.

But Smith found one such owner many years ago, and kept the bug in his ear that he would be willing to buy it if the owner ever decided to part with it.

In 2011, the previous owner finally gave in to Smith’s constant but gentle reminders he was willing to buy.

A lengthy restoration process began in early 2013, and on Friday, Sept. 23, Smith brought his crown jewel home to Swift Current.

“There was 25 only in 1935. This was one of the first run that were made. Extremely rare, this thing was capable of doing 100 miles per hour back in 1935. There’s a plaque on the dash certifying the capability of doing 100.1 mph and it’s signed by the legendary race car driver Ab Jenkins,” Smith told The Packet.

Smith says he can trace the colorful history of his newest acquisition back to 1960.

It once spontaneously caught fire on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco while being hauled on a trailer.

“It was a dream fulfilled. I never thought it was obtainable and if I hadn’t acquired this vehicle when I did – it’s currently unaffordable. It’s staggering, to find one of those vehicles. With only 100 built - there are only a handful remaining,” says Smith.

The car was in deplorable condition when it came into Vernon’s possession, which factored into him lucking into getting it in his possession.

“He (the previous owner) was reluctant to sell. I kept in touch with him respectively. I never pushed the envelope too far. Finally I hit him on the right day and he agreed to sell. The funds were transferred immediately and I obtained ownership of this drop dead gorgeous model,” he says.

Smith prefers not to divulge the cost of the vehicle, but a quick check online shows that the model has sold for close to $500,000 (US). With restoration it would easily exceed that amount.

Smith says the vehicle required a full restoration. It made its debut at the Cobble Beach Concour in Owen Sound in 2015 where it won best in class.

Smith figures this won’t be the Speedster’s last victory. He usually attends four car shows every year and plans to compete with the Speedster again.

The car now sits on a turntable by the front door in Smith’s Antique Toy Shop in Swift Current. It is the 64th car in his collection.

“I was quite anxious to get it back to the home ground. Usually when a new car comes in it takes its position on the turntable. I think this is a pretty good spot for it, she’ll be there for awhile,” he says.

Smith has over 60 antique autos in his collection

Vernon Smith likes to keep a low profile and didn’t initially intend for his antique automobile collection to be public.

Today he keeps his collection in a 24,000 square foot building — dubbed Vernon’s Toy Shop.

When the building was just half this size, and his car collection was growing, he opened up the showroom to the public for a weekend as a community fundraiser.

“It was such a resounding success that people said I couldn’t keep this secret to myself.

“I gave it some thought – they played a little guilt trip on me – I thought I would open it up to the public and charge a small fee and contribute the funds to various programs in the community,” he says.

He holds an annual family day with live music and a car show. All funds are contributed to the Swift Current Fire Hall.

At last year’s family day Smith was presented with a photograph of him at five years old on the hood of his grandfather’s 1958 Vauxall.

“You might say I was hooked at a young age,” he says.

“I remember sitting by the side of the gravel road in the old family homestead. I could sit and watch the Burin Peninsula Taxis making their daily commute to St. John’s. Boy those 50s and 60s cars were like the neon lights of Vegas,” he adds.

Smith’s first antique car was a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere, which he purchased in 1984.

It was a plain Jane car that he says was fun for Sunday afternoons.

Over the next seven years he began to set goals to accumulate the rarest of the Ford, Mercury, Lincoln and restore them to better than new condition.

His oldest car is a 1908 Model 10 Buick. In 1990 he bought a 1960 Thunderbird convertible, which found its way onto the cover of a Paul McCartney album after leaving his possession.

After that he stopped selling his cars.

Five years went by until he picked up a 1953 Buick Skylark in 1995.

“Since then it picked up speed and the collection now consists of an array of 64 antique cars from 1908 to 1970,” says Smith.

Going to car shows is also a passion for Smith. His walls are lined with trophies from his various competitions.

Smith doesn’t take his collection for granted. He knows many car fanatics would give one of their limbs to own just one of his.

“It’s been told to me many times. ‘I’d give my left arm just for one.’ So I’ve been extremely blessed,” he says.

People often ask him what will happen to the collection when he moves on.

“It’s a question I get asked every other day and I tremble at the thought. I realize that one day I’ll certainly leave it all and I have no issue with that. I hold it very lightly. But I’m working on a plan.”

 

At the time, owning one seemed like an impossible dream. The cars were handcrafted and only 100 were produced. 

