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Legacy of Service
By Tom Olsen
Every once in a while, as I write one of these articles, things take a slightly different turn than originally anticipated. The fact that there is a South Dakota Air National Guard aircraft on the cover might indicate that this is one of those cases. I was assigned to do my usual automotive story this month, but there’s a sports car, a jet aircraft, and a pilot prominently displayed on the cover. Bob Jamison is the topic, but Bob’s history involves so much more than cars.
Bob is a car guy with an interest that goes way back to his high school days in the 1940s. While a senior in high school, Bob had a 1929 Model A Roadster. During that time, he took an auto shop class, and that sparked an interest that is with him to this day. Presently, he has a varied collection of cars that include a 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet, a 1962 MGA, a 1974 MGB, three Jaguars, and a 1972 Land Rover. Yes, I’d say he’s a car guy!
Bob’s car hobby progressed gradually, however, due to commitments and business along the way. Shortly after World War II, in 1947, Bob enlisted in the South Dakota Air National Guard. Initially, he was an enlisted man and served seven years in that capacity. Bob served in Korea in 1951 and ’52 in “Graves Registration”. This important duty involved identifying remains of servicemen and their aircraft. In 1954, Bob entered the Aviation Cadet Program where he learned to fly and was commissioned as an Air Force Officer.
After being commissioned, Bob flew for the Air Guard for the next 30 years. The aircraft he flew include the T-33 trainer, and the fighter aircraft F-94 (A and C), F-89, F-102, and the F-100. In his last few years at the Air Guard he flew the Convair C-131. In 1985, after 37 years of service, Bob retired from the Guard as a full colonel. At the time of his retirement, Bob had more single engine jet aircraft hours than any other pilot in the SDANG! Our cover photo this month shows Bob in 1965 beside an F-102 Delta Dagger, as well as the very first new automobile he sold in the car business, a 1965 Fiat Spyder.
This brings us to his automobile business: Jamison Imports. Bob owned an MGTD in the mid-1960s but there was no place in the area where he could get it repaired. So, he did what any enterprising young fellow would do and opened his own shop. Jamison Imports was founded in 1965, with its first location on West 12th Street west of Marion Road. Soon, the Fiat franchise was obtained and the 1500 Spyder on our cover became the first new car sold.
Over the years Jamison Imports was located on East 41st Street, and finally at 42nd and Minnesota Avenue. In addition to Fiat, the dealership held the franchise for MG and Triumph (British Leyland), as well as Jaguar. (It’s interesting to note that Jamison is the only Jaguar dealer ever in Sioux Falls.) In addition to the import auto sales and service, they also had the Scotti Muffler franchise. Business was good up until 1980 when MG was no longer imported into the US. Jamison Imports ceased the sale of new vehicles that year, but kept the parts business going for a couple additional years. Upon selling the business, Bob couldn’t resist keeping a few enjoyable cars for his own use. Staying with him was an MGA, Morris Minor pickup, Volvo P1800, and a 1960 Triumph TR3. Sounds like a fun collection…
After leaving the car business, Bob continued to be a very busy man. First, he went back to college at USD and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Accounting. Following that, he went into real estate and worked for Hastings Realty for several years. (Keep in mind that he was also flying for the SDANG this entire time.) If all this wasn’t enough, Bob then was elected to the Sioux Falls City Commission. He served five-and-a-half years on the City Commission up until the local form of government changed. He then served just less than 12 years as a City Councilor. Bob started Jamison Company Real Estate six years ago; his daughter-in-law, Beth, owns that now. In addition to all of this, Bob and his wife, Shirley, raised a family of nine!
But, back to the cars. Bob’s ’32 Chevy Cabriolet was bought originally by his brother, in Minneapolis, in the mid-1950s. It was brought back to Sioux Falls, but his brother sold it while Bob was in pilot training. Later, Bob happened to spot the car sitting in a garage in 1956 or ’57 and eventually bought it. Bob drove the Chevy for a couple years, but “other priorities, and flying for the Guard took a lot of time.” Bob kept the car all these years, but he estimates he probably hasn’t driven it in nearly 50 years.
Shirley, Bob says, is the second owner of the 1962 MGA in the collection. 1962 is the last year of the MGA; the MGB was introduced in 1963.This car was traded in at the dealership and Bob decided to keep it. The MGA has a 1622cc engine and a 4-speed. Bob tells me Shirley drove this one regularly for several years, and they kept it because it’s completely original and is a very rust-free car.
There are three Jaguar XJ6s in the collection. Bob has two 1985s and a 1982 “donor car”. I’m told these are essentially the same from 1982 to ’87, so parts from the donor car can be used as needed on the other two. The one that gets driven is a very elegant touring sedan, with a “Gothic Gold” exterior and luxurious leather interior. Bob says it has very unique handling; it’s “so solid, and feels more solid the faster you go.” Power is provided by a 6-cylinder engine through an automatic transmission. These are all in storage currently, but one is driven regularly in the summer.
A vehicle of a totally different style in the collection is the 1972 Land Rover Series II, 88 (88” wheelbase). This is an SUV style vehicle from before SUVs were “in”, as they are now. Selectable 4WD, low gearing, and a 2.25L engine power this versatile vehicle. Bob is the second owner of this rig. He was fascinated with the unique aspect of the Land Rover, so when the original owner traded it in, Bob bought it. Bob has this one in storage mode also. He last drove it “around 1985.”
The most recent project is Bob’s 1974 MGB. Bob bought this car eBay about four years ago. The car originally came from California as a solid, rust-free car, but it needed an engine, interior, and restoration. Bob and his sons have spent a lot of time working on this car in the last few years. The car was completely torn down except for the suspension. Bob had a ‘73 MGB that was “too far gone” with rust, so they used the engine, transmission, and interior from the ’73 in the ’74. The body was stripped to bare metal and repainted in “Daytona Yellow”. The group built the MGB as a “driver”, not as a show car. Through the efforts of several of his sons and Bob, it is recently finished and ready for the road.
As you can see, this is quite a collection of unique vehicles. Being a guy with muscle car background, it was educational and enlightening for me to see and learn about Jamison Imports and this collection of cars. But, even more important was what I learned about Bob Jamison. Thirty-seven years of military service, nearly years of service to our city, raising nine children, and all his other accomplishments, is quite a legacy. Great car collection, Bob, and thanks for your service!