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'Work of art': Vintage Tudhope car still a winner (4 photos)

1912 Tudhope recently won first in class at premiere competition; 'Everything we did on the car, we tried to do exactly as it was coming from the factory,' says volunteer

A group of local volunteers who are passionate about preserving Orillia’s extraordinary industrial history are proudly celebrating a prestigious win. A first-place ribbon was recently awarded to recognize a work of art and labour of love – their beautifully restored 1912 Tudhope automobile.

The vintage automobile won first in class in the horseless carriage category at the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance competition held in September at Cobble Beach Golf Resort in Owen Sound.

The car was entered into the invitation-only event by the volunteer members of the Orillia Heritage Centre, the charitable organization that owns and maintains the 1912 Tudhope.

“The car has previously won awards at competitions, but the win at Cobble Beach stands out as one of the most prestigious awards to date,” explained Larry Dickson, a volunteer with the Orillia Heritage Centre.

“One of the first awards the car received was at the 2006 Antique Automobile Club of America’s competition held in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This is the premiere award to win,” added Dickson.

The story of how the 1912 Tudhope was first acquired by the group is an interesting one, told by volunteer member, John Smith. The car was originally sold as one of the 4-36 (4-cylinder/36 horsepower) models produced by the Tudhope Motor Company Ltd. in Orillia. At the time, the company’s plant spanned three city blocks where City Hall is now located.

“My dad owned an identical car back in the 1960s,” said Smith. At the time he (Gord Smith) was the owner of the local radio station, CFOR.”

A car collector from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had originally acquired the prize-winning 1912 Tudhope in a state of disrepair. The man came to visit Gord Smith in search of information on how to restore the vehicle. After he went home, Smith wrote him a letter on CFOR stationary asking him to let him know if he ever decided to sell it.

“Decades later, in 1997, the local radio station called my dad to let him know there was a letter for him from a lawyer in Regina and that he better come and pick it up. It was quite amazing that the letter even arrived at the station because it was simply addressed, 'CFOR, West Street, Orillia.' By 1997, the station had been re-named and had moved to a new location.”

The letter was from the trustee of the car owner’s estate, who had located the original letter sent from Gord Smith. Smith was contacted to be informed that the car was to be sold in an upcoming auction sale.

“My dad and brother attended the auction, bought the car, and the restoration began,” said Smith.

The meticulous care and restoration of the vehicle over the years resulted in the immaculate beauty that is now being recognized by competition judges and collectors, as well as the local community.

“Everything we did on the car, we tried to do exactly as it was coming from the factory. We got it right – it’s a work of art," said Smith with pride.

“Much of the car is original,” explained volunteer Peter Voisey, who was part of the restoration team. “We did have to involve those with special skills for the upholstery and woodwork repair. In fact, some of the work on the mahogany firewall and kick panels was done by Tim Spencer, who happens to be a great grandson of J. B. Tudhope, who founded the automobile business.”

“Something that makes this model stand out, especially when compared to other models, is that the car was built almost in entirety in the Tudhope plant,” said Dickson. “Most plants would import the engine and transmission, while Tudhope was able to cast its own because of the local foundries.”

Indeed, it is the rich industrial history of Orillia, including not only automobiles, but originally lumber, followed by plants producing automobiles, boats, carriages, wheels and more, that is the focus of the Orillia Heritage Centre.

“Our mission is to preserve and share artifacts from Orillia’s industrial past,” said Dickson. “Orillia was the largest industrial centre north of Toronto in Ontario up until the 1950s and 60s. It’s important to learn from our past.”

In their efforts to celebrate Orillia’s rich industrial history, the group continues to make the 1912 Tudhope accessible to the local community. It has become a popular addition to many local events and is often driven in local parades. At one time, the car was on display at City Hall, a meaningful site as the car was back to the location where it was manufactured.

“Our dream is to have a permanent location to have the car displayed, along with other artifacts from Orillia’s industrial era. We are currently working with the City of Orillia and are hopeful that our efforts will be successful,” said Dickson.

To learn more about the Orillia Heritage Centre and the history of Orillia’s industrial past, visit the group’s website. You’ll find lots of interesting facts and photos and can learn how to get involved or support the activities of this group that is helping to preserve Orillia’s past.