Joe Smiley has an extensive resume that would impress even the most critical of employers; a Hamilton, Ontario local, he served on the city’s police force for 30 years before retiring in 1989. Even upon his retirement as Sergeant, Joe was a seasoned ‘Vette fan; “My first Corvette was a 1961 convertible bought in 1972 and [I] drove it for 35 years.”
During his time on the force and upon retirement, Joe juggled two ‘Vettes simultaneously and aside from his ’69 racer in our featured video, he also has a “Torch Red” 2000 convertible. The C3 that he and the Smiley family have dubbed the “Canal Rat” was first brought to Hamilton around ’76, when a fellow Canadian who originally owned the car had it stolen and pushed or driven into Ontario’s Welland Canal.
Joe describes the long and harsh time lapse that led up to his obtaining of the now beloved C3 – “The car was in the water for about 6 months and was recovered when the canal was drained for the winter in 1977… The Customs people of Canada decided that it should not have been released at that time, so it sat outside full of silt and water over the next winter.”
Smiley would eventually obtain the car as scrap and had it dialed-in by 1979. “When I was able to purchase it in the next spring it had been frozen, broken block and everything else… I fixed and patched the fiberglass and did a mild engine restoration for it and then went slalom racing with our Corvette Club.”
Eventually tiring of slalom, Joe and his brilliantly-built C3 became part of the road race scene near Toronto and have been involved with the sport ever since.
His canal wreck turned miracle is still very much a functional race car that has since had a second chassis thrown in underneath, and it currently sports a 350 punched 0.60 over and built to 12.5:1 compression, putting out an impressive 550 horses that chase a Muncie 4-speed plugged into a set of 4.10 cogs.
It’s amazing just how far Joe Smiley’s ‘Vette has come, from a sewer rat to a stout road racer, and hopefully the Toronto area’s road racing community will be graced by Smiley and his fast C3’s presence for a very long time!