Opening a can of soup usually doesn’t lead to a dinnertime discussion of classic cars.
That is, unless it’s a Heinz 57 can of soup, and you just happen to own a 1966 Wolseley Hornet souped-up by Heinz.
That’s the case in the Lincoln home of Brad Swiggart, whose Wolseley Hornet convertible – one of his nine classic cars housed in a Lincoln storage facility – draws double-takes and comments on the rare occasions when he takes it for a spin.
The collector’s item was one of 57 manufactured over a half-century ago as part of a promotion sponsored by the H.J. Heinz Company, the American food processing company whose tagline is Heinz “57 Varieties.”
Ingredients of soup story
How the sleek little beauty made its way to Swiggart’s 30-foot-by-60-foot showroom is a long story. So long, in fact, that he has a prepared, pre-printed answer for those who spot him driving it on Lincoln’s streets and want to know the story behind it.
“I had a board made up with it all spelled out,” he says, “because every time I drive this car, I end up having to tell the story over and over … and that gets old.”
But because you’ve read this far – and assuming you haven’t seen the board that outlines the details – here’s the scoop:
In the mid-1960s, Heinz introduced a contest in British magazines, announcing its “57 Unique Cars to Be Won!” contest. Entrants were challenged to match each Heinz soup flavor with a picnic item listed in an adjacent column.
Each contest winner received the keys to a convertible custom-built by a British company called Crayford, based on a model called the Wolseley Hornet.
More than 40 years later, Swiggart became the proud owner of one of the Heinz line. In 2009, he bought the vintage vehicle for $9,625 at a car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Buying the 1966 Wolseley made him a member of a very exclusive club.
Rare in North America
“Only three cars from that Heinz line produced in 1966 exist in North America today,” said the Lincoln collector. “This is one of them.”
Each of the past three years, Swiggart has attended England’s largest British car show, including one two years ago that marked the Heinz line’s 50th reunion.
If you spot Swiggart driving his prized possession on Lincoln’s streets, giving the car an occasional workout, you’ll see that its definitive design isn’t the only feature that sets it apart: The car is right-hand drive.
Looking at the usage of his nine-car fleet, Swiggart estimates he puts a combined total of about 5,000 miles on his classics each year.
The circumstances surrounding the classic cars’ various paths to Swiggart’s storage building are about as unique as the cars themselves. Besides the custom-fitted Heinz 57 car, Swiggart’s inventory includes a:
- 1958 BMW Isetta 300, a delivery car once used by Chicken Delight, a restaurant chain that flourished in Lincoln in the 1950s.
- 2014 F Type Jaguar, a Christmas present delivered by “Santa” to Swiggart’s wife, Gail Swiggart.
- 1960 Vespa 400, a car built for the “Disney in London” movie, purchased by Swiggart over lunch at a California car show.
- 1955 Nash Metropolitan convertible, acquired in 2003 and restored years ago.
- 1959 BMW 600 Limo, crowned as an Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Grand National champion.
- 1976 Triumph TR6, bought in 2016.
- 1959 MGA Roadster, purchased in 2009.
- 1959 Singer Gazelle convertible, owned by the late Ben Anderson, a Lincoln attorney.
But what earns the favorite’s label in the eyes of the collector is the aforementioned 1966 Wolseley Hornet.
Swiggart, 64, is a long-term-care specialist for Northwestern Mutual. He entered the investment field in 1985 after a 13-year career with the Burlington-Northern Railroad Co.
Swiggart attributes his fascination with cars to an interest he shared with his maternal grandfather, Paul Yule, a Mutual of Omaha Insurance agent and car buff who enjoyed taking his grandson to auto races.
Growing up in Crete, Swiggart had admired a collection owned by an optometrist who lived a block from Swiggart’s family and had classic cars stored in several garages throughout town.
“My dad (Earl Swiggart, a teacher and coach in Crete and later a principal in Ashland) had other interests … he was a hunter and a fisherman,” Swiggart recalled. “My grandpa was the car buff of the family.”
Swiggart figures he’s heard every Heinz-car question under the sun. His answers to two of the most common questions:
(1) No, he’d never consider selling the car; and
(2) His favorite Heinz soup flavor is tomato.