Members of the Saskatoon Antique Auto Club (SAAC), along with author of “Vanishing Wheels” Steve Van Vlaenderen, were at the Western Development Museum (WDM) in Moose Jaw last week to discuss the history and restoration of the WDM’s 1926 Derby car. 

The car, which is currently a piece in the Moose Jaw WDM's collection, was originally assembled by Derby Motor Cars Ltd. The company was based in Saskatoon from 1924 through 1927 and was founded by Louis Arsenault.  

Steve Van Vlaenderen has been researching the Derby car for about five months, after becoming interested in it while completing research for a second book. He originally met members of the SAAC during the Draggins Car Show in Saskatoon, and eventually realized that they shared a common interest in the car. 

L-R: Steve Van Vlaenderen, Norm Mowles, Bob Maguire, Al WillmsL-R: Steve Van Vlaenderen, Norm Mowles, Bob Maguire, Al Willms

“When I did research, and I found out that Louis Arsenault went to Saskatoon, I started doing research in the archives in Saskatoon and found out that these very people restored [the Derby],” said Van Vlaenderen.  

"This particular Derby started in Winnipeg. The original founders started the Winnipeg company in 1920. Originally the car was badged from a Hatfield from Sydney, New York. Later they went to Davis cars, and ordered 10 Davis cars, but then the company went under.” 

“Louis Arsenault came to Saskatoon, [and] started up the Derby company.” 

Van Vlaenderen said that there are only two Derby cars currently known to exist in Canada, and he is actively searching for more. He was at the WDM to have a photo shoot of the Derby. 

Members of the SAAC shared details about the restoration process of the Derby, which they undertook to complete for their 50th anniversary in 2014.  

Norm Mowles, a member of the SAAC, said that the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon approached them regarding restoration. “The WDM came to me in the car club, and they asked if we would be interested in taking on this project for them.” 

SAAC member Bob Maguire said that the Derby car had seen different periods of restoration before it came to them. Their club’s restoration of the car took two years, with $10,000 in community donations used in the process, and between 30-40 members working on the car.  

“We had many meetings, and we always had a good show of workers,” said Maguire. “When we did something, the whole club was out there [...] I think it was a real exercise in team building.” 

Maguire jokingly said that he didn’t want to know how many hours went into the restoration in total. “I spent many hours sanding those fenders, and working on the fenders so they could be put back on.” 

One mechanical point of interest that Maguire pointed out was that the brakes were unique. “It had hydraulic brakes, which is what you have in your cars today. That was quite advanced in those days.” 

Steve Van Vlaenderen’s first book, “Vanishing Wheels,” has pictures of abandoned vehicles across Canada that he compiled during a six-month, 16,000 km trip he took across Western Canada in 2020. “It’s a tribute to all the cars that have been abandoned that are vanishing in Western Canada.” Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Parkinson Canada, as he has Parkinson’s. You can find more information on his activities on the Vanishing Wheels website here.