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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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1963 Rambler

 The 1963 Rambler Ambassador 880 Cross-Country Wagon
 sold for $3,329 and weighed in at 3,275 pounds.
After five long years of uphill battle against its ever-increasing foreign and domestic competitors, Rambler Canada was ready with an assault of its own for 1963. It was an unforgettable attack; one that caught the entire auto industry by surprise. Rambler's shared Classic and Ambassador envelope was new from stem to stern. Prices were just right; all Ramblers were now domestically built, save the sassy little American 440 convertible.  Folks in the Brampton, Ontario head office rubbed their hands in the delicious anticipation of really knocking the socks off the competition.

At a special company picnic, the 1,200 employees and their families got to see a sneak preview of the new Ramblers before anyone else. The event was made even more memorable with a visit by Peter the Clown, a popular television personality, and none other than CBC newsreader-and Rambler spokesman-Earl Cameron. 

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AMC's  Metropolitan was discontinued at the end of the 1962
 selling season.
For the first time in American Motors’ history, there was no Metropolitan on the showroom floor. Manufacture of the tiny import had been discontinued in 1960 but it took two more years to clear out the backlog. Consumers took home 330 of them in 1961. In 1962, Marty Fine, a Rambler dealer in Calgary, cleaned out the last of the Metropolitan stock from head office and sold the lovable little rascals to his eager clients in Alberta. 

With the adorable Metropolitan gone and no replacement, American Motors simply abandoned that entire under-$2,000 segment of the market. For some 4,000 consumers who thought that the $2,184 Rambler American was too expensive, the rock bottom-priced Austin Mini, the DKW, the NSU Prinz, the Simca and the Skoda were all Metropolitan substitutes in 1963. 
1963 Austin Mini by BMC.
1963 Simca by Chrysler of France.

The only imported Rambler this year was the 440 American convertible. 
The 100-inch wheelbased American took the honours of being the smallest Rambler this year. It was on its third-year of the style cycle. Since the basic envelope was the same, much was made of the 45 important improvements to the vehicle, including “a wide selection of colour-coordinated interiors in rich vinyls and fabrics to satisfy the most exacting taste.” The least expensive of the tribe was the plain-Jane 220 two-door sedan. With its $2,184 price tag, it undercut the most bare-boned Studebaker, Chevy II, Ford Falcon and Valiant by a country kilometre. 

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For 1963 the six-cylinder Flying Scot was offered in
125-horsepower form for the Rambler American convertible.
Other Rambler Americans received the tried and true
90-horsepower L-head, first seen in the 1941 Nash 600.
Of course, the real competition for the smallest Rambler came from abroad. The rise of the Pound Sterling and other European currencies along with higher tariffs imposed by Ottawa meant that the Rambler American would now do battle with a whole host of European contenders including the Austin A40, the Morris 1100, the Fiat 1100, the Hillman 1600, the Triumph 1200 and the Renault R8. 

The Rambler Classic was a completely new vehicle. The guys at Track & Traffic tested a 660 four-door sedan. They described it as a “solid, functional machine” and noted that the interior dimensions were substantially larger as a result of the Scena-ramic curved side window glass. They waxed most enthusiastic about the cabin. “From a decorator’s point of view the interior of our test car was tastefully done, using a subtle combination of colours that would be easy to live with for extended periods. Long-wearing, simple to clean fabrics are used on the seats, the doors are covered with a moulded, two-tone vinyl, while the floors are covered with carpeting of exceptional beauty.” 

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Despite unabashed praise for the famed Weather Eye heater, the Dual-Safe brake system and the Airliner reclining seats, they deemed the Classic to be “conventional” and rated its qualities as “satisfying” while hoping for spectacular. They summed up their test experience with this remark: “After spending several enjoyable days with it, we concluded that the Rambler is the car we would like to give our Grandmother as a present. Easy to drive, completely dependable, sensibly sized and with ample interior space, Rambler suits the practical individual.”

