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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1980 Ford Granada

The ESS model was the most expensive Ford Granada on the dealer’s show room floor in 1980.  
The 1980 selling season opened for Ford of Canada dealers with Pinto, Fairmont, Granada, LTD, Mustang and a redesigned, downsized Thunderbird.  The imported Granada was the only mid-sized Ford on showroom floors. The 2791-millimetre (109-inch) wheelbased automobile certainly hadn’t changed much from last year when it sold 13,984 units for the calendar year, or the year before that when sales reached 21,974 units, for that matter. 

Carrying classic lines, a simple rectangular grille accented with a stand-up hood ornament and squared up openings for the halogen headlamps set the standard. The Granada was a very attractive vehicle. Patterned after the timeless Mercedes-Benz, Ford clearly had a winner on its hands.  Advertising boldly made use of  photographs of the Granada with the Mercedes-Benz in the background, and wasn’t shy to bill the mid-sized Ford as “a modern classic.”

Under the hood was the 4.1-litre (250-cubic inch) “I” Six-cylinder engine with a four-speed manual transmission. An optional 5-litre (302-cubic inch) mill could be had with an optional automatic transmission. 

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The 1980 Ford Granada ESS sported a genuine leather-wrap 
steering wheel and faux woodgrain trim.
Elegance, class and style pervaded the cabins of the Ghia two-door and four-door sedans. Tasteful burled woodtone appliqu├ęs on door and instrument panels, sumptuous 18-ounce cut-pile carpeting underfoot that was continued on the lower portion of the doors, helped to set the tone for the five potential occupants. 

The deep-cushioned all-vinyl flight bench seat boasted a fold-down centre armrest. Handy map pockets could be had for the back of the front seat. The colour-keyed seat belt offered a “pleasant chime reminder to buckle up.” 

Positioned upwind of the Ghia, the ESS offered all the niceties of the Ghia plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual remote control mirrors, a dual-note horn, as well as exclusive, chain pattern vinyl upholstery and Euro-style adjustable headrests upholstered  in cloth and vinyl or leather and vinyl combinations. 

Even the base Granada cabin came with a luxurious box-weave cloth and vinyl or a pebble-grain vinyl upholstery. The handy fold-down centre armrest was included, too.

The “Vacation-Sized Trunk” appealed to owners 
of the 1980 Ford Granada. Use of a mini-spare provided
 42.5 litres (15 cubic feet) of space. 
Colours in the Granada palette included Candyapple Red, Dark Cordovan Metallic, Light Grey, Light Medium Blue, Pastel Sand, Silver Metallic, Midnight Metallic Blue and Polar White. Three new hues adorned Granadas this selling season: Chamois Glow, Sand Glow and Bittersweet Glow, all three Metallic based. These colour choices could all be further embellished with optional Bodyside and Decklid Accent Stripes. 

If solid colours with contrasting pinstripes didn’t cut the mustard, there were some very striking Tu-Tone combinations available including Dark Chamois Metallic over Chamois Glow and Sand Glow over Pastel Sand suitable for the most discerning of clients. 

Two vinyl roof treatments in a choice of eight colours were available. Half-roof applications could be ordered for certain two-door models.

Standard features found in the Granada included front disc brakes, a mini spare, two-speed windshield wipers, turn-signal wiper and washer mounted controls, an inside hood release, a lockable glove box, an electric rear window defroster, 

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Options for the Granda were as plentiful as oil wells in Alberta. One could order any of eight different radios, ranging from a simple AM model to an Electronic AM/FM Stereo Search model that could be had with eight-track or cassette deck. The SelectAire Conditioner with Automatic Temperature Control kept the car warm and toasty or icy cold and salesmen recommended that it be ordered with tinted glass. 

The Power Assists included power front disc brakes, power door locks, a power moon roof, power seats and power side windows. A 4-way Manual Driver’s Seat added “vertical comfort.” Individual Reclining Bucket Seats—in leather if one wished--were a classy touch. The Digital Clock, the centre console with its bank of special warning lights, the Illuminated Entry System, light groups, numerous wheel covers and tires, the Extended Service Plan, Fingertip Speed Control, Tilt Steering Wheel all added to comfort levels and the final price tag, too. 

