Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Art Smith, famous for being a young stunt pilot in the early 19 teens, and then touring state and county fairs with his Baby Racers

What a great way to make a living, take some mini race cars on the road, race in city by city, and have a lot of fun

These miniature race cars were powered by Harley Davidson F-head V-twins built in the mid-teens and given the name “baby cars”.

The cars were built with the help of Dudley Perkins of the Dudley Perkins Company, a San Francisco Harley-Davidson dealership. The left and center photos above show the workshop where the racers were assembled by Smith and his crew in a shop located at 220 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

Art Smith at the young age of 15 was quite the dare devil, and spent most of his youth as a stunt pilot.

Art’s skill as a pilot made him a popular attraction at state fairs and similar events around the country in a time when seeing a plane was something quite unusual.

 The first years he spent touring around the U.S. brought him plenty of fame and fortune, allowing him to purchase five baby cars.

 The baby cars became part of his act. He would race his plane against his “Baby Boys” who drove the cars. The cars would go around 60 mph, which was pretty fast by 1915 standards.

Switching from having fun to punching a time clock for a steady paycheck killed him.

Art moved into commercial aviation and flew for the U.S. Postal Service in the 1920’s. Unfortunately on a flight in 1926, he was killed in a crash when his plane caught fire.

Smith’s cars were the inspiration for several later baby racers, including the Wing Midget (or Wing Special) manufactured by Chauncey Wing’s Sons of Greenfield, Massachusetts. For just $380, the buyer could rocket down city streets at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. The cars were built and sold during 1922.

1915 Harley Davidson Baby Cup Race Car. Originally built at the Maggini-Perkins HD dealership in San Francisco for board track racing at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo

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