Distracted Driver in a Toyota Corolla Destroys Family's Treasured 1931 Ford Model A

A two-year, father-and-son restoration of a family heirloom ends in the worst possible way.

Imagine owning something like a 1931 Ford Model A that's been in your family for generations, whose pristine condition is the result of a painstaking, years-long restoration undertaken with your aging father. Now imagine that car has been destroyed thanks to the disregard of a distracted driver in a Toyota Corolla.

That's exactly the nightmare situation that William Smith finds himself in after a hit-and-run crash claimed the pre-war car that's been in his family for over 45 years last week. Smith had street parked the Model A in Orange, California on Friday as he went to work nearby; a while later, the telltale sounds of a terrible car crash reached his ears. Sensing something was wrong, he walked over and came upon a devastating scene.

William Smith

"I think they call it a panic attack, because I was crying and my hands were shaking uncontrollably," Smith told The Drive. A woman in a Toyota Corolla had drifted out of her lane, smashed into the rear corner of the Model A, and shoved it up onto the sidewalk. The impact bent the frame and the driveshaft, split the engine block, snapped all four wire wheels, broke the differential, and sent the hood flying ten feet into the grass. Aside from the obvious body damage, the car's entire structure is buckled and tweaked. It's totaled.

William Smith

But Smith didn't have much time to take it all in. As he approached, the woman hopped back into the Corolla and attempted to escape.

"She got back into her car and tried reversing, so I got behind it [to block her], but she wasn't going to be able to get out anyway because her car was stuck in the spokes of my car's wheel," he said. "So she took off on foot, but the cops caught her about 20 mins later in a [nearby] neighborhood."

William Smith

It was at that point that she allegedly confessed to being on her phone at the time of the accident. Eighty-seven years of automotive history, 45 years of a family's stories, all ruined by the scourge of distracted driving. Smith's father got the 1931 Ford Model A as 16th a birthday present in 1973, and it's been a part of his life ever since.

"He drove it to high school and college, and he gave it to me for my 18th birthday, and I've driven the car as my daily driver to college and work," he told The Drive. "My dad spent a countless amount of time, money, and effort on this car."

William Smith

It was torn down in the early 1990s for a full restoration, but it sat in pieces until a couple of years ago when father and son hauled it out of storage to finish what they started. The build had only been completed in the last six months.

William Smith

Smith is going to try and save what he can on the car, and he's looking into buying a new frame as a base for the rebuild, but the crash is a terrible body blow to him and his father. The Corolla driver took something important from them, there's no question. But she also presented them with a sliver of a silver lining.

"My dad is not in any way happy about what happened, but he's put a positive thought in my head that at least we'll get the opportunity to rebuild the car again together," he said. "Because when we built that car, it was some of the best time we've ever spent together."