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Derby Motor Car

Davis or Derby?

The Davis car was manufactured in Richmond, Indiana, by the Davis Motor Company. When Louis Arsenault wanted to sell these cars in Canada, he sold them under a different name: Derby Motor Cars Ltd.

To save on the cost of import duties, Arsenault imported pieces of Davis cars, which would then be assembled in Canada under the Derby brand. When these cars were assembled, the Davis name on the car’s name plates and spare tire covers was replaced with Derby.

What’s So Special About the Derby?

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By importing cars in pieces and assembling them in Canada, Derby Motor Cars Ltd. was able to reduce the cost of import duties. An unidentified 1925 advertisement for Derby Motor Cars Ltd. 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.”

Derby Motor Cars Ltd. started its operations in Winnipeg. By 1924, the company had plans for an assembly plant on 11th St. West in Saskatoon, though it is unclear if the plant was ever operational.

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.

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It is unknown if any cars were actually assembled in Saskatoon, or if so how many. The number of Derbys licensed in Saskatchewan peaked at 26 in 1928.

Unfortunately, the story of the WDM’s Derby has been lost to time, but it is a rare and unique example of car manufacturing in the Canadian prairies.

The unrestored Derby, acquired by the WDM in the early 1970s, had been in storage for over 40 years. In 2013 a dedicated group of Saskatoon Antique Auto Club members undertook to raise funds and restore the car to its former glory, devoting many long hours to the project.

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Derby before restoration Derby after restoration

The WDM is grateful to the Saskatoon Antique Auto Club for restoring the Derby. The Derby is on display in the Transportation Gallery at the WDM Saskatoon.

 


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