Passing on Dad's legacy

Photo by Roxy Stienblock of the Plainsman

HURON - If you happened to see a nearly 100-year old Ford hot rod  being towed down the street Friday morning, you probably would have thought, ‘Hmm, that’s an interesting looking machine.’

But looking at it only tells a small smidgen of what is a story of the love of racing, cars in general and a family’s legacy.

The car is a 1927 Ford Speedster, which was on its way to be donated to the Dakotaland Museum on the S.D. State Fairgrounds, by Mark Smith, on behalf of his older brother Scott.

The story of the car’s origin, however goes back many decades.

“Back in the 20s,” Smith said, “there were two race car drivers in the area, named “Iron” Mac Mcworthy and Bobbie Fenske. They barnstormed the area tracks, including the one on the S.D.  State  Fairgrounds. They were known as the "Huron Hotshots."

Fenske, who later moved to California, was a friend of Smith’s father, Bill Smith, Jr. “Bobbie always maintained that he was the guy that fixed the automatic transmissions on Sammy Davis Jr.’s car.”

In the early 70s, Fenske called Bill and told him that there was this old race car that parked in a barn that was about to be torn down to make way for a new Northwestern Public Service building, and if he would get the car out he could have it.

“Well,” Smith said, “Dad was all excited. He got the car out in time and he and a bunch of car guys from town got together and gave it an inspection. They were very enthused.”

Then Smith’s Mom, Laverne, stepped up and asked, “It’s very nice, but where am I supposed to sit?” And just like that, the configuration from a one-seat race car into a two-seat speedster began.

Smith’s mom passed away and when his father fell ill in 2012, Mark moved back to Huron to care for his Dad. While his Dad recovered from surgery, Smith said he brought each of his numerous vehicles, which were not running by that time. “I got the cars there one by one and told Dad ‘you sit in the chair there, tell me what to do and I will see about getting them running again.’”

He succeeded.

“Dad had a bunch of cars and we three boys each got one car,” he said. “We sold the others to friends and family until the Speedster was all that was left.”  

Smith said that he could have sold it numerous times, but he and his brother decided that it would be better if it remained in Huron, as a legacy to their parents.

“Mom was a 13-time State Fair quilting champion,” Smith said, “and we have a picture of her getting a check from Gov. Bill Janklow, for having the winning cookies at the fair one year. Dad could fix or build about anything — they really were craftsmen. They lived here all their lives and they truly loved Huron."

So, donating the car and its legacy to the Dakotaland Museum, on the State Fairgrounds, where Mom and Dad had many happy memories, and within walking distance of the speedway where it once competed, seemed like a perfect end to the car’s interesting story.

“We — Dad and I — got all the cars running, and he was able to drive each one of them again one last time,” Mark said. “I will always treasure that time and those memories.”

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