Find Your Car

Friday, April 15, 2011

1931 Chrysler Imperial Custom Eight

The 1931 Chrysler Imperial Custom Eight's sophistication and elegance started with a gracefully canted radiator shell.

The 1930s opened with businesses collapsing like a house of cards. Millions of Canadians had no work at all. anywhere in the Dominion. The official unemployment hit 28 percent in British Columbia in 1931. Forced off their farms, nineteen desperate Manitoba families took shelter in the provincial legislature, hoping to draw MLA’s attention to their plight. Ottawa reluctantly opened relief centres across the country for the homeless and the Red Cross distributed tons of emergency food and fuel to 150,000 starving folks in Saskatchewan. Homeless, jobless city dwellers survived by eating garbage they found in dumpsites. The fishing industry came to a standstill in the Maritimes because there was no longer a market for the catch. The chartered banks foreclosed on businesses, farms and homes in record numbers.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The automakers were not exempt from the crisis. Unfortunately, their plans were locked up a good eighteen months in advance and little could be done but to move forward with the products on hand. The 1931 crop had been conceived in 1929 when times were good. Automobiles of any kind were not on the minds of people who could only think of where the next meal would come from and where they might sleep that night.

The 1931 Chrysler Imperial Eight Custom Roadster was designed by LeBaron. It weighed in at a hefty 4,535 pounds. Like all other Imperials, it rode on a 145-inch wheelbase.

Against this bleak backdrop, Chrysler Canada launched one of the most majestic automobiles to ever grace the King’s Highways. The Chrysler Imperial was no mere flagship for ChryCo; it became an instant icon of style, power, luxury and success in dark times. It was a symbol of prosperity that most could only dream of.

Because officials at Chrysler believed that eight-cylinder engines would dominate the luxury field, a six was turned into an eight when engineers grafted a cylinder onto each end of the mill. They created a nine-main bearing crankshaft for the new power plant. Now, Imperial tore down the road powered by a 385-cubic inch monster that generated a most impressive 125 horsepower. A four-speed manual transmission delivered all that power to the wheels.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Chrysler’s reputation was firmly built on the application of advanced technologies to its automobiles. Freewheeling was a new mechanical feature this year at the House of Chrysler. Designed to save gasoline, the engine was permitted to coast when power was not required. The extra-cost device came with a manual override switch in case of emergencies.

The 1931 Chrysler Imperial Eight Sedan Limousine weighed in at 4,915 pounds. It could be configured for seven or eight passengers.

For the Chrysler Imperial Eight, the company philosophy was simple. “It requires considerably more than average car length to permit full expression of the dignity, the grace, the luxury and the comfort that are so characteristic of fine motor cars. “Mile-long” hood made Imperial look like a million bucks. With this mission statement to guide them, the Imperial package, on its 145-inch wheelbase, was most stately and dignified in its proportions.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Styling played a large role in the development of the Imperial Eight because company brass understood that looks that sold cars. It was the first time that Chrysler’s designers were consulted during the gestation period, not after. Herb Weissenger, an employee in the Art & Colour team was fascinated with the current offerings from Cord. Using that design as his benchmark, Imperial’s radiator shell was given an artistically canted, V-shape and the centre of gravity on the chassis was lowered significantly. Advertising noted that the Imperial Eight was “scarcely as high as a man of average height.” Fenders grew more massive and flowed gracefully in a relaxed curve. Care was taken that the spare tires be sunk into the fenders “so that the top of the tire is even with the belt moulding,” thus not breaking the visual grace of the lines.

The 1931 Chrysler Imperial Eight Custom Roadster emulated aircraft with its cockpit-like interior. The upholstered trim extends beyond the interior. The rumble seat was good for occasional passengers.

Grace and class were applied liberally within the cabin, too. “The spaciousness and luxury of Imperial Eight body interiors are possible only on a chassis of such unusual length. With a wheelbase of 145 inches, skillful body designers were unhampered in the working out of details and appointments that contribute to motor car convenience and comfort.”  Smoking sets, cigar lighters, an electric clock, assist rails, foot rests, arm rests with built-in pockets, a robe rail, dome and corner lights were all included in an Imperial Eight.

Taking a cue from aviation, the latest rage, the instrument panel of the LeBaron Phaeton and Roadster were designed to resemble an airplane’s cockpit, right down to the trim being extended over the edge of the belt rail. Upholstery was Bedford Cord or carefully selected Broadcloths in closed models; hand-buffed leather was used in open cars.

The interior of the 1931 Chrysler Imperial Eight Sedan Limousine boasted the finest front parlour appointments on rolling stock.