There are only a handful left in circulation and anyone who owns one won’t part with it easily.

But Smith found one such owner many years ago, and kept the bug in his ear that he would be willing to buy it if the owner ever decided to part with it.

In 2011, the previous owner finally gave in to Smith’s constant but gentle reminders he was willing to buy.

A lengthy restoration process began in early 2013, and on Friday, Sept. 23, Smith brought his crown jewel home to Swift Current.

“There was 25 only in 1935. This was one of the first run that were made. Extremely rare, this thing was capable of doing 100 miles per hour back in 1935. There’s a plaque on the dash certifying the capability of doing 100.1 mph and it’s signed by the legendary race car driver Ab Jenkins,” Smith told The Packet.

Smith says he can trace the colorful history of his newest acquisition back to 1960.

It once spontaneously caught fire on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco while being hauled on a trailer.

“It was a dream fulfilled. I never thought it was obtainable and if I hadn’t acquired this vehicle when I did – it’s currently unaffordable. It’s staggering, to find one of those vehicles. With only 100 built - there are only a handful remaining,” says Smith.

The car was in deplorable condition when it came into Vernon’s possession, which factored into him lucking into getting it in his possession.

“He (the previous owner) was reluctant to sell. I kept in touch with him respectively. I never pushed the envelope too far. Finally I hit him on the right day and he agreed to sell. The funds were transferred immediately and I obtained ownership of this drop dead gorgeous model,” he says.

Smith prefers not to divulge the cost of the vehicle, but a quick check online shows that the model has sold for close to $500,000 (US). With restoration it would easily exceed that amount.

Smith says the vehicle required a full restoration. It made its debut at the Cobble Beach Concour in Owen Sound in 2015 where it won best in class.

Smith figures this won’t be the Speedster’s last victory. He usually attends four car shows every year and plans to compete with the Speedster again.

The car now sits on a turntable by the front door in Smith’s Antique Toy Shop in Swift Current. It is the 64th car in his collection.

“I was quite anxious to get it back to the home ground. Usually when a new car comes in it takes its position on the turntable. I think this is a pretty good spot for it, she’ll be there for awhile,” he says.

Smith has over 60 antique autos in his collection

Vernon Smith likes to keep a low profile and didn’t initially intend for his antique automobile collection to be public.

Today he keeps his collection in a 24,000 square foot building — dubbed Vernon’s Toy Shop.

When the building was just half this size, and his car collection was growing, he opened up the showroom to the public for a weekend as a community fundraiser.

“It was such a resounding success that people said I couldn’t keep this secret to myself.

“I gave it some thought – they played a little guilt trip on me – I thought I would open it up to the public and charge a small fee and contribute the funds to various programs in the community,” he says.

He holds an annual family day with live music and a car show. All funds are contributed to the Swift Current Fire Hall.

At last year’s family day Smith was presented with a photograph of him at five years old on the hood of his grandfather’s 1958 Vauxall.

“You might say I was hooked at a young age,” he says.

“I remember sitting by the side of the gravel road in the old family homestead. I could sit and watch the Burin Peninsula Taxis making their daily commute to St. John’s. Boy those 50s and 60s cars were like the neon lights of Vegas,” he adds.

Smith’s first antique car was a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere, which he purchased in 1984.

It was a plain Jane car that he says was fun for Sunday afternoons.

Over the next seven years he began to set goals to accumulate the rarest of the Ford, Mercury, Lincoln and restore them to better than new condition.

His oldest car is a 1908 Model 10 Buick. In 1990 he bought a 1960 Thunderbird convertible, which found its way onto the cover of a Paul McCartney album after leaving his possession.

After that he stopped selling his cars.

Five years went by until he picked up a 1953 Buick Skylark in 1995.

“Since then it picked up speed and the collection now consists of an array of 64 antique cars from 1908 to 1970,” says Smith.

Going to car shows is also a passion for Smith. His walls are lined with trophies from his various competitions.

Smith doesn’t take his collection for granted. He knows many car fanatics would give one of their limbs to own just one of his.

“It’s been told to me many times. ‘I’d give my left arm just for one.’ So I’ve been extremely blessed,” he says.

People often ask him what will happen to the collection when he moves on.

“It’s a question I get asked every other day and I tremble at the thought. I realize that one day I’ll certainly leave it all and I have no issue with that. I hold it very lightly. But I’m working on a plan.”

 

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