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Sunday, February 27, 2011

1966 Rover TC

The 1966 Rover 2000 TC sold for $4,555 in Canada. 
The compact pocket rocket rode a 103.4-inch wheelbase. 

1904 Rover.
The first Rover hit the streets in 1904. Its use of cast aluminum made it highly advanced for its day. The British automaker's reliable product won the Tourist Trophy Race in 1907 and the company continued to blaze its own path to glory for decades to come. 

By the late 1920s Rover had established itself in the upper echelons of the British automotive industry’s pecking order. Canadians first met Rover during World War Two and it began to be sold here in appreciable numbers once the globe had returned to peace.  

The 1950 Rover P4 Model 75 was exported
from the United Kingdom to Canada.

Rover unleashed the revolutionary 2000 in 1963. The TC (twin carburetor) model was a natural progression and it bowed in 1966. Like the rest of the Rover line, the 2000 TC was a superb piece of high quality craftsmanship. The British carmaker had long enjoyed a sterling reputation; its products were generally flawless. The 2000 TC was lived up that reputation and then some. The press promptly began to refer to it as “the poor man’s Rolls-Royce.” 

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Canada Track & Traffic kept consumers
apprised as to what was available in the
domestic marketplace.
The boys at Canada Track & Traffic got their hands on one of the luxurious grand tourers and waxed enthusiastic as they gave it an exhaustive workout. “It brings out a certain excitement and if it weren’t for the laws against stealing you would be inclined to drive the car and never bring it back, or for that matter never stop driving it, period.” 

The Rover’s sinewy envelope was slippery and aerodynamic. Its extremely low drag coefficient granted it significantly faster speeds and higher gas mileage than ordinary automobiles. The hood and trunk lid were made of a lightweight aluminum alloy. Safety was on the designers’ minds as the 2000 gestated. The final form was one created to “avoid accidents whenever they can be avoided, and to provide the greatest possible protection for its occupants when they cannot.” 

Under the hood lurked an innocent looking in-line, four-cylinder, overhead cam 2000-cc engine. The twin carb setup boosted horsepower appreciably from 100 to 124. The over square engine design yielded a bore and stroke of 3.375 inches. The crankshaft boasted five copper-lead bearings that gave longer life.  All this might was mated to a four-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox. 

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Now, this machine was no slouch on the asphalt. Acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour (ancient Canadian units of measure) was accomplished in 11.45 seconds. Tests conducted by the crew at Canada Track & Traffic got it there in an even quicker 11.01 seconds. Official literature stated that the Rover could do a standing quarter mile in 18.5 seconds and hit 112 miles per hour as the maximum speed. Cruising at 90 mph was comfortable but it was noted that the tires whined--as did drivers when the police wrote out their speeding tickets.

First introduced in 1963, the 1966 Rover TC was a true
Gran Touring sedan in the traditional European tradition.

As befitting a British luxury sedan, interiors were upholstered in prime quality English leather hides. Heavy pile carpets were fitted over thick felt underlays. Cabin colours were Biscuit, Grey, Black or Red. The washable headliner was available only in Light Grey or Biscuit but blended in with the trim colours. An oversize centre armrest in the rear, two glove boxes and a “trinket tray” for front passengers were among a myriad of thoughtful touches. Padded sun visors carried vanity mirrors. The instrument panel was straightforward in true racing style with controls located in the centre and a large, easy-to-read strip speedometer was positioned directly in front of the driver, with the tachometer to the right.

For the Canadian market, body colours were offered in White and Blue Racing, Wedgwood Blue, Willow Green, City Grey, Zircon Blue, Arden Green and Venetian Red.

The Rover name was a long trusted one,
having been on the market for 62 years in
Standard equipment was comprised of an Icelert—an electronic probe that alerted the driver to possible ice and slippery road conditions when the temperature hit +2C. There were bumper guards with rubber inserts, Pirelli Cinturato radial-ply tires, an outside rearview racing mirror, a tachometer, an aluminum spoked butyrate adjustable steering wheel, a wood gearshift knob, fully adjustable bucket seats, seat belt anchors fore and aft, windshield washers, an electric clock and a high efficiency heating system.  The tool kit provided further evidence of Rover’s thoughtfulness to detail, the kit even included a tire pressure gauge. 

