Saturday, January 26, 2008

the winter of 1947

Over the winter of 1947 news articles appeared noting a new type of car being built for Victoria's Langford Speedway. Jack Smith built a rear-engined sprint car (big car as it was called then) for the 3/8ths mile oval. He used ideas that Ferdinand Porsche had used before the Second World War to build the Auto Union grand prix cars.

Eventually Smith's car was dubbed "the flying saucer" as that phenomenon had caught the publics fancy and the car was a silver low slung looking machine.

Howard Stanley drove the car for a couple seasons, finishing second in the points for 1947.

A second rear-engined car was built by Jack Smith for the 1949 season and driven by Vern Bruce.

The following is a story written for a manuscript on Hastings Park on Jack Smith. It really begins to list the reasons why Jack was inducted into the Canadian Motor Sport Hall of Fame:

Introducing a Man Who Needs No Introduction

Jack Smith's name had made the local papers a few times
with his good showings at Hastings Park in the previous
years. That is probably why they felt they could say he
needed no introduction. But one is probably warranted here.

Jack Smith came from Calgary. His racing history
begins early on after the barnstorming exhibitions of Barney
Oldfield and Bob Burman. An inspired 15-year-old, Jack,
with a friend, worked one summer at $7 a week, investing a
grand total of $42 into a home-built racing car.

With a Curtiss-twin engine and bicycle wheels, and
dubbing it the "Humming Kibosh", Smith got the crate towed
by a motorcycle and fired it up. A later interview by Pike
Green has this quote from Jack Smith on the episode:

"It can only be described as unfortunate that a man and
three children were strung out across the road, causing me
to take violent evasive action. The wheels collapsed and it
sat down.

"Perhaps it is just as well since it probably saved
those brave men, Bob Burman and Barney Oldfield, from
ignominious defeat on the local track."

After serving during the First World War as a pilot
officer in the Royal Flying Corps Smith came back to Calgary
to build light-weight cars. He won local championships over
the next few years.

Relocating in Victoria he continued to build race cars.
With a 72 inch wheelbase, 42 inch tread, four-cylinder Chevy
weighing in at 870 pounds Smith won races at Hastings Park
at both the June and August, 1924, meets.

The car he ran in 1926 at the Willows was probably a
modified four-cylinder Chevy with a pair of side draft
Zenith carburators, Dayton wire racing wheels, semi-elliptic
springs and a chassis slung below.

Jack Smith was introduced to the 1926 Victoria crowd as
the holder of "the coveted Silver Cup and the B.C.
Championship" for the 1926 meet to be held at The Willows
half mile. He had run in Vancouver against the "California
Dirt Track Kings" and had done well against southern
California's strong cars and drivers. He was said to have
won "every event in Alberta and Manitoba."

But it was Jack Ross, who had won at The Willows
previously in 1920, winning again in front of the Victoria
crowd of 1500. In a Dodge Special, Ross won the 3-mile
match for the B.C. Championship, the 5-mile open race and
the 15-mile free-for-all. In all he took $350 back to

Jack Smith's legacy does not end with the 1926 race.
By the late 1920s, with automobile racing in doldrums all
over the northwest, he turned to outboard motorboat racing.
He became president of the Victoria Hydroplane Club and his
boats, driven by himself or other Victoria lads, were

But Jack Smith will always be referred to as the
"Daddy" of local racing. This because he helped form and
became initial president of the B.C. Automotive Sports
Association (BCASA) which built Langford Speedway in 1936,
just outside of Victoria. That track ran nearly weekly
through its history up to 1950 (excluding the war years of
1942-45) which encouraged Victoria drivers and mechanics.
By its demise he had also started and been president of
another two clubs, the Victoria Midget Racing Association
(VMRA) and the Vancouver Island Track Roadster Association

That legacy helped build Western Speedway, near where
the old Langford Speedway had been located, and kept racing
going in a small community of Victoria that managed to field
drivers and mechanics that made their impact felt at the
Indianapolis 500.

Jack Smith needed no introduction to the Victoria
audience in 1926. He passed away in 1975. His 1992
induction to the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame let the
rest of the Victoria racing community realize how much they
owed to him.

More photos of Smith, Stanley and Bruce and the various rear-engined cars can be found at

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