The 1980 Ford Granada two-door sedan had a 67.7-litre (14.9 Imperial-gallon) 
gas tank. The filler door was concealed in the centre of the rear of the car.
None of the Big Four did well this year and Ford of Canada was no exception. Sales were down sharply from 204,821 units in the 1979 calendar year with 151,853 units delivered throughout the country in 1980. Fortunately the smaller number of units sold domestically was offset by Ford Canada's overseas subsidiaries, which turned a $36 million profit. 

The real drag on Ford of Canada was the lack of orders from the United States. Those were down considerably as a result of last summer’s oil embargo against the US by the consortium of oil-producing nations. Since Ford of Canada’s factories built out primarily big and mid-sized cars and Americans were scrambling for the smallest most economical wheels possible there was little call for the Canadian-built products. Losses for the company amounted to $50 million, a stark contrast to the $10 million profit for the previous year. 

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Small cars continued to capture consumers’ attention as their thriftiness appealed to Canadians sense of practicality. Sales of imports climbed to 21 percent in 1980.  Even the lowly Soviet-sourced Lada, now assembled in Halifax, nearly doubled in sales, jumping to 9,300 units from 5,300 units the year previous. 

To counter the adverse situation at Ford Canada, corporate belt tightening was the order of the day.  The foundry was closed in Windsor and the second shift at the Oakville plant was cancelled until the economic picture was less bleak.

On the bright side, plans moved right ahead with a $600 million aluminum foundry and V-6 engine plant in Essex County, Ontario and conversion of the St. Thomas, Ontario plant for the Ford Escort andMercury  Lynx models continued.

Activities at Ford of Canada were barely noticeable as the media put a microscope on the troubles at Chrysler Canada and the subsequent big bailout by Ottawa. Also getting major media attention was the nasty fight between the Federal Government and the Province of Alberta as to who had the rights to collect taxes on oil. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

1976 Oldsmobile Toronado

The 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado Custom weighed 3 159 kilos (4,761 pounds) and listed for $8,177 f.o.b. Oshawa. 
Oldsmobile was long distinguished as General Motors' avant-garde technical division. It could claim many engineering firsts including the distinction of offering the first front-wheel drive automobile in the United States since the 1937 Cord. The seductive coupe bowed for the 1966 season as a full-sized personal luxury vehicle. The sleek and ritzy two-door Olds  shared components with the rear-wheel drive Buick Riviera. Both were intended to compete with Ford’s Thunderbird.

Finding a name for the car took careful consideration. Raven, Magnum and Scirocco were all considered before settling on Toronado. The name didn’t mean anything but it did have a bit of history; it had appeared on a 1963 Chevrolet concept car.  

Toronado was truly a fortunate series of serendipitous events. In 1962 stylist David North created a design that he called simply “Flame Red Car.” 

North's styling study was of no consequence to anyone but it was suddenly chosen when Oldsmobile staff was informed that it would be allowed to build a car to compete against the  Ford Thunderbird for the 1966 model year. Top brass wanted the vehicle a full-sized model platform. The design team wanted a smaller car. Despite the team’s best efforts to have the posh Olds built on a smaller wheelbase, top brass was adamant that it debut on a full-size wheelbase.

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Oldsmobile's engineers had been working on developing practical front-wheel drive since 1958. The concept was popular in Europe and it was well known that both Ford and Rambler were working on front-wheel drive projects. Ford was rumoured to be readying the 1961 Thunderbird for front-wheel drive and Rambler was said to be introducing the technology on its 1963 or 1964 models. 

1966 Oldsmobile 98
Toronado sales were added together to those of the stately Oldsmobile 98. For the 1966 calendar year, 2,198 units were delivered across the Dominion. The car earned Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year Award. In 1967, Toronado sales were broken out from those of the Oldsmobile 98. Records show that 580 of the front-wheel drive beauties were delivered throughout the Dominion. 

The restyled Olds Toronado that bowed for 1971 was more elegant than previously.

A second generation of Toronados arrived for the 1971 selling season. They were among the first cars to use the high-mount third brake light in the rear centre of a vehicle.The 1974 to 1976 models offered driver’s-side airbags. Times and consumer tastes were changing. Oldsmobile needed to redefine itself in a shifting marketplace.

The people in marketing knew, “ Oldsmobile buyers are thoughtful shoppers who shop for more than price alone. They look for quality. Careful workmanship. They expect comfort and luxury as part of an automobile’s value. They appreciate excellence and the prestige that goes with it.” 