With a list price of $2,734, the 1963 Rambler Classic 660 
represented value to thousands of Canadians.
Billed as the only homegrown passenger car with big-car room and comfort combined with small-car economy and handling ease, the Classic 550 two-door sedan listed for $2,538. It competed squarely against the domestically built Corvair, Chevy II, Falcon, Valiant, and Studebaker. It stood up most solidly against the imported Austin A60, the DKW 1000, the Envoy, the Hillman Super Minx, The Morris Oxford, the Renault Caravelle, the Vauxhall, the Volkswagen 1500 and Volvo’s PV 544. 

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 From the rear, Rambler Ambassador carried styling
cues that made it distinct from the Classic.
At the very apex of the Rambler summit shone the Rambler Ambassador. Heretofore, it had always been designated as Ambassador by Rambler. The wording of the name was a subtle nuance designed to elevate the luxurious Ambassador above its more economical kin. Management decided that was no longer necessary. For the first time since the marque debuted, every car on the dealer’s showroom floor carried the Rambler emblem. 

Like its sister Classic, the Ambassador was fresh from the ground up. With promises of delivering more style, more luxury and more V-8 performance, the Ambassador 880 four-door sedan listed for $2,978 and the 880 Cross-Country Wagon sold for $3,329. 
The Rambler Ambassador could be ordered with reclining
 bucket seats and a centre console in 1963.
The Twin-Stick semi-automatic transmission is shown.

Folks have always been willing to shell out a couple of bucks for extras. Popular add-ons for this year’s Ramblers included $7.50 for a block heater, $90.50 for the Weather Eye Heater--both practical for our long, harsh winters. One could write a cheque for  $31.95 for the Airliner reclining seats and $30.05 for headrests and $56.95 for five seat belts. It cost  $11.25 for windshield washers, $13.40 for backup lights, $212.00 for the Flash-O-Matic transmission, $15 for undercoating, $32.50 for two wheel rims (for snow tires), $20 for a set of full wheel covers and $15 for whitewall tires. 
 Airliner Reclining Seats made into Twin Travel Beds,
 saving frugal travellers bundles of money on the road. 

Rambler Canada's executives were more than happy with Track & Traffic’s evaluation of “satisfying” rather than “spectacular” when all was said and done. Motor Trend magazine had named Rambler as its Car of the Year. The Brampton factory had doubled in size during the year to keep up with the avalanche of orders. The company started exporting right-hand drive Ramblers to the UK in February, accounting for half of the Canadian-built automobiles imported by Britain that year. 

Rambler placed sixth in the domestic automotive sales chart for the calendar year with 27,019 sales according to Canadian Automotive Trade, (Ward’s Automotive Yearbook reported 28,602 sales) right behind fifth place Volkswagen and fourth place Valiant. Workers in Brampton built 30,167 Ramblers during the 1963 calendar year and a total of 27,411 units during the model year and the 1964 picture was only going to get brighter. 

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.

Monday, November 8, 2010

1955 Morris Minor

1913 Morris
The early days at Morris Motors were exciting ones. The first Morris appeared in 1913 when one William Morris constructed a car of his own creation at his very own factory in Cowley, England. Morris cars were rugged and grew popular quickly with the British motoring public. 

The marque’s success was assured after The Great War ended in 1918. By 1925 Morris found itself in the enviable position of being King of the Hill--able to boast it was the best selling car in Great Britain.  The company expanded with the purchase of suppliers like SU for carburetors and Hotchkiss, an engine manufacturer. Morris himself was honoured by being knighted as Sir William in 1928 and then made a Lord in 1933.

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De Haviland Tiger Moth.
During World War Two the company turned its attention from producing automobiles to cranking out aircraft for De Haviland. The Cowley facility was dedicated to building Tiger Moths for victory. 

While workers at the plant manufactured aeroplanes, Lord Nuffeld dreamt of a future where the world was at peace. His assistant, Sir Thomas Miles, hired Alec Issigonis, a young designer, to create a small personal car for the post-war buying public.

1943 Morris Mosquito prototype designed by Alec Issigonis.

Initial plans called for the little vehicle to be called the Morris Mosquito. The look that took shape under Issigonis’ capable hands was extremely aerodynamic with headlights hidden behind the grille, front fenders that disappeared smoothly into the body and running boards shorn from the envelope. 

