Other manufacturers had used aluminum as well, but Spartan was the only true aircraft company to ever build trailers, which Smith said gave them a legitimacy that other brands lacked.
He also preferred the Spartan style, mixing pre-war Art Deco with post-war Mid-Century Modern.
“I fell in love with these things and started to collect everything I could related to Spartan,” says Smith. “Believe it or not, even though I’m in Los Angeles, I feel a kind of connection with Tulsa.”
Smith found a photo of Prototype # 1 in an old copy of an obscure February 1958 trade magazine, while the trailer was on a sales lot in California’s Central Valley. After that, he disappeared until the early 2000s, when a Sacramento enthusiast claimed to have found him in the backyard of a dealership.
It went on sale in 2007 and again in 2010 when Smith bought it. The serial number, 1945-1, proves it’s the original, he says.
“It’s not in bad shape, but I’ve tweaked it,” Smiths says. “I’m not a rich man, so it’s been slow. I get there when I can.
Now the prototype returns to Tulsa for the first time in 76 years.
Smith will show it off on Saturday during a Spartan trailer rally at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, which will also showcase a vintage B-17 bomber.