 The wheelbase of the personal luxury Oldsmobile
Toronado measured 3 098 millimetres ( 122 inches) on the 1976 model.

Wordsmiths used unabashed snob appeal. “Toronado is built on a private production line.”  With soothing words the ad copy continued to purr. “You relax in elegance as Toronado does most of the work. Power steering and brakes plus automatic transmission are standard. Power raises or lowers the windows. A message centre can monitor up to ten operations.” 

The 1976 Toronado was more angular than before. The landau roof came in seven different colour choices. Its face was almost austere and casket-like in appearance. The grille consisted of two very simple, slightly Vee’d horizontal bars and an elongated hood, topped by a standup hood ornament. Rear styling treatment was also angular with thin slits of taillamps at bumper level and massive fender end caps colour-keyed to the body. 
Rear view of the 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado
was seen quite often by drivers of  lesser automobiles.

The Toronado’s base engine was the 7.5-litre (455-cubic inch) Rocket V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor and a high-energy ignition. Also standard was the GM Turbo Hydramatic transmission

 Upholstery was a geometric nylon knit weave velour or for a few dollars more, a supple vinyl. Seating boasted centre armrests. The instrument panel was expansive with controls to the left and right of the driver. The clock featured digital quartz movement.
Toronado's instrument was vast, designed around a strip speedometer.

There were a dozen colours for the exterior of a Toronado. Black, Cream, Buckskin, Yellow, Red and White for starters. Metallic colours were popular and in that family one could choose Silver, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red, Mahogany, Saddle, Dark Green and Lime.

Options for Toronado included an appearance package, an illumination package, Four Season air conditioning, cruise control, tinged glass, six-way power seats power trunk release, power windows, power door locks, a tilt-telescope steering wheel, numerous radios with or without tape player and many other goodies. 

Cutaway of the 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado showcases GM’s front-wheel drive layout.
Sales of Toronado were lumped in with Oldsmobile 98 for the 1976 calendar year. The total for the luxurious pair added up to 4,362 deliveries. That figure was down dramatically from the 5,566 delivered in 1975. There was no need for despair in Oshawa, however. Sales for the 98 and the Toronado would rebound nicely to 7,045 units sold in 1977. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2007 
All rights reserved.

Monday, December 6, 2010

1959 Simca

 The newest member of the Chrysler Canada family in 1959 was Simca. Imported from Paris, the
Simca Super Deluxe carried a $1,995 price tag.
 Small cars were the cat’s pyjamas in the 1950s. Windsor was first, importing its little British Ford Model Y into Canada in 1933, though never in large numbers until after the Second World War. General Motors introduced Canadians to its British-built Vauxhall in 1948. They sold in modest numbers at first. 

When Nash Motors began to enjoy great success with its small Rambler in the 1950s, the competition was quick to pay attention. Clearly the independent automaker was onto something. Studebaker quickly cut deals to import the posh Mercedes-Benz and the tiny DKW from West Germany. 

Chrysler was without a European subsidiary from which to draw small cars for its North American consumers. While beginning to tool up for production of a domestically built compact car, the Valiant wouldn’t be ready until the 1960 selling season. The company needed a quick fix and in 1956, Chrysler executives went shopping in Europe. If they couldn’t immediately build a range of small cars, they would buy a company that fit their needs. 

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This December 1958 press release tells of Chrysler's coup-d'etat. “For two years, the engineers of the Forward Look searched the world for that one car that could carry the Chrysler Corporation banner into the economy field. They tested scores of cars. They took them apart. Evaluated, and re-evaluated. Finally, the choice was made. Simca—the economy import with American safety features. “

“Today’s great Simca is wide, longer, more powerful and luxurious than any other imported high economy car in its price class. Official tests have proved maximum miles per gallon performance with the lowest-price fuel. With the addition of Simca, Chrysler Corporation has the perfect automobile choice for every possible buyer. Now more than ever, there is a car of Chrysler Corporation excellence in every price bracket."