The optional equipment list for the Rover 2000 TC was short and sweet, but with a stiff upper lip it covered the essentials. Included were concessions for Canadian tastes and preferences: air conditioning, tinted glass, a sunshine roof, radio, Magnum 500 or Mag Star wheels, a heated rear window, a roof rack and shoulder harnesses for rear passengers.

Rover Canada fielded three models for 1966: the 2000, the 2000 TC and the prestigious 3-litre Sedan that carried a list price of $6,295.  A customer could order a Rover here or arrange for delivery in the UK and bring it back as a used car at the end of a European holiday, thus saving duty and taxes. A tidy total of 555 Rovers were delivered domestically in the 1966 calendar year.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2006 
All rights reserved.

1969 Rambler Scrambler

The 1969 SC/Rambler.
Few vehicles ever marketed by a North American automobile manufacturer caused folks to scratch their heads in wonderment as much as the 1969 SC/Rambler. 

Throughout the industry, and in the minds of the buying public, Rambler was a name that had been synonymous with thrift and economy for nearly two decades. American Motors had a well-earned reputation for building sensible cars—cars for grandparents and penny-pinching misers who drove their vehicles for a dozen years, repaired them with duct tape and fussed endlessly over gas mileage and tire wear. 

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The meek and mild little Rambler was finally given one last chance to shine when American Motors unleashed this extremely vicious, beefy little leave-‘em-eatin'-dust Mustang mauler, Camaro killer and Barracuda basher onto the market—and just to twist the knife a little--slapped the Rambler nameplate on the perpetrator's package.

The fastest Rambler ever to leave the factory floor was the 1969 SC/Rambler. A total of 1,512 of these pint-sized bullets were built in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brampton, Ontario.
Oh! St. Brampton be praised! Yes, it was true. This would be Rambler's finest hour and its fastest, too. The public didn’t have a clue but inside American Motors it was well known that the Rambler name was about to be laid to rest forever. While it might soon be gone, Rambler would never be forgotten. The boys at American Motors would make sure the one-time king of economy compacts would go to automobile heaven in the biggest blaze of glory the company could give its pintsized automotive hero. Rambler would go racing. And win big.

Hurst and Rambler were the most unlikely automotive combination of the 1960s.

In a press release dated February 13, 1969, the SC/Rambler was announced. These special models started life as Rambler Rogue hardtops with AMC's thunderous 390-cubic inch V-8 engine stuffed into the engine bay. The package was enhanced by Hurst Performance. SC/Ramblers were painted in a distinctive red, white and blue scheme. According to the release, 500 of these pocket rockets would be built.

Folks got their first chance to meet SC/Ramblers at the Chicago Auto Show on March 8, 1969. Standard equipment was definitely un-Rambler like with an 8000-RPM tachometer, Dual Thrust Glass Pack mufflers and Goodyear Polyglas E70x14 redline tires attached to magnum 500 wheels finished in a wild blue paint scheme. 
Faster than greased lightening and meaner than Moon Dog Spot, many Camaro, Mustang and Barracuda owners only ever got to see the back side of the 1969 SC/Rambler on the track.

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SC/Ramblers or Scramblers ad they came to be called, rolled off the lines in Kenosha, Wisconsin and in Brampton, Ontario. There was enough demand for the roaring Ramblers that three lots of 500 units were built. The tri-colour paint scheme was varied from one group to the next. 

The late Jim Alexander worked in product planning at the time. He told this author that despite all the hoop-la about Hurst’s involvement in the project, the actual work was all done in-house by AMC employees. The only noticeable difference on the assembly line was that Hurst sent over a man to make sure the decals were applied correctly.

Advertising was minimal but what was printed was slick and to the point. “It only hurts the for 14 seconds!” the copy shrilled. The message was deadly accurate. The high-compression, 390-cubic inch V8 mill cranked out a mean 315 horsepower at 4000 RPM and belted out a walloping 425 lb-ft of torque at 3200 RPM. The manual transmission was Borg-Warner’s T-10 four-speed close-ratio, all synchromesh model with the legendary Hurst shifter. That kind of power and performance was absolutely phenomenal in a car that weighed only 3,160 pounds on the scale.  

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Interior and instrument panel of
the 1969 Rambler Scrambler
 was absolutely utilitarian.