When he finally saw the vehicle, Lord Nuffeld absolutely despised the look, calling it a “poached egg.” Ready in early 1947, the completely finished vehicle languished for a full year while awaiting orders for destruction.

Lord Nuffeld finally decided to build the car but personally ordered the changes that were seen in production models. Headlights migrated outward from the grille to the fenders. There was the suggestion of a running board. A flat, four-cylinder engine was ultimately nixed and the existing Morris power plant was used, though frameless, unit construction was kept.

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Capacious trunk boasted seven cubic feet of space.
Note the unique location of the spare tire.
The name was changed from Mosquito to Minor and the substantially changed car debuted at the 1948 British Motor Show held at Earl’s Court in London. The petite Morris Minor was the belle of the ball. Journalists fell over themselves in their attempts to pen superlatives about the adorable set of wheels.

 Despite effervescent words from the press, sales were slow; fewer than 1,000 Morris cars sold in the UK in 1950. Most were sold abroad as Britain focused on paying off its substantial war debt to the United States and Commonwealth countries under its 'Export for Dollars' scheme. The little vehicle did very well in Canada where sales of 7,561 Morris cars were recorded.  

The following year Morris sold 1,945 units in the US and 1,192 units in Canada. Back in Britain, Morris tied the knot with former archrival Austin to form the British Motor Corporation, a.k.a. BMC.

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Morris sales were miniscule in the US and racked up sales of 2,304 units in Canada in 1953. No doubt sales were helped some by the addition of a station wagon. Though prices were held the same for all models in 1954, sales were a modest 995 units in the USA and only 1,022 units in the Dominion of Canada for 1954.

Morris Minor Traveller Estate Car cost $1,968 in 1955.
The 1955 Morris Minor models were being unloaded on our shores in September of 1954. The grille was updated and advertising shouted, “New look for world’s biggest small car buy!” 

No doubt referring to Nash and Hudson, with which Morris shared the advanced frameless Mono-construction found in aircraft, advertising bragged that the Minor was “built all through on big car lines” and the result was “big beyond belief--proved beyond doubt.” 

Examples of that bigness included torsion bar independent front wheel suspension, seating for four within the axles, a 12-volt battery, safety glass and a Panoramic vision windshield, hydraulic brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, double shock absorbers a four-speed shifter and more, All this was loaded onto a pint-sized 86-inch wheelbase. 

“The Minor is truly a big car—built on the same principles and to the same specification as a big car, and offering you the same supreme comfort, exciting road performance and attractive features as many a car much more costly to buy and to run.” 

The 1955 Minor convertible was the least
expensive Morris model available in Canada
with a price tag of $1,665.

The Minor was delivered as a convertible with fixed window rails, a four-door sedan and the Traveller two-door station wagon. The wagon’s back seat dropped perfectly flat to give a good-sized cargo area.

The four-cylinder, overhead cam engine  generated 29
horsepower—enough to take the car to 62 miles an hour.
Under the hood was the tried and true Morris 49-cubic inch, OHV four-cylinder engine. A four-speed manual transmission transferred that power to the wheels. “As you head for the open spaces you’ll thrill to the brilliant acceleration and superb hill-climbing of the lively OHV engine—and notice how easily the Minor can sustain a high cruising speed!”

Functional in the extreme, the Canadian sales brochure
 showed the right-hand drive instrument panel setup
The Minor was well appointed to seat four “and an occasional five.” No, I am not making that up! Standard equipment included carpeting, a heater, ashtrays fore and aft, bucket seats, wiring for a radio and a jack. 

Optional equipment included a sun visor for the front-seat passenger, bumperettes and Vinyde leather-cloth covered seat cushions.

Colour choices were short and sweet: Black with maroon upholstery; Clarendon Grey with maroon upholstery, Smoke Blue with maroon upholstery and Empire Green with green upholstery.

 The 1955 Morris Minor four-door sedan carried a
$1,776 price tag in Canada. The popular British car
was built in Cowley, England.

 Copyright James C. Mays 2007 All rights reserved.

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