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Chrysler had purchased a European automaker that began manufacturing in 1935. The early product was closely aligned with Fiat of Italy; it became very popular with the public.  SIMCA was an acronym that stood for Societe Industrielle de Mecanique et de Carrosseire Automobile. During the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two, Simca workers continued to build automobiles in small numbers. It introduced the unit-bodied Aronde (French for swallow) in 1951. It was popular. Ford wanted out of France and sold its French subsidiary to Simca in 1954.  

By the end of the decade Simca was the second-largest automobile company in France. The company held more than a dozen endurance records the world over and enjoyed a sterling reputation. Featuring the characteristics Chrysler executives wanted, they bought 25 percent of the stock in 1958. 

Billed as the car “imported from Paris,” Simca was chic. The graceful swallow was its trademark and that tied in neatly with the angular dual jet arrows Chrysler was using to promote itself at the time. 

The sedans and wagons shared a guppy mouth grille with turn signals located at the extreme edges. The chrome “smile” was underscored with a slim bumper punctuated with bumper guards. The sides carried a heavy crease over the wheelwell—one running the length of the front fender--and an arced crease that rose up over the wheelwell to define the rear fender. From the back, Simca carried dual taillights in a chrome housing that capped the fenders and a large emblem kissed the trunk lid.

1959 Simca Chatelaine station wagon.

It was the Simca Super Deluxe, a.k.a. the Aronde, that led the way in Chrysler’s captive import plan. Built in a 2 438-millimetre (96-inch wheelbase) and a pert 4 144 millimetres (162 inches) in overall length, the unit-body car was available as a four-door sedan or a two-door Chatelaine station wagon. 

Shorn of some brightwork and the reclining seat feature, a stripped Deluxe sedan was also available at a modest $1,845. It was billed as the budget-priced running mate to the Super DeLuxe with its $1,995 price tag.  The stripper’s claim to fame was that it was bigger, heavier, longer and wider than any other leading lowest-priced imported car. Despite the plain-Jane designation it still promised “the same family size comfort, proven economy, big trunk and responsive handling qualities.”

 The 1959 Simca Oceane gave Chrysler dealers a model to compete with Ford’s Thunderbird.
The most expensive Simca carried a hefty$3,195 price tag.
 The 1959 Simca Plein Ciel was a welcome addition to  Chrysler dealers’ showrooms. The snappy hardtop could be had for $2,975 plus tax.
 The stylish Simca Oceane convertible listed for $3,195 and the Plein Ciel (Open Sky) hardtop model cost $2,975. Both shared their own sleek sheetmetal. “Lithe, low and magnificently crafted” were words used to describe this pair. They wore competition steering wheels, padded dashboards, saddle leather interiors--the Plein Ciel got fabric--and reclining seats. These two were ideal for those who sought “high fashion personal cars.” 

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This cutaway drawing shows the 1290-cc Whispering Flash four-cylinder engine used in Simca cars in 1959.
All Simcas used the Whispering Flash, four-cylinder, 1290-cubic centimetre mill, though the horsepower generated was rated at 48 while the wagon was given 45 horses. The Oceane and Plein Ciel shared engines with its lesser kin but boasted aluminum heads and 57 horsepower as a result.   Engines were mated to Simca’s four-speed transmission—first gear was not synchronized--“for even greater operating efficiency.” A unique feature was the permanent oil filter, designed so that the cartridge never needed to be replaced. 

Interiors were styled by Parisian designers and cradled in Quiet-Tone Soundproofing material. Instrumentation was housed in a large round cluster in front of the driver. The speedometer promised acceleration to 80 miles per hour.  The Ignition key was dashboard mounted and like Ford and Studebaker, located to the extreme left of the driver. The rest of the instrument panel was taken up with a dual glove compartment, one perfect for holding a radio. 

The reclining seats were stolen straight out of Rambler’s success. Advertising made much of the feature, boasting that the plush foam seats could fully lowered “for double bed comfort” or positioned only part way “for just relaxing.”  

One could load a lot of luggage into a 1959 Simca. The spare tire was concealed to allow for more useable space.
 A single switch controlled a heater and defroster. Posh touches included  dual horns, safety glass, electric windshield wipers and a trip mileage indicator. 

Tiny dimensions notwithstanding, Simca boasted 2.4 cubic metres (eight cubic feet) of trunk space in the sedans and while more coy about revealing the cargo dimensions for the Oceane and the Plein Ciel, advertising did claim they offered “plenty of space.”  The wagon boasted “more than a half ton of capacity.” 