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Long-haired dudes wearing peace symbols and bell-bottomed jeans began hanging around Rambler dealerships, checking out the Scramblers. Rambler salesmen weren’t in the habit of seeing anyone under forty wander through the showroom doors but then the kids weren’t used to seeing Scramblers, either.

Scrambler was unique with its huge Canada Post-like letterbox hood scoop and screaming loud paint job. The absolutely Spartan interior was shorn of any glamour, finished in charcoal vinyl upholstery and the tach was actually bolted onto the steering column. This was no cream puff front parlour queen; the Scrambler was built for one purpose and one purpose only: tearing up track. A lot of guys passed over the Scrambler in favour of the more sophisticated and seductive Javelin but that was fine with dealers. The Scrambler served as an important traffic builder—in dealer parlance—and they were a cinch to sell to race buffs at a measly $3,655 f.o.b. Brampton.

On the track that summer, seasoned race fanatics snickered openly at the Rambler econo-boxes. They quit laughing abruptly as the lightening-fast Scramblers proved their mettle by cleaning up on the competition with easy 14-second times. The  feisty SC/Rambler earned grudging respect as many a Camaro and Mustang owner ate Rambler dust that season.

Hollywood movie star James Garner ordered a Metric dozen Scramblers for his American International Race Team (AIR) and entered them in the 1969 Baja 500. Seven of his Scramblers finished the torturous race in less than 30 hours and one brought home a class trophy.

At the factory in Kenosha, two SC/Ramblers were fitted with four-wheel drive as engineers at American Motors explored the possibility of installing the feature on all its products. Vince Geraci worked for the company at that time and recalls that AMC was nearly ready to introduce four-wheel drive on its production passenger cars. The plan was nixed at the last minute when the company purchased Jeep from Kaiser in October of 1969. The company brass feared adding four-wheel drive to Ambassadors, Rebels, Javelins and the new Hornets would muddle product recognition in the minds of consumers.

The 1969 SC/Rambler was the swan song for Rambler.
AMC would replace it with the Hornet. 

When the run or racing Ramblers was tallied, a total of 1,512 Scramblers had been built. They did the nameplate proud as the Rambler name was laid to rest in North America. As scarce as hen’s teeth when new, today SC/Ramblers command very decent prices when they turn up on the auction block.

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.

1980 Dodge St. Regis

 The 1980 Dodge St. Regis pillared hardtop weighed in at
1607 kilos when equipped with the Slant-Six engine and
cost $7,323 f.o.b. Windsor, Ontario.
Introduced last year in the American market as the full-sized flagship for Dodge, the St. Regis arrived in Canada for the 1980 selling season. Known in-house as the R-body, the four-door only envelope was shared with both the Chrysler Newport and the Chrysler New Yorker.  Despite its well-endowed look, the St. Regis actually rode a considerably downsized 118-.5-inch wheelbase. Thanks to such ingenious engineering innovations as chrome-plated aluminum bumpers, the vehicle topped the scale a good 300 kilos lighter than its predecessor, the Monaco. The press promptly dubbed the smaller sized cars as “socially responsible.”

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“It would be enough for most cars to look as extraordinary as St. Regis. The crisp, sculptured lines. The distinctive transparent headlamp covers. The flag-type outside mirrors. But the St. Regis story only begins with this elegant sense of style. The car is stylishly sensible as well.” Why stop there? Ad copy went on to say, “It is also an automobile designed to bring back the pleasure of driving.  The proven 225 Slant Six is standard. So are power steering and power front-disc,/rear drum brakes as well as TorqueFlite Transmission.” In short, the marque’s flagship was good value for the money. Wordsmiths summed it the St. Regis experience with these words, “Total performance in a full-size car!” 

The Dodge St. Regis was a popular choice for police duty.

The instrument panel was ergonomic and tasteful.
Styling was heavily influenced by the Mercedes-Benz. The outer skin of the Dodge St. Regis was very upscale and European in flavour. Razor straight lines punctuated the slab sides of the body. The grille consisted of six rows of sox elongated rectangles, and it strained forward eagerly from canted, glassed-in quad quartz halog4en headlamps. The standup hood ornament whispered of elegance and class. From the rear, the long, flowing, wrap-around taillights repeated the rectangular theme seen in the grille. A prominent rib ran down the centre of the trunk. 

