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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1962 Rambler

 The 1962 Rambler Ambassador station wagon whispered elegance and class.

Few cars have ever captured the nation’s imagination as the little Rambler did. Born of Nash and Hudson parentage, the stylish, thrifty compact car came from nowhere to shatter sales records month after month and year after year until the economy king jumped up to grab the Number Ten spot in domestic sales in 1961. It would do even better in 1962.

Here at home, Rambler competed with Ford’s Falcon, Fairlane and Mercury’s Comet. GM Canada offered the Corvair and Chevy II as bowties and just to be on the safe side, introduced a Chevy II clone, called Acadian, for its Pontiac-Buick dealers. 
Domestic competition for Brampton's Ramblers included the 1962 Acadian, fielded by GM Canada.

Chrysler trotted out the Valiant brand to replaced the failed DeSoto and in Hamilton, Studebaker launched its Lark. With a trio of compact cars in the market, GM Canada held a cool 36.9 percent of the economy car sales. Ford’s Falcon and Fairlane gave Oakville's blue oval 27.9 percent. Rambler grabbed an even 18 percent; Valiant took 10.7 percent and Studebaker’s Lark was sitting pretty with 6.5 percent.

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            In addition to doing battle with domestic competition, Rambler duked it out that year with Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Envoy, Renault, a plethora of Austin models, British Ford, Morris, Morris Minor, MG, Volvo, Standard and Triumph, Mercedes-Benz, Hillman, Austin-Healey, Peugeot, Simca, Sunbeam, Wolseley and Riley, DKW, Datsun and a smattering of other imports.
A handful of Datsuns was purchased by Canadians in 1962.

 Individual sales for most compact cars were small, but altogether they added up to 75,026 sales. By a seal’s whisker, nearly as many Canadians bought a set of pint-sized wheels as they did full-sized Chevs that year.

Rambler owners never needed to book overnight accommodations when travelling;
Airliner reclining seats turned every Rambler into a four-wheeled Hilton.

            Rambler’s Ambassador was new and smaller for 1962. In fact, it shared the exact same body shell as the Classic. In previous years, Rambler’s flagship had ridden a 2 917.8-millimetre (117-inch] wheelbase and was billed as “Ambassador by Rambler.”  It was a small but subtle way of making the car appear a mite classier. In 1962 it was clear that Ambassador was solidly popular and the distinction was no longer necessary. It was rechristened Rambler Ambassador. There were other differences that were small but important. 
 American Motors offered a 5.4-litre (327-cubic inch)  V-8 engine of its own design but only in Ambassador models.
The engine was designed by David Potter at Kaiser-Frazer. He brought the plans with him to AMC when K-F moved to Argentina.
Ambassadors were blessed with American Motors’ ultra-modern 5.4-litre ( 327-cubic) inch V-8 engine, sumptuous interiors, nice touches like shag carpeting-an industry first-and enough other posh trim appointments inside and out to distinguish it easily from the six-cylinder Classic. Canadians liked Ambassador, 25 percent of all domestic Rambler sales for the year were for the ritzy and powerful, V-8 compact.
    The Rambler Classic was a highly popular model in 1962. 
            Classic was Rambler’s bread-and-butter car. Like Ambassador, it rode on a 2743.2-millimetre  (108-inch) wheelbase.  Without being a stripper, it promised hundreds of thousands of miles (ancient Canadian units of measure) of no-nonsense, six-cylinder transportation geared to the economy minded. Classic took the lion’s share of corporate sales because it was a low-cost, value-added car that delivered all that it promised and more.

 The four-door Rambler American sold for $2,480 f.o.b. Brampton, Ontario.
Initially the compact was to be sold in Canada as the Rambler 100, according to Vince Geraci who was a designer for AMC.
            Even smaller than Ambassador and Classic was the Rambler American. The 2 540-millimetre (100-inch) wheelbase made the American fun to drive. It came in five lively models, including a hot little ragtop version. The styling--by Edmund Anderson--was so crisp it was almost impossible to believe that the basic shell had been around since 1950.
  In its final year, the Metropolitan carried a price tag of $1,875.
Only eight Mets were sold in Canada in 1962. 
            This was the ninth and final year for the company to offer its captive import, the Metropolitan. Sourced from Austin in Longbridge, England, the bite-sized British-built car arrived on showroom floors as a two-door hardtop coupe or a convertible. 

Small did not mean cheap at American Motors. The cars bristled with innovation and thoughtful touches. Every Rambler came with a Double-Safety Brake System: two completely separate sets of brake lines guaranteed a sure stop. It was such an important feature that the Ministry of Transport would make it mandatory on all 1967 automobiles.

Each Rambler was dressed in an acoustical ceiling liner that absorbed 30 percent more road noise than other cars. The ceramic-coated muffler and tailpipe were guaranteed “for as long as you own your new Rambler.”  The oil needed changing only once every 6 400 kilometres (4,000 miles) and an oil filter was fitted as standard equipment.

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These cars not only came with their famed Airliner seats that made into comfy and practical beds, orthopaedic doctors had designed the front seat supports so that passengers would benefit from maximum comfort and experience minimum fatigue even on long trips. Extra cost bucket seats reclined too, turning into “Nap Couches.”  Headrests were optional, though legislation in some provinces viewed them as comfort items rather than safety features and did not allow them to be installed on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The new factory in Brampton, Ontario had only opened officially in January of 1961. It hummed along, already strained to capacity, its workers churning out ninety cars a day. Station wagons and the Americans were imported but that was temporary situation. Busy as beavers with plant expansion, by the time the 1963 model year rolled around Americans would be home grown, too.