Unlike many foreign cars, parts and service were never anything to worry about. The Chrysler connection took care of that. “Wherever you drive in North America, Simca parts and service are right at hand through the vast Mopar network in the United States and Chryco in Canada.” 

Simca made use of Unigard construction, like Rambler.
 Chrysler Canada showed off its entire corporate line of new cars to dealers, employees, the press and civic leaders in a nation-wide gala that ran from October 2 to 5, 1958. It was the largest presentation in corporate history. The biggest buzz was the introduction of the Simca family. Chrysler's new French cousins did very well as a member of the Chrysler Canada family; the little car from Paris sold 4,051 units throughout the Dominion of Canada in 1959. 

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2007 
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 29, 2010

1960 Monarch

Monarch made its debut as a Canada-only model at Ford in 1946. It shared the Mercury shell but was created to fill a niche between Mercury and Lincoln in the small but prestigious mid-priced segment of the market. Over the years, Monarch grew to be  as Canadian as hockey and fiddleheads.

 Monarch had sold 10,156 units in 1956 but that number slid to 8,468 units in 1957 when a sharp recession hit. There was no Monarch at all in 1958 because it was deleted from the corporate stable in favour of the new Edsel.  Canadians didn’t care for the Edsel and insisted on having their Monarch back. It was returned to the lineup in 1959 with great fanfare.  Monarch  was obliged to share the market with Edsel and sales for Canada’s King of the Road slipped to 4,979 units in 1959. 

The real culprit behind declining sales was not Edsel. Monarch, and Mercury had a bigger problem on their hands.  Competitors Oldsmobile, Buick, DeSoto and Chrysler sales were watching their sales disappear too, as Canadians opted for  thrifty compact Ramblers and Studebaker Larks, or even smaller imported cars.  Figures for 1959 had showed that imports alone represented 118,513 sales, an astonishing 23.8 percent of all new cars sold throughout the Dominion. 
The 1960 Monarch was billed as 'the mark of distinction on Canadian Roads."

The 1960 Monarch carried a ribbed grille in six sections, with dual headlights in the extreme ends. The leading edge of the hood was skinned flat, forming a chromed opening in which the word Monarch was spelled out. The massive bumper carried the turn signals. The bumper wrapped around and curved  upward at the side as it stretched back to the front wheel wells.  Five-point crowns, so long a symbol of the mighty Monarch, made their appearance as road guides, nestled in a channel that ran the length of each front fender. 

A heavy curve ran upward from the trailing edge of the front wheel well and fanned out to embrace the chrome surround of the grille. A brightwork spear accented the front fender and front door. Just beyond the front door, a massive fluted channel, filled with ribbed aluminum, swept majestically to the rear of the car. Above it was the merest suggestion of a fin, below was the gentle swell of an ovoid taillight pod. 

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Two and four-door hardtops carried a reverse-C dog-leg pillar while the four-door sedans made use of a chrome C-pillar, to set off a massive wraparound rear window and the slim B-post was hidden by window mouldings. 

This four-door Monarch Lucerne sedan sold for $3,430.  It was the least expensive and the most popular Monarch
in 1960;  2,548 units were built.

Monarch was just as distinct from behind with its triple round taillights set in a heavy chrome pod that formed part of the bumper. More ribbed brightwork set off the lip of the trunk. Monarch script was added to the right side of the ribbing. A large five-point crown adorned the centre of the trunk, interrupting the twin rivers of chrome that flowed languidly from the top of each rear fender. 

Only 65 two-door hardtop Sceptre Cruisers  were built in 1960, making it the most rare of
that year’s Monarch offerings. 

The luxurious Sceptre crowned the line with a pair of very ritzy two and four-door hardtop Cruisers. Sceptres were graced with Multi-Range automatic transmission, the 310-horsepower, four-barrel carb, V-8 engine, power steering and power brakes as standard equipment. 

Monarch Sceptre’s  back seat was more like a sumptuous living room.

The interiors were beyond posh with thick and deep wall-to-wall carpeting. Upholstery was 100 percent nylon-faced Jamaica Cloth and crush-grain vinyl, covering foam rubber cushions.  “Every detail of the Sceptre interiors reflects careful craftsmanship and good taste in contemporary style.”

