Introduction of the 1942 automobiles in the Dominion was almost an afterthought in light of the fact that Canada had been at war for three long years. News of the global conflict was broadcast daily over the CBC and most of it was grim. The Germans marched relentlessly into the Soviet Union. Kiev fell and Wermacht circled Moscow to launch one of the most horrific sieges in history. With frightening regularity, U-boats continued to torpedo and sink convoys filled with urgently needed supplies, bound for Britain and the USSR. Once in a while there was encouraging news, too. Allied air raids over Hamburg, Stuttgart and other German cities were beginning to cripple the Nazi supply lines. The first of the American-built Liberty ships were released to Britain.
War or not, the traditional national unveiling of the latest crop of automobiles took place in October 1941, in the Automotive Building on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The CNE had been requisitioned in 1940 by the government to serve as a major recruitment and training centre. In order for the annual automotive unveiling event to take place, the army moved most of the soldiers from the 192-acre fairground.
Huppmobile and Graham had ceased auto manufacture permanently. Their absence was noted. Hudson was imported for the second year in a row, the Tilbury, Ontario plant now given over completely to war work. Present and accounted for, the automakers displayed their contributions to the war effort. The Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited featured one of the largest exhibits. Ford showcased the weapons of war that 10,000 workers were churning out around the clock in its vast Windsor, Ontario complex.
Car manufacture never ceased at Ford Canada, but they were built on a very limited basis; eleven percent of the factory in Windsor was set aside for auto assembly. Rationing had begun in 1941. Completed automobiles for eventual civilian use went directly into a national pool where they were doled out. Only citizens who could show proof that a new car was vital to home front or Empire needs could requisition one. Filling out the paperwork was most daunting.
The lucky consumer who was actually qualified for a new Ford got quite a stylish ride. The envelope, new in 1941, had been streamlined and tested in Ford’s Weather Tunnel by engineers. This year, a massive grille was affixed to the 1942 models. The instrument panel was revised, now it boasted a new clock-like speedometer. Oval taillights were prominent on the car’s backside.
Among the very few permitted to buy new Fords, records show that five vehicles were exported to Newfoundland under the Empire Emergency Civilian Defense Programme. The YMCA in St. John’s was permitted to purchase three Panel Delivery pickups and a Station Wagon. The Knights of Columbus in St. John’s were granted permission to acquire a Ford Super Station Wagon.
War severely reduced the availability of many consumer items. Ford colour choices were limited to five: Moselle Maroon, Yosemite Green, Fathom Blue, Newcastle Grey and Black. All paint was of an enduring baked enamel finish and the fenders were specially treated to be rust resistant.
Advertising was hyped as high as Mt. Logan in an attempt to stress Ford’s economy. The tried and true 90-horsepower V-8 engine had been around for a good decade. It promised outstanding and unusual gas mileage and low oil consumption. “This year Canadian motorists will dig deeper into the facts about motor car performance. When thrift is vital to every individual, as well as to the nation and the Empire, motor car buyers have a right to demand proven facts and figures out operating costs.”
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Only three of the automobiles depicted in the 1942 sales brochure featured Fords dressed up with whitewall tires. A black box notice in the pamphlet advised, “White sidewall tires, illustrated in this folder as extra equipment, are no longer available due to war-time restrictions.” Surprisingly, among the standard equipment items listed was a spare tire, something GM Canada cars had done without since 1940.
In addition to the three Ford De Luxe models, a wartime Special series was introduced. Touted as having “Features that stand out in a car that stands up!” the virtually stripped Fordor, Tudor and Coupe made up a lower-priced line of offerings. Created for victory, the trio carried virtually no chrome garnish and did without many other niceties motorists were used to. Despite the modest appointments, the cars promised to deliver the same room and riding comfort as its more expensive cousins.
A wide range of extra-cost equipment was available through dealers. Two of the most popular options were the Adjust-O-Matic radio with the Foot Control and Touch-Bar Tuning and the ever-so-necessary Improved Hot-Water Heater-Defroster.
Ford’s assembly plant in Toronto closed in February of 1942. It would never reopen. Parliament ordered the cessation of civilian automobile manufacture take place on March 31. At minutes to midnight, the last Ford product rolled out the doors in Windsor-a four-door 1942 Mercury. Emblazoned on its doors in tall letters was a defiant notice to Hitler and Tojo that this was, “The last car for the duration.”
The war impacted people on the home front in a thousand very real ways in 1942. Parliament ordered conscription of all able-bodied men between the ages of 19 and 35. Coffee, tea and butter were added to the rationed good list. The Imperial Japanese Army’s invasion of Alaska prompted emergency construction of the Al-Can Highway. A Japanese submarine shelled the coast of Vancouver Island. German Prisoner of War camps opened in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick. Nazi spies landed on the Gaspe coast of Quebec by submarine were ferreted out by a suspicious hotel owner and promptly arrested by the RCMP. A German U-boat sank two freighters in the St. Lawrence River. Another U-boat sank the Newfoundland ferry. Bound for North Sydney, Nova Scotia, the “Caribou” went down with a loss of 137 lives, including 31 crew members.
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Copyright James C. Mays 2004 All rights reserved.