While the virtually indestructible and thrifty Slant Six might be the base mill, for $394 more one could order the 318-cubic inch V-8 rated at 160 horsepower or put down $578 for the 360-cubic inch motor engine with 135 horsepower. If one was in the mood to drop $842 for the 360-cubic inch monster, one could have 190 horses lurking under the hood.

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Seating was luxurious in the 1980 Dodge St. Regis.
The cabin was ample. Inside passengers could expect a standard interior featuring a split-back bench seat with a folding centre armrest finished in a cloth-and-vinyl combination called Verdi II. If that wasn’t suitable, the interior could also be ordered with all-vinyl Oxford upholstery for a few dollars more. Reclining front seats could also be had in the 60/40 individually adjustable bucket style—a configuration made popular by the Nash Rambler three decades earlier. 

Standard equipment included the three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, power brakes and power steering, dual horns, lighter, bumper rub strip, lap and shoulder belts, a dual braking system, a “key-left-in-ignition” chime (considered annoying by many), side door impact beams and turn signals with lane-change features.

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Chrysler Canada offered an optional five-year,
50,000-mile warranty on all its vehicles.
As befitting Dodge’s flagship, the St. Regis boasted more options than Wayne and Shuster had bad one-liners. Well, almost. Popular add-ons for the dapper Dodge included automatic speed control with intermittent wipers on the same stalk. A sliding sunroof was electrically operated and available with a grey or bronze tint. Tilt steering wheel was available. The electronic digital clock, a.k.a. the Chronometer, with its digital LED readout was a classy touch. More practical was the 5/50 Protection plan offering an optional service contract to cover the vehicle’s integrity. 

Radio options included an AM/FM stereo with our without signal seeker, cassette or eight track player and a Dolby-encoded reader for better sound. A CB transceiver with fixed Tri-Band antenna was on the list, too.

The six-way tilt wheel was a popular option with
Canadians who bought the 1980 Dodge St. Regis.
 Air conditioning was a pricy option adding $785 to the final price tag. On top of that, Ottawa exacted a $100 luxury tax for cars equipped with air conditioning. An illuminated Driver-side or passenger-side Vanity mirror was useful for looking good. A right side, remote control, convex outside mirror was not merely attractive it was useful for looking out. An electric rear window defroster, a block heater, floor mats, locking glass cap, a three-note horn, an illuminated entry system, cornering lights, a litter container, numerous body-side protection mouldings, door-edge protectors and dress up trim set a St. Regis apart. The power servants included an antenna, rear deck release, door locks, electric seats and windows. One could even group optional equipment together in light packages, heavy-duty trailer assist packages, open road handling packages and sporty touring packages. 

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Colours on this year's palette were Light Heather Grey, Frost Blue Metallic, Nightwatch Blue, Teal Frost Metallic, Teal Trop Green Metallic, Crimson Red Metallic, Baron Red, Light Cashmere, Natural Suede Tan, Mocha Brown Metallic, Eggshell White and Black. Five pleasant two-tone combinations were also available for those who desired something a little out of the ordinary. 

The product was good but Chrysler was in trouble deep both in Detroit and Windsor. Lee Iacocca took over the helm even as the company was busy bleeding to death. Exhausted and behind the times, Chrysler’s very existence was at stake. It was nail biting time at ChryCo.  Company officials had very little time to draw up a successful survival plan and then go hat-in-hand to Ottawa and Washington to sell it, in hopes of loan guarantees. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2007 

All rights reserved.

1932 Ford

The first 1932 Ford was built on March 30, 1932.
Wallace Campbell, President of the
Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited
is seen here (right) with W. F. Herman,
 publisher of the Border Cities Star.
 The first V-8 Ford engine was produced in Windsor East, Ontario on February 11, 1932. On March 30, the first completed Ford V-8 rolled off the lines to great excitement and fanfare worthy of King George VI. On hand for the auspicious occasion were company president Wallace Campbell and W. F. Herman, publisher of the Border Cities Star. The two men immediately took the Tudor Sedan for a spin.  According to all accounts, the car ran fine.

Ford was no newcomer to the Canadian and Empire automotive industry. The company had gotten its start in this country in 1904 when Gordon McGregor turned his Windsor, Ontario wagon works into an automobile manufacturer by signing a deal with one Henry Ford of Dearborn, Michigan. Though the company got off to a rocky start, the two had done well together. 

