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1927 Derby

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner

Restored Derby at Rock 102 Show & Shine, August 2014
Ruth Bitner photo

Davis or Derby?

The Derby was really a Davis, manufactured in Richmond, Indiana by the Davis Motor Company, and imported to western Canada. Derby founder Louis Arsenault first brought the cars to Winnipeg where he changed the name plate and hubcaps to Derby. After running into financial trouble, Arsenault set his sights on Saskatoon.

What’s So Special About the Derby?

By 1924, Derby Motor Cars Limited had an office in Saskatoon. The company planned to import cars in pieces and assemble them at the former Marshall tractor plant on 11th St. West. The building will be familiar to long-time Saskatoon residents as the recently demolished Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods, formerly Intercontinental Packers.

To reduce import duties, the company planned to assemble Davis car components shipped from Indiana, changing the name plates and spare tire covers from Davis to Derby. An unidentified 1925 advertisement declared, “Parts only will be brought in by the Canadian company and assembled in Saskatoon at a tremendous saving to the Canadian buyer in freight and duty costs.”

A Saskatoon newspaper stated that an "attractive Derby model has been on display on the streets of Saskatoon for two or three weeks." But production and sales lagged and by 1928 the company was defunct.

The number of cars assembled in Saskatoon remains a mystery. Twenty-six Derbys were licenced in Saskatchewan in 1928, the most ever. Whatever the actual number of Saskatoon Derbys, their history has been long-forgotten.

Derby ad in The Western Producer, April 30, 1925

Unfortunately, the story of the WDM car has been lost to time. Nevertheless, the car represents the story of one man’s vision for a Saskatoon automobile industry.

Derby in WDM storageThe WDM 1927 Derby Car before restoration.
WDM photo

The unrestored Derby, acquired by the WDM in the early 1970s, had languished in storage for some 40 years. In a 2013 partnership with the WDM, a dedicated group of SAAC members undertook to raise funds and restore the car to its former glory, devoting many long hours to the project. A shiny new-looking Derby emerged this summer and will take its place in the Transportation Gallery of the Saskatoon WDM on August 26, 2014.

The WDM is grateful to the Saskatoon Antique Auto Club for restoring the Derby.

Restored Derby at Rock 102 Show & Shine, August 2014
Ruth Bitner photos

The WDM & SAAC wish the thank the many supporters of the Derby Car Restoration project:

AJ Machine & Manufacturing Ltd. (John Friesen)

Antique Auto Association- Regina

Brad’s Towing
Craig Layton – Truck 15

Dr. John & Susan Giesy Foundation

Draggins Car Club

Dusty Wheels Auto Club - Rosetown

Fairmont Electroplating

Freelance-Media - Rosetown

Holiday Park Auto Body - Saskatoon

Kevin’s Wheels & Tire Polish

Ken Johnson Upholstery - Saskatoon

Leroy Hotel (Bullets’s Bar & Grill) Dennis McKnight - Leroy

Maaco Collision Repairs & Auto Painting - Saskatoon

Re/Max Guardian Commercial Real Estate - Saskatoon

Revoy’s Restoration (Mobile Blasting & Paint Stripping)

SAAC Derby Committee Members

Saskatoon Boiler Manufacturing

Saskatoon Radiator

Store-It - Saskatoon

Southern Cruisers Club

Walker’s Auto & Body Supplies

Novatex Graphics Inc.

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