“60 years on the road”
WHEN – Until June 4; a grand opening car show is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on February 26
WHERE — Fort Smith History Museum, 320 Rogers Ave.
COST – Regular admission is $2-$7; the car show is free
INFO — 783-7841, fortsmithmuseum.org
It’s been a long and complicated journey with no roadmap to follow, but on February 26, the Fort Smith Antique Automobile Club will finally take its victory lap at the Fort Smith Museum of History. The 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. auto show marks the official opening of “60 Years on the Road,” a three-year expo and a pandemic in the making.
The idea for the exhibit was pitched to museum director Caroline Speir in 2019 as the automobile club prepared for its 60th anniversary. Speir said yes, “so, covid,” as she simply puts it. The expo actually opened in November 2021, but the February 26 event is the official opening celebration, she explains.
“Carl and Valorie Albertson got their club together and organized the exhibition,” says Speir. “They worked for over a month, I believe, to bring artifacts, street signs, a 1925 Dodge through our loading dock – which is quite the feat! They worked to make sure the memorabilia and the pieces of gear that should light up, They’ve been thorough in trying to really showcase their organization. I think they’ve done it really well.
“It’s ’60 years on the road’, and it shows,” she adds. “It’s very unique, and any car enthusiast and general public will recognize the vintage pieces, but there are lots of details and surprises in the exhibit that really add to the sense of being. [in] a vintage garage or auto shop.”
For the past 60 years, the Fort Smith Antique Automobile Club has driven the roads of Fort Smith, featured its vehicles in movies and local weddings, participated in local events, helped students with the “car perfect vintage for the perfect vintage photo” and offered the public a hands-on look at vintage automobiles as well as antique automotive memorabilia, machinery, parts and collectibles, the museum’s press release reads. The club was started in 1962 by enthusiasts Paul Tucker, Gerald Meek, Ben Tankersley and Robert Fowler, who wanted to be able to obtain vintage car licenses for their vehicles.
“We’ve always had a love for antique automobiles,” says Carl Albertson, who is currently president of the Fort Smith Antique Automobile Club. “Being in auto glass for 40 years also gave me the opportunity to work and drive various vintage cars.”
The Albertsons first acquired a 1931 Ford Model A coupe in 1994 and now own a 1929 Ford Model A sedan, a 1930 Ford Model A closed-cab pickup truck (almost fully restored), an Oldsmobile 4-door sedan from 1939 (series 60), a 1964 Dodge Step Side pickup truck (originally owned by Valorie’s father), 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, “and various other project vehicles”.
The exhibition, they agree, was an “opportunity to share our club’s enthusiasm and love for vintage automobiles with others. We want to show the progression of automobiles over the years”. They hope, they add, “our car show will spark the interest of visitors to become an essential part of our club by helping to preserve vintage automobiles for future generations”.
The exhibit will include an original unrestored 1925 Dodge Brothers touring car, a restored 1932 Chevrolet six-cylinder engine on loan from Hug Chevrolet, an original 1962 club sign, two vintage gas pumps, grilles from early Ford vehicles, vintage automotive signs, tools and other vintage automotive memorabilia, says Speir.
“We have six vintage vehicles in the museum,” she adds, including a 1920s Lorenz & Vaughn Wagon Co. buckboard wagon, a 1908 Buick, a 1910 telephone utility truck, a doctor’s cart from the turn of the century, a young teenage Model T, an 1898 electric car donated by Mrs. Mardell McClurkin, and Fort Smith’s first fire truck, the 1911 JJ Little.
“’60 Years on the Road’ is a great complement to the vehicles we’ve already displayed, and it’s a wonderful educational exhibit overall,” enthuses Speir. “Plus, the working car signs and other memorabilia are definitely something to behold!”