Nfld. & Labrador

6 shot glasses and no seatbelts: Swift Current car museum features rare Cadillac

Vernon Smith likely has one of the best car collections next to Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, and people can check them out at his very own museum.

Shot glasses, a makeup kit and one expensive ride for 1957

Vernon Smith stands proudly next to his rare 1957 Cadillac El Dorado Brougham. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Vernon Smith of Swift Current likely has one of the best car collections next to Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, and people can check them out at his very own museum — or what he calls a hobby. 

Vernon's Antique Car Museum is a 24,000-square-foot facility which houses 56 antique cars, each with their own place in history and a story of how Smith came to own them.

"The rarest of the rare is what I go for. Outstanding engineering and designing is one of the conditions. Limited production," Smith told CBC Radio's Weekend AM of his collection so far.

Smith had made his fortune in power line construction.

Now retired, he's devoting his time to his passion for collecting and displaying some of the rarest cars on the planet.

On an average day, dozens will flock to his shop to check out what he's working on next.

Smith's 1957 Cadillac El Dorado Brougham. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Thousands came through his doors last summer, Smith said.

"Nobody can believe that this is here in Swift Current, let alone Newfoundland," he said.

"[Visitors] have been here from as far away Bulgaria, Sweden, just two days ago Australia. Literally all over the world."   

The crown jewel

There's one car in the collection which stands out from the rest, with as much style, elegance and power as a manufacturer could possibly squeeze into one vehicle.

Smith is the proud owner of a 1957 Cadillac El Dorado Brougham.

He said only 400 were ever produced, and only 20 to 25 remain, in varying conditions.

His is pristine.

Perfume came stock from the factory with the 1957 Cadillac El Dorado Brougham. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

"You can eat your breakfast off of it," Smith said.

This model of 1957 Cadillac was built to be much more than a luxury vehicle, and brought with it the price tag as such.

Smith said his Brougham cost $13,000 in 1957, which was more expensive than a Rolls Royce at the time, a company with a long lineage in luxury cars.

Compared to today, $13,000 is equal to roughly $110,000 in modern funds.

"It was the epitome of excess when it comes to engineering and designing, and some of the features will blow your mind," Smith said.

"It's loaded with every conceivable option."

The car includes a stainless steel roof and suicide doors, but also features some technology that was ahead of its time, including power windows, an automatic powered trunk, movement detected automatic lights.

There are also some things you'd never see in a modern vehicle.

"In the glove box here you'll see six shot glasses. This was the day when drinking and driving was OK. It came from the factory as part of the $13,000 package … for $13,000 you'd expect to get a little extra, would you not?," Smith said.

"There's a pack of cigarettes there and a cigarette lighter, and in the back seat in the centre compartment, they didn't forget the ladies."

This Cadillac came from the factory in 1957 with six shot glasses and a pack of cigarettes, but no seatbelts. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Smith pulled out the original items one by one which all came with the vehicle from the factory.

A bottle of perfume still in its box, a makeup kit, a mirror, notepad and a pencil were among the kit.

Vroom, vroom! Listen as Vernon Smith shows Heather Barrett his latest acquisition: 

Vernon Smith of Vernon's Antique Car Museum in Swift Current shows us his latest acquisition, and we get a tour of the Grand Bank Regional Theatre's new performance space in the town's former Pentecostal church. 20:38

Smith said an auctioneer he met at a car show in Florida told him that the pencil, as part of that particular kit, is one of the rarest finds a car collector can have.

Without the pencil, a similar kit recently sold for $14,000 USD, Smith said.

To sum up his entire collection, Smith said it's a heartwarming feeling knowing how lucky he is to have been able to chase his dreams.

"A little boy in small town Newfoundland was fortunate enough to be blessed with cars of this calibre," he said.

"I don't usually let go."

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With files from Heather Barrett

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