Spirit Valley shop owner continues legacy at car showTim Leland has lost track of how many classic cars he has purchased, restored and sold over the years.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth Budgeteer News
Tim Leland has lost track of how many classic cars he has purchased, restored and sold over the years.
The owner of Leland’s Auto Body, a little yellow garage that has become a fixture on West Duluth’s Central Avenue, Leland, 70, has been working on cars since 1958 when he was still in high school.
The cars have come and gone over the years, but one he has held onto for the past 25 years is a red 1926 Ford Model T sedan with a Buick V6 engine. The car was already in good condition when Leland bought it. But Leland decided to make small addition: adding the words “Duluth Fire Chief” to the doors.
“It was red, and I’ve had police cars and I’ve had fire trucks and stuff, so I thought ‘Fire Chief’ would be unique,” Leland said.
Over the years, Leland has maintained the car in running condition and kept up its appearance, bringing it to various area car shows, including the upcoming Spirit Valley Days Car Show.
Billed as the Northland’s largest car show, the event will feature hundreds of cars on display in the Kmart/Spirit Valley Shopping Center parking lot from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 31.
Although he goes to plenty of car shows, Spirit Valley Days is special, Leland said.
“Everybody just likes coming out here for the West Duluth one because there’s different places to eat — there’s Sammy’s Pizza and Mr. D’s — and the women like to go shop at Kmart,” he said. “It’s not just one person coming out. The whole family seems to come out.”
Leland, who has lived in the western neighborhoods of Duluth his entire life, said he has lost count of how many years he has been going to the Spirit Valley Days show. He’s also a member of a group of car enthusiasts that meets Wednesday nights during the summer to talk cars and show off their rides.
Leland’s replica fire chief vehicle might not be authentic, but it will probably generate some questions at the car show. It would not be the first time people were fooled by one of his cars.
Leland recalled the time he placed lettering that read “West Duluth Police Parade Car” on the side of his brand new, jet-black, $60,000 Plymouth Prowler for the 1999 Spirit Valley Days Parade. Some eyebrows were raised when Leland drove then Duluth Police Chief Scott Lyons through the parade in the expensive, new hot rod.
“Police Chief Lyons was getting asked, ‘Is that a drug car or we really wasting money with cars like that?’” Leland recalled with a laugh. “That generated a few articles in the paper.”
If Duluth’s fire chief in 1926 had used Leland’s Model T to get around, he probably would have taken some heat from the taxpayers for the egregious luxury, too.
The automobile has modern amenities such as an automatic transmission, heat and air conditioning and power windows — some of which had not even been invented by 1926.
Car Show Wednesday
WHAT: Spirit Valley Days Car Show
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 31
WHERE: Kmart/Spirit Valley Shopping Center parking lot