Looks alone would not be enough to satisfy discriminating customers. These mighty machines had to be superior on the roads in order to qualify for flagship status. Two Imperials were promptly shipped to Daytona Beach where race drivers set a dozen new speed records in time trials supervised by the AAA. The massive cars weighed in excess of 4,500 pounds and still hit 90.4 miles per hour (ancient Canadian units of measure) in the “flying mile” test. Hydraulic brakes brought them to a quick, safe stop.

The company offered a four-door, five-passenger sedan; a four-door close-coupled, five-passenger sedan; a four-door seven-passenger sedan and a four-door limousine sedan seating seven or eight. Briggs built the bodies for these models.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

In addition to the standard models, LeBaron offered a two-door, two- or four-passenger roadster; a four-door five-passenger phaeton; a two-door two- or four-passenger coupe and a two-door two- or four-door convertible couple.

Clients wishing something more personal and upscale could take delivery of the chassis and then order semi-custom or full custom coachwork confections from such prestigious houses as Derham, LeBaron, Locke, Murphy and Waterhouse. Records show that 99 customers did so.

A total of 3,228 Chrysler Imperial Eights were built for the world market. Records show that 24 of these luxurious land yachts were built by Chrysler Canada workers in Windsor, Ontario.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

Friday, April 8, 2011

1954 Ford

 The least expensive Ford in 1954 was the Mainline Tudor Sedan.
 It listed for $2,132 f.o.b Windsor, Ontario and tipped the scales at 3,140 pounds.
The Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1954. It had been fifty years since Henry Ford and Gordon McGregor signed the papers that transformed McGregor’s faltering wagon works in Walkerville (Windsor), Ontario into an automobile manufacturer. The deal included the rights to sell Ford products in virtually every colony and possession of the far-flung and vast British Empire.

All the stops were pulled out for an unforgettable birthday bash that was celebrated from coast to coast. Management threw a party for the nation’s 1,003 Ford-Monarch and Lincoln-Mercury-Monarch dealers in Toronto from January 6 through 8 of 1954. It was an event that made national news.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Dubbed the Jubilee Conference, the event included a complete display all of the new cars, trucks and tractors, domestic and imported, sold throughout the Dominion. Ford, Meteor, Mercury, Monarch, Lincoln, British Fords, Thames trucks and Ford tractors were the corporate jewels that sparkled and shone for all the world to see.  On August 17, the festivities continued as the famed Musical Ride, executed by a team of 32 red-coated Mounties, was put on for the public. The RCMP entertained an enormous crowd with its spectacular show of intricate horseback military manoeuvres.

The 1954 Ford Customline Fordor Sedan was a favourite with consumers. 
At $2,312 it cost $104 more than the Mainline Fordor Sedan.

Ford milestones were many. The company was Canada’s oldest automobile manufacturer.  Officials could proudly boast that workers had built 1,437,961 Ford passenger cars from 1904 through to the end of 1953. Meteors, Monarchs, Mercurys and Lincolns pushed the figure higher. Still Canada’s leading automobile and truck manufacturer, Ford maintained that position because of its enormous export market. On the home front, however, GM Canada garnered slightly more than 50 percent of domestic sales. Ford could still claim that 40 percent of all cars on the nation’s roads were Ford.

The 1954 Fords were introduced to the public on January 14th. They were especially late this year because reconversion to civilian production had been extremely difficult for all the automakers at the end of the conflict in Korea. The cars were popular with consumers, a Saturday shift was added at the factory on Valentine’s Day to keep up with demand.  On March 15, the last Ford rolled out of the factory doors in Windsor. Production was now centred in the new 32.5-acre factory in Oakville, Ontario, the largest and most modern automobile factory in the country.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

While hard on the comeback trail there was not enough money for a new envelope. The basic automobile shell for the 1954 Golden Jubilee Ford was the same one used in 1952 and 1953. The grille continued to be a floating bar with a fuselage-like protuberance at the centre. This year, the bar was opened up to sport a hollow theme and parking lamps were incorporated into the extreme ends before it wrapped around the corners of the fenders.

The 1954 Ford Country Sedan could seat six passengers.
The Stowaway centre seats laid flat “for carrying space galore.”
Price for the wagon was $2,827.

There wasn’t a lot that was new but wordsmiths said, “Ford for 1954 gives you styling that’s truly ‘at home’ wherever you may care to park. You get beautiful new colour schemes, the latest in modern fabrics, the handsomest in trim. In a word, your 1954 Ford, with its clean, honest lines and its smartly tailored interiors is truly the style-leader.”

An all-new Crestline family joined the Mainline and Customline series. The prestige line was all glitz and glamour, chrome and extras. It was made up of a poshly appointed Fordor Sedan, a Skyliner, a Convertible and a Victoria. The Country Squire was not sold here.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Customline series was mid-priced, comprised of a Tudor and a Fordor Sedan, a Country Sedan and a Ranch Wagon. The Club Coupe was not available in Canada. The modestly appointed Mainline series was the most economical of them all, consisting of a Tudor and Fordor Sedan and a Ranch Wagon.

