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 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.
Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.