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By 1917 Ford had bested Imperial Oil Limited as the biggest taxpayer in the country and could brag that more than 40 percent of all the automobiles on the highways and byways of the Dominion came from the company’s workers. The Tin Lizzie enjoyed a phenomenally long run and then bowed to Henry’s Lady, who took centre stage in 1928. Then production of the graceful Ford ceased again in 1931 as the company geared up for its third round at automotive history.  Rumours ran rampant as an entire nation waited eagerly for the replacement to the Model A. 

The V-8 power plant created by engineers for the 1932 Ford represented yet another breakthrough in cutting edge technology for the company.
When it was unveiled, the 1932 Ford was a wonder and another spectacular triumph for Ford. What made this new generation of Ford so special was a revolutionary compact block, flathead V-8 engine. Cast in one piece, the extraordinary mill measured 221 cubic inches, rated a whopping 65 horsepower and promised to deliver 80 miles (ancient Canadian units of measurement) per hour.  

Styling for the new Ford was thoroughly modern. Edsel Ford was responsible for the chic look. His flair for automotive design shone through loud and clear on the new Ford. The lines flowed from a tastefully Vee’d rad and sheet metal was accented with rustless steel trim, something Henry Ford personally insisted upon incorporating in the new design. Fully crowned fenders were painted black in contrast to a wide array of body colours. 

The 1932 Ford Deluxe Roadster sold for $570 f.o.b. Windsor, Ontario before taxes.

While our American neighbours could buy a new Ford in one of 16 configurations, price and availability lists show that consumers on our side of the border could choose among 19 body styles and trim levels for 1932. Prices ranged from a very modest $515 for the Roadster to $810 for the ritzy, head-turning Special Town Sedan.

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To put these prices in perspective, the price of the 1932 Plymouth Roadster, built across town from Ford, listed for $655. Also in the low-priced field were the Chevrolet Confederation Roadster at $635 and the Willys Six Model 97 Roadster with its $650 price tag.

Even with prices this affordable, maple syrup ran uphill faster in a January blizzard than one could chart automobile sales. The business downturn that had begun in the fall of 1929 with the crash of the New York stock market continued to plague every sector of the economy. From bankers to farmers, everyone suffered. Wheat fell from an all-time high in 1929 to 34 cents a bushel. Sales of anything new anywhere were few and far between.

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Factories were shuttered right across the Dominion and men were thrown out of work. Ottawa estimated that 25 percent of the workforce was idled. As many as 70,000 homeless men wandered the countryside, in search of any kind of jobs. In May Members of Parliament took a 10 percent wage cut but the symbolic gesture didn’t help. Desperate men hopped on freight cars and rode the rails until the government made that activity illegal late in the year. With the help of the Royal Canadian Army, the unemployed were rounded up and interned by the thousands into work camps.

With the economy so unstable, Ford’s marketing department figured it would be difficult to sell the public on an automobile with eight cylinders, no matter how cheap it might be. Just to be on the safe side, the boys at Ford in the USA wisely introduced a Model B alongside the V-8. 

The 1932 Ford Sport Coupe carried a $625 price tag. 

While the two cars looked alike, the exterior difference could be noted only by the discrete V-8 insignia but it was readily evident when the hood was lifted. The Model B had only four cylinders. The miserly little four-banger was essentially an update of the durable Model A engine. 

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Management in Windsor did offer the four-cylinder Model B for the 1932 model year. Records show that a total of 3,067 of the eight-cylinder Fords were built. A handful of the four-bangers was built in 1933 but that was also the same year that the company began to  sell Ford passenger cars built the UK. Assembly and sales of the domestically-built Ford four-cylinder car was terminated in favour of the small British Ford at the end of the 1933 selling season.

1933 Ford Model Y.

With the 1932 Fords ready for sale, dealers right across the country could heave a sigh of relief. Showrooms had been bare; there had been absolutely no product to sell for five long months.  Advertised as “the Canadian car,” the new Ford laid claim to being “low, good-looking” and “modern.”  The wide seats were upholstered in leather or Bedford Cord. Windows were made of safety glass and the base price included single-bar bumpers. 

The 1932 Ford Fordor sold for $605 and the Town Sedan listed for $755.
The cars were graceful and sleek to look at and speedy on the streets. The V-8 engine was a marvel, offering five times as much horsepower as its Chevrolet archrival.  With sales of 10, 832 bowties, Chev would yield the Number One Spot to Ford for the year.