The 1954 Ford Skyliner featured a unique transparent top that
 gave “an open car feeling never before achieved in any closed car.”
The Skyliner listed for $2,750 but the price would be reduced to $2,464 in April.

Under the hood lurked the tried and true Ford V-8, first appearing on the market in 1932. American Fords were being fitted with a new Y-block V-8 mill and also six-cylinder mills but Ford of Canada made use of the flathead engine in all its cars for one more season.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Astra-Dial Control Panel was straight out of the space age. The speedometer was placed high on the control panel “where it is in your line of sight. The safest place for a speedometer to be located because you hardly need to take your eyes off the road to read it.” The speedometer was placed in a dome-shaped shroud with a rear-facing transparent hood. “This allows daylight to illuminate the needle and dial for even easier reading.” Soft diffused lighting makes it easy to read at night.” For safety’s sake, controls were clearly marked and illuminated. Idiot lights were taken to a new level at ford. Boasting that the oil pressure light and the generator light were automatically self-checking, they eliminated the need to look at two fewer instruments!
The Astra-Dial instrument panel was the latest word in style, beauty and convenience.

Just a few of the options available included seat coverings, a rear window defroster, a rear seat radio speaker, a spotlight with or without mirror, a portable spotlight, backup lamps, lights for the glove box, engine compartment and the luggage compartment. One could have outside rear view mirrors, a non-glare rear view mirror, a vanity mirror. One could order turn signal indicators, the See-Clear windshield washer, a grille guard, a rear deck guard, a bumper wing guards, a windshield visor, window vent shades, floor mats, a locking gas tank cap, tire chains, an electric or hand-wind clock, a hand brake signal, an automatic cigar lighter a Coronado deck conversion (continental spare tire kit), wheel covers, whitewall tires, wheel discs and trim rings, a deluxe steering wheel, rocker panel trim, rear ender shields (Fordspeak for fender skirts), rear fender ornaments, a deluxe hood ornament and exhaust deflectors. Dealers would be happy to talk to you about the MagicAire heat and defrost system, the Master-Guide Power Steering, and the Super Range seven-tube radio, or the Console Range radio with five tubes and many other goodies that one one’s Ford fun to drive.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Ford workers had been without a contract for nearly a year and negotiations weren’t going particularly well. By gentleman’s agreement, management and labour agreed to do nothing to provoke each other during the Golden Jubilee year. Both sides kept their word as they negotiated toward a new working agreement.

Management announced that the model year would end on October 31. Workers, unhappy that labour negotiations were stalled out, and displeased that their latest demand for a 30-cent an hour increase had been rejected, shut down the Oakville factory on the 10th. The walkout spread and brought an early end to the selling season. The lights went out all over Ford of Canada’s operations and the buildings would sit eerily silent for 110 days.

The sassy Sunliner was Ford's open car offering. It sold for the same price as the Skyliner.

Copyright James C. Mays 2006
 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1917 McLaughlin

 McLaughlin advertising in 1917 depicted a happy family at the beach.
It would be impossible to guess from this scene that Canada was in the midst of a
global war.

Successful as a maker of carriages for 39 years, the McLaughlin firm of Oshawa, Ontario entered the automobile business in 1907. The company built 193 (some records indicate 198 and Heather Robertson in her book Driving Force says 154) of the new-fangled self-propelled vehicles that first year. Advertising was straightforward. “One grade and only the best.” The slogan rang true with buyers who were enamoured with the sturdy motorcar produced by the largest carriage  builder in the British Empire, powered by the imported valve-in-head Buick engine sourced from General Motors in the United States.

McLaughlin's fortune grew more healthy with each passing year. In 1909 the production total was 423; in 1910 a total of 847 were built; that total became 962 units in 1911; in 1912 a total of 967 were built; there was a downturn in 1913 with 881 units produced; 1914 was better with1,098 units leaving the line; 1915 was off ever so slightly with 1,012 units built but that more than doubled to 2,859 units in 1916.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Great War broke out in 1914 and Canada entered the fray as a colony of Britain. Archrival automaker Russell managed to snag many of the federal government contracts to supply the requirements of the Canadian and Empire armed forces. McLaughlin did build a few ambulances but for the most part the Oshawa firm was shut out of the war effort. McLaughlin continued to build automobiles for the public.

The McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited did well enough that in 1915 it was able to expand by purchasing the rights to build the popular little Chevrolet in its Oshawa, Ontario factories. The low bucks car with the famous race driver’s name emblazoned on the rad joined the fancy McLaughlin for sale in showrooms across Canada and throughout the Empire. From a modest 347 units in 1915 to 7,796 units in 1916, Chevrolet and McLaughlin together were an unbeatable combination.

The 1917 McLaughlin Model D-Six-45 Special Touring Car sold for $1,550.
The fifth wheel (spare tire) was an extra cost item.

In 1917 McLaughlin was billed as “Canada’s Standard Car” and stood behind the product with the following pledge:  “A McLaughlin automobile must be built so well that it will always, under all circumstances, give the owner the uninterrupted use of his investment. Every McLaughlin owner will receive he prompt and efficient service to which he is entitled—the kind of service that will insure him the motoring pleasure he expects.”

“McLaughlin reputation, pre-eminently firm and fair, was not won by chance, but is due to the policy established and consistently adhered to for forty years in the manufacture of high grade vehicles. With the production of the first McLaughlin motor vehicle the same policy was conscientiously followed, that of giving the owner the maximum service for the minimum of cost.”

The 1917 McLaughlin lineup consisted up five- and seven-passenger touring cars, roadsters and an enclosed, all-weather sedan. Both four- and six-cylinder cars were offered as were, for the very last year, a handsome pair of four-cylinder McLaughlin trucks.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Model E line consisted of a single seven-passenger touring car. It had a 124-inch wheelbase and used a 60-horsepower six-cylinder engine. The seven-passenger vehicle distinguished from lesser kin with a double cowl. It was “entirely different from the other models: and was “especially designed and built for those desiring a McLaughlin with extra passenger carrying capacity.” It boasted a streamlined design with an English Burbank top. The Gipsy curtains extended “from the back around the side, keeping out dust and draft. Storm curtains are inside operating and abundantly furnished with light paned which, with the new design windshield, give exceptional range of vision in all directions.” 

Other features of the Model E included hand buffed French –plaited buffed leather of very high grade, a tonneau light, a 19-inch steering wheel with spark, throttle lever and horn button all located in the centre. A new type of speedometer, a keyless wind-and-set clock, gauges for oil feed and an ammeter. All starting and lighting switches were easily located on an instrument board. Mud scrapers were located on the running boards.

The least expensive McLaughlin in the 1917 lineup was Model D-Four-34. 
The two-passenger roadster listed for $895.
 Introduced last year was the 45-horsepower six-cylinder engine. The thoroughly up-to-date mill was seen in the 115-inch wheelbased Model D. That series included the Model D-Six-44, the Model D-44-Special, Model D-45, the Model D-45 Special and Model D-47.
The Model D-Six-47 was the only enclosed car offered by McLaughlin for 1917 and at $2,350 was the most expensive in the lineup.

As befitting the closed car, the Model D-47 was upholstered in light grey automobile cloth, glass windows were fitted with silk shades on rollers and a “charming colour scheme” carried throughout the cabin “even to the soft carpet on the floor.”  It was further noted, “There is a growing tendency to use this particular type of car the year round; its rigid permanent top eliminates the bother with the collapsible type and in warm weather it is quickly converted into an open car…It is the most versatile car of all, because it may be used for touring, for social purposes, or just for running around. It is perfectly proper car for any occasion.”

The D-Six 44 roadster and D-Six-45 five-passenger touring car were finished in a dark and sober McLaughlin Blue; the others in the D series could be ordered in a “combination of dark colours and striped.”

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Models Six-44 and Six-44 Special were two-passenger roadsters. They boasted exceptionally graceful and pleasing lines. Two passengers–three in a pinch--enjoyed real leather seats covering stuffed horsehair cushions. The D-44’s top cover was made of mohair and the D-44 Special’s top was made of English Burbank material stretched over natural wood bows and “when in place with its carefully fitted curtains attached, provides a storm-proof and cozy conveyance.”

The McLaughlin Model Light Six, the D-Six-62 and the D-Six-63 all made use of the 41-hoursepower McLaughlin-Northway engine sourced from GM’s Oakland Division in the United States. The Light Six was very popular with consumers.

The 1917 McLaughlin Roadster Model D-Six-62 sold for $1,185.

Rounding out the lineup was a pair of model Fours. The D-Four-34 and the D-Four-35 rode a 106-inch wheelbase and tooled about courtesy of the McLaughlin-Buick four-cylinder mill that generated 35 horsepower. Body finish was listed as “dark” with black wheels.

War disrupted civilian life. Despite boxcar shortages and a critical lack of coal and natural gas that forced factories to shut down; workers turned out 13,898 Chevrolets and production of McLaughlin shot up to 3,418 units. Things would be even more exciting for the Oshawa, Ontario automaker in 1918.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2006
All rights reserved.