| 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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Copyright James C. Mays 2006
All rights reserved.