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A total of 8,302 units of the V-8 Fords were sold in Canada in 1932. Added in with sales of the Model B, the total came to 11,447 units delivered for the calendar year. That was a bitter disappointment. The figure was down sharply from 16,565 units in 1931 and 36,306 units delivered in 1930. 

Things were equally tough in the Dominion of Newfoundland. Only 16 Ford passenger cars and three trucks were imported from Canada in 1932.

The economy would get even worse before it got better. A poor business climate, miserable weather and crop failure would continue to cripple the nation and drive people to their knees. If 1932 had looked bad, both Ford and the Dominion would fare even worse in 1933.  

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  Copyright James C. Mays 2006 All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

1969 Buick

The least expensive tri-shield Canadians could buy in the
1969 Buick lineup was the Special Deluxe two-door coupe.
Base price was $3,000 f.o.b. Oshawa for the V-6.
An extra $93 would buy the V-8 version.
David Dunbar Buick was two years old when his parents immigrated to the United States of America from the United Kingdom in 1856. The Scottish family settled in burgeoning and prosperous Detroit. Young David showed a creative streak, inventing the lawn sprinkler and then patenting the process by which enamel adheres to cast iron. That latter discovery made the bathtub a “must have” household item and Buick was a rich man.

He dabbled in horseless carriages but his companies went bankrupt. Finally the backers—the wealthy Briscoe brothers--sold the faltering Buick concern to entrepreneurs in the city of Flint. The Buick automobile became a cornerstone of what would become the General Motors empire. Sadly, the marque's creator never shared in its success, working every day of his life until he died of colon cancer in 1929 at the age of 74.

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Meanwhile here in the Dominion, the McLaughlin family decided to add automobiles to their line of long-established carriages and highly esteemed buggies. From their factory in Oshawa, Ontario they supplied the rest of the nation as well as the British Empire with its superior products. In 1908, they inked a ten-year deal to use the Buick drivetrain in a vehicle of their own. The engines were sturdy and McLaughlin quickly rivaled Ford for reliability. 

General Motors purchased the McLaughlin concern in 1918 and created General Motors of Canada, Limited. Colonel Sam McLaughlin still headed the Oshawa, Ontario-based subsidiary and would continue to do so until he was 100 years old. The McLaughlin automobile became the McLaughlin-Buick until the first half of the hyphen disappeared at the end of the abbreviated 1942 selling season. The cars were well received and sought after by the affluent, including our Royal Family.
This 1936 McLaughlin-Buick was built for King Edward VIII.

During the war years. GM Canada's manufacturing might was focused on building weapons of war. When victory came in 1945 GM was first off the mark with production of civilian vehicles, but the Buick nameplate did not return to the corporate lineup right away. The reason for the long wait was to allow Ottawa time to balance the budget. A special ministerial permit was needed to import a Buick—and those were far and few between. 

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1951 Buick Custom Riviera, built in Oshawa, Ontario.
The same vehicle was built and sold in the US as the
Buick Custom.

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Finally, GM Canada's top brass was given the green light by Parliament to build Buicks again. The company geared up for Buick production in time for the 1951 season. Model year production reached 11,148 units that model year before settling back to a more comfortable 6,940 units produced in 1952. Production climbed to 9,303 units in 1953, rose to 13,846 units in 1954, followed by 23, 762 units built in 1955 then dropping 14,738 units in 1956. That figure rose to 15,884 units for the 1957 model year.

The bubble would burst. Small, thrifty imports lined up on our shores to challenge venerable Buick. Dollar conscious consumers turned to the pint-sized wheels in droves, prompting Buick production to nosedive down to 12,375 units in 1958. Production slid even further to 11,732 units for the 1959 model year. There was no relief in 1960 as Buick production skidded alarmingly to 9,279 units. 

Sales for Buicks continued to be dismal, slumping to a dismal 8,648 units produced during the 1962 model year. 

Buick was not alone in its sales woes. Mid-priced products from competitors shared the same problems as an industry-wide shakeout took place. The import challengers prompted Kaiser and Frazer to throw in the towel and move to Brazil. Nash and Hudson both disappeared from American Motors, replaced by the ritzy, downsized Rambler. Monarch and Edsel were deleted by Ford of Canada. DeSoto was replaced by the compact Valiant at Chrysler Canada.  Studebaker was about to breathe its last.