A notch below the Sceptre was a trio of spirited Richelieu models, a two and four-door hardtop and a four-door sedan. It was also powered by the “quietly competent 310 horsepower overhead valve V-8  with a four-barrel carb and graced with the Monarch Automatic transmission. 

Instrument panel for Monarch was decidedly space-age.

Appointments were slightly less dazzling in Richelieu models but did include the three-speed electric wipers, the non-glare rear view mirror and the self-winding electric clock that Sceptres had. Interiors were finished in “glove-soft vinyls and rich Avalon cloth tailored in a range of designer-inspired colour schemes.”  Both front and rear seats were given foam cushioning, deep pile carpeting and the Morocco-grained vinyl padding on the instrument panel were meant to be “added high-fashion notes.”

The corporate 383 V-8 was the engine of choice for Monarch. 

The Monarch line was rounded out with bargain-priced two-door and four-door hardtop Cruisers and a four-door sedan in the economical Lucerne series. It was a big car with few frills. The de-tuned 280-horsepower version of the 383 V-8 with a two-barrel carb sufficed and the engine was mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Upholstery was still upscale with “rich, nylon-faced fabrics in handsome tweedy patterns,” and complemented with “supple iridescent vinyls.” Carpeting was of the tufted loop-pile variety for “a final touch of luxury.”

As might be expected, the options list for Monarch was longer than a winter’s night in Tuktoyaktuk. One could add power-lift windows, four-way power seat, Arctic wiper blades, colourwall wheel trim rings, a courtesy light group, curb signals, an engine block heater, exhaust deflectors, fender shields (that’s Ford for  fender skirts), floor-saver mats, heavy duty suspension, licence plate frames, a locking gas cap, luggage racks, outside rear-view mirrors, a padded instrument panel, a radio, antenna and rear-seat speaker, rocker panel trim, seat belts, a spare wheel carrier (otherwise known as a continental kit), a spotlight, tinted glass, a Monarch tissue dispenser, undercoating, a vanity mirror for milady and a windshield washer, just to name a few goodies. 

Cutaway drawing shows Monarch’s frame, bowed for safety. 

Tastes might be changing but advertising would get every sale it could for Monarch. Ad copy claimed that “Everywhere you look you will see things that are new and different and better in Monarch ‘60” and the fine car offered “new styling with sleek, smooth-flowing lines that is distinctively Canadian in the sprit of the ‘60s.”

The year ended with a disappointing 4,494 sales for Monarch. The handwriting was on the wall for the entire mid-priced luxury car range. Edsel would be cancelled at the end of the 1960 season. Chrysler Corporation’s DeSoto would not return to Canadian dealerships either, though it would soldier on for one last year in the United States. Though no one knew it at the time, Monarch would have only one more year before being laid to rest, too. 
The 1961 Monarch Richelieu was the last of the grand marque.

 Copyright James C. Mays 2005 
All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1969 Pontiac

The entire Pontiac tribe was graced with 
polyurethane nosebumpers,
 giving the cars a  highly distinctive look.
Long a favourite with buyers, Pontiacs appeared in showrooms from St. John's to Victoria wearing stylish new Wide-Track looks for the 1969 selling season. The whole tribe was given attractive nose jobs as stylists employed the latest technology to deck the design with an Endura colour-keyed centre bumper insert that most attractively split the new plastic grille in half. These fine road machines glittered in a dazzling array of 15 Magic-Mirror colours—a full dozen of them new this year.

Pontiac’s pride was the Grande Parisienne line, consisting of a sassy Sport Coupe and a smooth Sport Sedan. Powering the new beauties was the 350-cubic inch V-8, an upgrade from the longstanding 327 cubes traditionally stuffed under the hoods. Billed as “Wide-Tracking with the luxury touch,” the Grande Parisienne was said to shout good taste and to whisper luxury. It was easy to remember one was riding in a Grande Parisienne; interiors were accented with a simulated walnut trim. Spotting a GP from the rear was easy, too. It was the car with the ultra-modern, colour-keyed plastic Endura insert running the length of the rear bumper.
 The 1969 Pontiac Grande Parisienne could be
ordered with an extra-cost vinyl top.

