Kurt & Ann Smith

1986 Mustang

1963 ThunderBird

I guess one could say I've always been interested in cars and trucks. My mother contends that my first words were "Vroom, Vroom" as I pushed a toy truck across the floor. My seeming inordinate interest in cars was a source of frustration for my Dad. He was beside himself that while in high school I could get straight A's in auto mechanics but barely passed any of my other courses. Nonetheless, my very first car was a gift from my dad.

At age fifteen I became the proud owner of a '53 Pontiac 2dr sedan with a straight eight and three on the tree. I didn't have a driver's license yet but was usually able to sneak a couple of miles a week on the old girl up and down the alley behind our house in NW Minot. The car was sound but despite the fact that it only had 53,000 miles on it I sold it later the same year to a college freshman who would years later become our Mayor. Curt Zimbleman paid me the princely sum of $30.00 for the car. He drove it away, and now armed with my brand new driver's license, I went shopping.

With my $30.00 down payment, and my dad's co-signature for the bank note, I purchased a '63 Corvair Monza with a 110hp flat six and a Powerglide "on the dash". The car had belonged to a "little old lady" from Rugby, and had only 17,000 miles on the odometer. The little white car had offended its tidy owner by dripping oil on her garage floor. After sealing the oil pan leaks, the Monza served my transportation needs through high school. I spent many happy hours in it cruising Main Street Minot in from '68-'70. I even managed to get an Exhibition Driving ticket from Minot's Finest for smoking one of the Monza's rear tires on Main one Friday night. (It takes some acrobatic driving, but it is possible.)

After high school, I sold the Corvair to move up to a '66 Mustang. It was a GT optioned car complete with a 140 mph speedometer but was powered by a 200ci six spinning a three speed manual transmission. The Mustang served me over the next couple years through a short stint at the North Dakota State School of Science, and carried me to Dayton, Ohio and later San Antonio, Texas, both places that I was stationed in the Air Force. Facing a trip back to North Dakota and not knowing if the hard driven Mustang would carry me back to Minot, I sold it for $85.00, and bought a nearly new '71 AMC Gremlin X. I drove the Gremlin back to Minot, and stored it while I was stationed in Korea.

Upon my return to Minot, I sold the Gremlin and bought a '75 Dodge D-100 "Hangman". The black 318 powered short-boxed pickup had been custom striped by area artist Milo Trusty and was numbered 25/100. I had by this time gotten married, started a family and soon needed more room. I sold the Dodge, and bought a '72 GMC Jimmy 4X4 from St Croix Motor on South Broadway in Minot.

A variety of circumstances led me into the "dark years" as far as transportation goes. A number of pickups and family sedans met my basic vehicle needs and cluttered my driveway. My performance driving needs were however met though my "company cars". You see in 1978, I left the Air Force, and joined the Minot Police Department. The factory hotrod police packages supplied by the City met my thirst for quick acceleration and spine jarring stiff suspensions.

In the early '80s I entered what I call the "Jeep Years". From 1983 to 1998 I owned six different Jeeps, and for awhile owned nothing but Jeeps. I still own three of these. None are running but qualify as pending projects. The most interesting is a '54 Willys Jeep Station Wagon that I plan to bring back to life someday.

In 2001, facing my rapidly approaching 50th Birthday I satisfied a long held desire to own a convertible. I searched the Internet for months and finally settled on a red '86 Mustang 5.0 convertible that I found in Chicago. The car was a good compromise of form function and affordability. The car is a good driver and has provided many miles of topless cruising. Our longest trip to date was a weeklong Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Bighorn Mountain cruise Ann, our daughter Meghan and I took this summer. We covered 1900 miles, many of them with the top down.

I had long heard of the Dakota Cruisers and knew many members. I attended many Car Shows over the years and was always thought that one day I might own a qualifying car and join. Well this fall at the invitation of several members, Ann and I attended our first Finale Event. I was hooked and we joined the Club early Saturday morning during the event. We've attended several meetings and are having a great time. We look forward to becoming more involved and participating in upcoming events for years to come. Association with the club will also help motivate me to get going with some of those pending projects.

UPDATE, January 2006

Well here it is a little over four years after Ann and I first joined the Cruisers. I’ve served a year as a board member and am just starting my second term as Club Vice President. Ann and I became lifetime member(s) #100 and have really enjoyed the club. We still have the Mustang and have clocked over 20,000 miles in it since we brought it home from Chicago in 2001. While we’ve been on many cruises with the Club, our longest and most memorable trip was a three-week Gulf of Mexico/Florida trip in April 2005. We drove the Mustang from Minot to New Orleans, and then followed the Gulf Coast roads around to Florida. We then crossed the peninsula to the Orlando area, visited my birthplace in Sanford, and then followed the Atlantic coast up into Georgia. We meandered our way through several South Eastern States before heading back home. In all we covered nearly 5500 miles and had the top down whenever we could.

Ann and I both feel very fortunate to have visited this area before the devastation of then 2005 hurricane season. As we watched the news coverage of the storms, we would often see the nearly unrecognizable remnants of places we had visited only a few short months earlier. Our hearts really go out to those affected by these disastrous storms.

In July 2005 we added another car to the family. Ann and I are now proud owners of a 1963 Thunderbird hardtop. The car was restored by my Brother-in-law, Melvin Liebelt in the late 1980s. He and his wife Bev (Ann’s sister) drove it not quite 3000 miles during the next couple of years, but then the car sat mostly idle. Ann and I hauled the ‘Bird home on July 5th with the goal of having it running for the Season Finale in September. With a lot of help from a number of club members, we did indeed drive the ‘Bird to Finale and had a great time.

In December of 2005 Ann and I were very humbled and honored when the membership voted the ‘Bird one of the three Dakota Cruisers 2006 Cars of the Year. We will be spending the winter sprucing up the ‘Bird and will be showing it at the club events through the year with the two other honorees, Tom Carson and Wally Renfrow.

We’ve had a great time with the Dakota Cruisers. We’ve made many new friends and look forward to being involved in the 2006 season and beyond for as long as we are able. Our oldest daughter Shannon and her husband Mark Krueger have also become members which bears testimony to the fact that the Dakota Cruisers are truly a family oriented organization.

Kurt and Ann Smith