Having just finished the holidays, many families watched the Christmas classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Watching this movie is a seasonal tradition in our home, being one of those movies you never get tired of seeing with its timeless positive messages about faith, hope, family and friends. Remember the scene from this movie where actor Jimmy Stewart crashes his car into a tree and in frustration kicks the driver’s door shut? That movie scene damaged the left front fender and the door of the 1919 Dodge Brothers car used in the movie. However, I can say with authority that this car was repaired and is today in near-new condition, having just seen it last week in Johnstown, Colorado.
Car collectors and happily married couple Keith and Marilyn Smith of Johnstown, Colorado are the proud owners of the 1919 Dodge Brothers car of “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie fame, along with several other interesting cars. “All Americans can have a wonderful life thanks to our veterans” Keith told me during a recent interview at his home. “Since purchasing this car, we’ve used it for raising money for our veterans and their families.” The Smith’s participate in fundraisers in Northern Colorado where individuals and families can have their picture taken with the Jimmy Stewart car to raise money for veteran groups. This 1919 Dodge Brothers car was once part of the Harrah’s Car Collection in Reno, Nevada. Karoline Grimes, the actress who played Jimmy Stewart’s little daughter “Zuzu” in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, is friends with Keith and Marilyn and plans to travel to the Smith’s home to see the 1919 Dodge Brothers car that she hasn't seen in years.
Other cars in the Smith’s collection also have interesting histories. I was particularly intrigued with their chauffeur driven 1929 Graham Paige Opera coupe. Based on what information Keith has been able to find out about the car, he believes it to be a one of a kind LeBarron Coachworks custom bodied vehicle, complete with a champagne bar and privacy shades over the backseat and rear windows. Graham Paige cars were popular with the Hollywood elite in the ‘20s and 30s, who often had custom bodies built for their car. Keith speculates the car might have been owned by an early movie star or starlet or perhaps by a film studio to transport high profile celebrities to filming locations.
A more recent bit of notoriety was enjoyed by another one of Smith’s cars, a 1929 Nash Cabriolet Special 6. Last summer this car was used in a photo shoot by Sol’s Lingerie of Cherry Creek, Colorado for a recent advertising campaign as well as in their catalog.
Keith and Marilyn own and operate Mar-ke Wood Graining, restoring metal car dashes in the original simulated wood grain style found on many 1930s and ‘40s cars. If you need a dash or other item wood grained, you can reach them at (970) 481-4926. .
It’s always heart-warming to watch the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s even more heart-warming to see a real life couple live a wonderful life, including preserving a car that is an important part of American culture. You can view the 1919 Dodge Brothers car, the 1929 Graham Paige and other vehicles in Keith and Marilyn’s collection in the slide show attached to this article. Also don't miss the attached video that shows the Smith's in their 1919 Dodge Brother's car during a veteran's fundraiser.
Trivia Question: What is the difference between a cabriolet and a roadster?
Answer to last week’s Trivia Question: The first self-propelled land vehicle was a steam artillery tractor built and driven by French Army Captain Nicolas Joseph Cugnot in 1769. Going 4 m.p.h., he crashed it into a stone wall, resulting in the first automobile accident. Police arrested and jailed Cugnot and impounded his steam tractor, not a strong start to our motorized world!
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