Alberta-born Jack Smith’s auto racing interest was sparked when he witnessed early racing heros Barney Oldfield and Bob Burman who made an appearance with their cars at the local horse racing track in Jack’s hometown of Calgary in 1911. After examining Oldfield’s large and heavy machine, 15 year old Jack reasoned he could be competitive in auto racing by building a lightweight car which he and a friend subsequently did. Powered by a “Curtis Twin” motorcycle engine and supported by bicycle wheels, the “Humming Kibosh” as Jack and his pal Selby dubbed it, came to life when pulled down the street by a motorcycle.
His racing endeavours interrupted only by the 1st World War which saw him serving overseas as a Pilot Officer with Britain’s “Royal Flying Corps”, Jack returned to Canada in 1919 and built his next racer with which he won 2 successive Alberta championships. In addition to driving, Jack also began constructing racecars for others with his customers supplying the parts plus $75.00 for Jack’s labour. With the limited demand for his racers reached in Calgary, Jack drove his one remaining car to Vancouver and sold it, boarding the Vancouver Island ferry where he settled in Victoria. Constructing a new car and competing at Victoria’s “Willows” and Vancouver’s “Hastings Park” dirt tracks, he won both the Vancouver and British Columbia driving championships.
Jack’s expertise as a fabricator enabled him to produce many of this own engine parts including crankshafts, camshafts, rods and pistons. In 1927, he tried outboard motorboat racing and won 14 out of the 15 events he entered that year.
Driving his final race in 1933 at Victoria’s “Colwood” horse racing dirt track (which he won), Jack then concentrated on building cars but did come out of driving retirement once when a customer could not pay for the car he had commissioned Jack to build. A benevolent finance company agreed to front the required money provided Jack drive the car in competition, splitting any prize money won 50-50 with the finance company. At season’s end, Jack had won every race and there was only $40.00 left owing on the car. The 2nd World War found Jack enlisting in the Canadian Army as a Captain and again serving in Europe.
Arriving home, he went back to building cars including two rear engine cars which were driven by Vern Bruce and Howie Stanley at Langford Speedway. Jack was also a driving force in the establishment of the “British Columbia Automotive Sports Association” (BCASC) from which many later auto racing clubs were formed including the “Vancouver Island Track Roadster Association” (later the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association) (VITRA) which could trace it’s very beginning to informal meetings of racing enthusiasts held in the basement of Jack’s home.
Through the years, one of Jack’s occupations was that of an automotive course instructor at Victoria High’s “Fairey Technical” school and in the early 1970’s he was closely involved in the construction of a rear-engined chain-driven Modified built by the racing Hitchcox family.
Jack Smith passed away in 1977.