Help was at hand for the tri-shield with the introduction of the compact Buick Special. It garnered an extra 1,091 sales for Buick during calendar 1961. 

The full-sized Buick would stumble along with 10,000 to 13,000 domestic sales annually, with 1,000 to 5,000 additional sales for the smaller Special until 1965 when the big Buick suddenly bounced upwards to 11th place.  The story was much the same in 1966. When all the Buick nameplates were added together they hit 21,000 units, fitting nicely between 8th place Volkswagen and 9th place Valiant. 

With the freshly signed Auto Pact firmly in place, product lines were rationalized with American factories for efficient continental delivery. Only Specials were built in Canada; the other Buick models were imported from our neighbours to the south.

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When Buick bowed for 1967 the lines were very much the same as previously seen. No Buicks were built in Canada during Centennial Year.  Sales alone told of consumers' romance with the Tri-Shield: 16,496 LeSabre and Wildcat models, 8,343 Specials and Skylarks, 1,467 Electras and 812 of the ultra-posh, front-wheel drive Rivieras rounded out the picture.

For 1968 Buick did well enough. Le Sabre and Wildcat sales put the combo in 11th place with 18,175 units delivered. Special and Skylark sales were lumped together and equaled 12,862 units. This year the Electra was separated out from Riviera for statistical purposes. The former sold 1,946 units and the latter racked up 1,383 units delivered. Production of Specials resumed in Oshawa and 46,405 of the econo-Buicks were built.

Canada would have its first million-plus passenger car year in 1969—pushed along by the phenomenal success of the Ford Maverick. Ford’s new compact accounted for almost one out of every five cars built in the country that year.

Buick fielded the posh Electra 225, the Riviera, the LeSabre and the Skylark. LeSabre and Electra were all new. For the first time in the marque's domestic history, a heater was offered as standard equipment throughout the line.

Advertising asked, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” 1,350 Canadians said, “Yes!” to the stylish Riviera, laying down $5,679 plus tax for the imported personal luxury car.

The Riviera was positioned far upstream from the rest of the Buick fleet. The flagship still used the same body as it had been born with in 1963 but the latest update gave it a graceful new grille. To gild the lily, an extra-cost Gran Sport package was listed as being available. 
Imposing and regal from the rear, the 1969 Buick Electra 225
 two-door hardtop listed for $5,412. The price was right for
2,701 sales Canadawide.
Electra held its 126-inch wheelbase and 224.8-inch overall length but designers made the envelope look dramatically longer and lower than ever before. Side vent windows were eliminated for a cleaner look but smokers did not appreciate the visual. Delivered as a four-door sedan,  a two-door or four-door hardtop, a Custom version carried even more refinements. A Custom Limited package added sugar rosettes on top of an already pure buttery frosting. 
Fast and furious, the fresh-faced
1969 Buick Wildcat two-door hardtop
carried a sticker price of $4,166. 

Wildcat was downsized, now sharing a 123-inch wheelbase and sheetmetal with the smaller LeSabre. It still had its own distinctive look and made use of the big 430-cubic inch Buick mill. The big engine made the relatively light car a very serious contender on the track and in traffic. 

 Slippery was the design for the 1969 Buick LeSabre
Hardtop Sedan. It listed for $3,919 in base form but
an extra $90 got one the Custom upgrade.
The LeSabre series was brand new, and the longer car measured a full 218 inches in length. The themes were heavily sculpted sides with kicked up accent lines over the front and rear wheel wells. A split grille was recessed into a wraparound front bumper. Massive taillights were integrated into the rear bumper. A Custom sub-series was even more posh. 

The Special Deluxe came as a two- or four-door sedan and a station wagon. They were available with Buick’s 6-cylinder mill or the V-8 engine. Standard engine in the Buick intermediates was the Fireball 250-1. The 155-horsepower six-banger promised to deliver “butter-smooth dependability.”  

Skylark was shorn to only two models—a two- and four-door sedan. The California GS, the GS 350 and the GS 400 were all upscale and fast sub-series sharing the intermediate body.  A ragtop was available in the GS 400 line.

At the end of the 1969 calendar year sales were 18,731 for the Buick LeSabre and Wildcat. Special and Skylark added 13,851 units more to the total. Electra moved up from last year, finishing with 2,701 units and Riviera was off ever so slightly with 1,350 sales. 

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2006
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