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With its “strong masculine look of action,” the new fast and furious 2+2 series was unleashed. These were not to be trifled with. A Sport Sedan and a convertible comprised the line. Its list of standard features was longer than a country kilometre. Strato bucket seats were finished in a high grade of Parchment Vinyl, special wheel covers adorned the models, simulated louvres kissed the front of the rear wheel wells, colour-contrast racing stripes added their blessings and an embossed vinyl headliner were all bestowed upon the 2+2. 

 Geared to performance and speed in a luxury package, Pontiac 
fielded a Sport Coupe and a convertible in the 2+2 line.
Optional equipment for the 2+2 was geared for performance. Variable ratio power steering gave 3.1 turns from lock to lock and power assist front disc brakes both made for some very exciting driving.

Engine choices in the 2+2 gang were all V-8 and ranged from 350 cubic inches to a thundering 427 cubes. Power from the massive mills was mated to a buttery smooth four-speed manual transmission or the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic for shiftless driving.

Designers gave Pontiac’s 2+2 line a unique instrument
panel  that carried highly identifiable cues to set it apart
 from other models in the family.
The Parisienne family was by far the most popular with the public and buyers could choose among the Sport Coupe, Sport Sedan, a four-door sedan and a convertible. Cabins were finished in Reveille Cloth to give the look and feel of luxury car upholstery. The ragtop sported an all-vinyl interior.

The 1969 Pontiac Parisienne
The base engine for the Parisienne was the 250-cubic inch powerful but ever so thrifty six-cylinder mill. With more than a million miles under its belt, the 150-horsepower engine was no slouch. Pontiac engineers were so confident in its power that a Superlift towing package for trailers and boats was offered. A three-speed or four-speed manual gearbox was available to move the package along as well as GM's Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.

The venerable and vaunted Laurentian nameplate returned for its 16th season. Two value-packed offerings included a new Sport Coupe and the familiar four-door sedan. The Laurentian appealed to buyers who were seeking luxury on a shoestring budget. 

The least expensive Pontiac in 1969 was the Strato-Chief.
A modestly dressed Sport Coupe and a four-door sedan were offered.

Billed as the “full-size car at the small car price,” Strato-Chief was the least expensive Pontiac on the showroom floor. Even here one could buy a Sport Sedan or a four-door sedan. Though more modestly appointed than its kin, the Strato-Chief had been recognized since 1958 for offering extras in the base price and this year they included such niceties as armrests fore and aft and carpeting.

For those long family holidays back East, down East, wandering west or nosing north, Pontiac fielded four station wagons, all in the Safari line. The Number One Highway was just that much more attractive when graced with Pontiac wagons. 

All Safaris came with vinyl upholstery, a Two-Way Swing-Gate at the rear-- convenient for third-seat passengers or hauling cargo. That cargo area, by the way, added up to a virtually cavernous 94.1 cubic feet of loadspace. Dual purpose in nature and good on the job, advertising bragged that these Pontiacs were “true workhorses with all the grace and style of thoroughbreds.” 

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Magic-Mirror colours for the 1969 Pontiac lineup included: Antique Gold, Burgundy, Cameo Ivory, Crystal Turquoise, Espresso Brown, Liberty Blue, Limelight Green, Maize, Matador Red, Palladium Silver, Starlight Black and Verdoro Green. If that wasn’t satisfactory, an assortment of vinyl tops could be had to dress up one’s car for a few more bucks.

Pontiacs could be dressed up with almost as many options as there are fiddleheads growing along the St. John River in the springtime. There were AM radios and AM/FM radios or AM/FM stereos with or without 8-track tape deck, air conditioning and power accessories for absolutely everything that could be kissed with a power button including an electric release for the trunk compartment and a trunk light to go with it. Cruise control, a speedometer speed warning indictor, remote control mirror, an electric clock, a rear window defogger, tilt steering wheel, a mirror-mounted map light, air booster shocks, Safe-T-Track differential, door edge guards, rear fender skirts, vinyl tops, rally wheels and a light monitor were among the goodies up for grabs. If an extra-cost item desired didn’t appear on the list, potential buyers were exhorted to “Check with your Pontiac dealer if you have any unusual requests. Chances are Pontiac already has just what you want!” 

When the dust had finally cleared from 1969 the facts would show Pontiac able to hold onto its third place in sales for the calendar year. With 51,973 units delivered, sales placed it behind Chev and Ford. The Number Four spot belonged to West Germany’s Volkswagen.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.