It’s said that taking your mind off your problems is good medicine, and one that Alex Szmyr follows. After suffering a minor heart attack in 1994, he bought a 1948 Plymouth and spent his time restoring it to keep himself busy.
“When I was in high school, I remember looking at a car, probably from the 1940s, and I thought I should buy that,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about them and I bought a 1968 Cutlass instead, but I remember looking at that older car and thinking yeah, that would be nice.”
Alex now owns a 1935 Chevrolet Master sedan and 1970 Monte Carlo, along with a 1993 GMC truck, 2001 PT Cruiser and 1981 Yamaha 1100 Midnight Special.
Born in Poland, he moved to Canada in 1959 and has always lived in Oshawa. He’s married to Lynda and they have two sons, Aaron and Chris. Semi-retired from his job as a process engineer at PPG Automotive Glass, he primarily drives delivery now. His prior jobs included working as a draftsman at a plastics company and as an injection molding technician at Precision Valve in Ajax.
“I restored the Plymouth back to original,” he says. “I’m a mechanical technologist by trade, like a mechanical engineer but without the engineering degree. I’ve had high school shop and welding, and being in mechanical engineering, I figured it out. I don’t know why I went back to original but I really enjoyed it. The car was all there, but the transmission was in the trunk and the motor was seized. I enjoyed restoring the motor, buffing everything and trying to find the old parts.”
He found the car through the late Bill Hurrie, his co-worker and a Motor City member. Alex knew most of the club members and Bill asked him several times if he wanted to join, but Alex wasn’t ready yet. It was when he decided that he wanted to move from a restored car to a street rod that the idea of joining the club finally jelled.
“I wanted to do more than restoring,” he says. “I still had the ’48 and I always thought I couldn’t go anywhere because it’s all original and I can’t get the parts. It was always short trips because I didn’t want to take it too far. I was looking at customizing it and putting a modern drivetrain into it.”
He took the car to Autofest, where someone mentioned that a 1935 Chevrolet was up for sale. “Both Lynda and I decided to have a look and we liked it,” he says. “I purchased it and sold the 1948, and used the funds from that do to the project on the 1935.
“I joined the club because I had never built a hot rod before and I knew if I joined, I could get a lot of help, good advice, and do the things both Lynda and I enjoy doing, like going on cruises, going out with the group and stuff like that.”
Lynda also knew many of the members from the days when she and Alex ran a small sign business. “We were doing signs for the club prior to me joining them, so she’s always had a lot of contact with the guys in the club as well as me,” he says. “When we used to go out to the cruises or a tour with them she enjoyed it, so she was quite willing when I said I’d like to join. She helped me prime the doors on the 1935. I had her in the garage with the spray gun, mask on and coveralls, and she did pretty good.”
Although he hasn’t used his motorcycle in several years, he’s logged a lot
of miles on two wheels. “When I finished high school, a buddy and I travelled
out west on the bikes,” he says. “He ended up staying there, and I ended up
coming back. I got into cars and the bike sat there. When the kids were
younger, I had a boat and a trailer and enjoyed getting out onto the lake.
I don’t fish, but I enjoyed getting out in the fresh air. I like the outdoors
and we used to go camping. I used to go out with my brother-in-law and he
was into archery. I took it up for a while, target shooting, but he’d sit in a
tree stand for a couple of hours. I don’t hunt. Just getting out was fun for
He does almost all of his work himself, both on his cars and anything
that has to be done around the house. “With this car, I’ve done everything
myself,” he says. “Real men read instructions! When I did the wiring, I’d
never done wiring before, so I followed the instructions, did the wiring on
the ’35 and hey, it works. I’d like to pick up sewing to see if I can do the
“It’s not the money, it’s learning something new, trying to see how
good you are and if you can do it. I painted the frame, I primed the car
and sanded it down, and I wanted to paint it but I didn’t have the facilities.
If they had a paint booth (at the clubhouse) you would have seen me in there.”
His main goal is to always keep learning new things to apply to his vehicles. “It’s like car magazines – you buy your magazines and read them, and you absorb it. You don’t just look at the pretty pictures. There are articles, tips, instructions. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, and it’s something that no one can take away from you.”