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Model year sales were ranked by the automakers and published in Canadian Automotive Trade. The picture looked like this in 1962: The most popular car sold in Canada was Pontiac with 79,834 sales. Number Two was the full-sized Chevrolet (GM listed Corvair and Chevy II as separate makes) with 76,659 sales. Full-sized Fords filled the Number Three spot with 31,229 sales. The stylish, new Ford Fairlane held down the fourth spot with 21,415 sales. West Germany’s Volkswagen owned the fifth spot with 20,733 sales. Rambler leaped from tenth to sixth place with 20,229 sales; Chevrolet’s new entry, the Chevy II started in seventh place with an impressive 17,514 sales; the Ford Falcon dropped from fifth spot to settle in at the number eight spot with 15,911 sales. The full-sized Mercury Meteor held down ninth place with 15,831 sales. With 15,382 units sold, the Number Ten spot belonged to Valiant. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2004 All rights reserved.

Monday, June 13, 2011

1969 Dodge Dart

The 1969 Dodge Dart GTS two-door hardtop listed for $3,796 f.o.b. Windsor, Ontario. The convertible GTS sold for $4,031.

Dodge Dart first appeared on the domestic automotive scene as a 1967 model. It replaced the highly popular Canada-only Valiant brand, sold by both Dodge and Plymouth dealers since the 1960 selling season. Valiant had replaced DeSoto, serving as a brand for Chrysler Canada, not a model of Plymouth as it was in the US.

In 1965 Canada and the United States had entered into an international arrangement whereby automakers could ship completed cars and trucks across the border without duty or taxes. AutoPact meant that carmakers’ Canadian factories could now become regional branches of the American system, plugged into a giant continental grid. With tariffs gone, it was no longer necessary for all—or most all—cars to be built in Canada. The Valiant brand faded into history but not before racking up 21,192 sales in its final year on the market, giving it an honourable ninth place in domestic sales.

The 1967 Dodge Dart replaced the homegrown Valiant at Chryco dealerships.

For the 1967 selling season, Darts were built in Hamtramck, Michigan and in Los Angeles, California. Records show that 14,247 of the freshly restyled compacts were imported into Canada during the 1967 calendar year. That figure earned the smallest Dodge 15th place in the sales race. The Plymouth Valiant was also new to consumers throughout the country that year and it garnered 27th place with 9,240 sales—right behind the Rambler Rebel

1968 Plymouth Valiant was the kissin' cousin of the Dodge Dart.

The sales story continued to be on target for Dart in 1968 as folks took home 16,669 of them. Another 10,151 deals were signed for the Plymouth Valiant kin. The two ChryCo compacts came in at 14th and 22nd place in the domestic sales pie.

1969 Dodge Dart lineup.

 Dart returned for the 1969 selling season largely unchanged from the previous year. In fact, it was now on the third year of the body shell cycle. It wore a slightly different grille this time around and stylists made minor side trim changes, too. The compact was photographed in upscale surroundings like country clubs and yacht clubs. The Swinger was billed as the car that “didn’t shy away from social affairs.”

Bragging that Dart was Canada’s biggest compact value, advertising pointed out that the car’s winning ways were obviously its stylish shape, “a look that doesn’t say, ‘compact,’’ and all the room and comfort inside. It suggested that the nimble handling was an important factor and the low, low price, as well.

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There were certainly enough choices an owner could aim for on Dodge’s Dart board. The high priced models included a pair of Swinger 340s. These were followed by another pair of smart Darts in the posh GTS series: a ragtop and a hardtop. A lesser trimmed convertible and a Dart two-door hardtop were also found in the GT series. Further from the bull’s eye were the Dart Custom two-door hardtop and the Dart Custom four-door sedan. Finally there was a base Dart four-door sedan.

All Darts left the factory with unit construction, seven-stage rust protection, hub caps, a Torsion Bar front suspension, a heater and defroster unit, three-spoke steering wheel carrying a padded hub, an aluminized muffler and tailpipe as well as a host of new safety features dictated by the federal Ministry of Transport.
The Dodge Dart Swinger 340 listed for $3,270. It carried special equipment and markings along with a mean V-8 engine.

The Swinger 340 had that large V-8 under the hood as standard equipment along with a four-barrel carb and dual exhausts. It boasted a four-speed manual Hurst shifter, Rallye suspension and wide-tread tires, Firm Ride shock absorbers, Bumblebee stripes wrapped around the rear and a hood with “Power Bulges” made up the package.

The GTS didn’t get the Hurst four-speed shifter. It disappeared in favour of Chrysler’s three-speed automatic transmission. The hardtop came with bucket seats. Red Line tires were all the rage and they were part of the deal.

1969 Dodge Dart GT hardtop.

Shorn of a letter, the lesser GT could still be had with the 2.8-litre (170-cubic inch) or the 3.7-litre (225-cubic inch) Slant Six or the 4.5-litre (273 cubic inch) V-8 at no cost.  The mill of choice was mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Bucket seats were installed in hardtops.

The Custom offered the same engine choices, the three-speed manual and carpeting but the bucket seats were eliminated in the hardtop model. The modestly priced Dart would make do with a bench seat up front.

The least expensive Dodge Dart offered in 1969 was a low-bucks four-door sedan listing for $2,802. The base Dart was most modest. It offered two engine choices and the three-speed manual shifter. Frills were eliminated altogether; flooring was rubber. 

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Options for the Dodge Dart could fill the Bay of Fundy at high tide. They included the Airtemp air conditioner and tinted glass, a rear window defogger, the Music Master AM Radio or the Solid-State AM-FM radio, power steering, power brakes, centre console for cars equipped with bucket seats, a remote control outside mirror for the driver, a right-hand mirror, undercoating, extra hood insulation, a colour-keyed head restraint (!), rear seat belts, a deep-dish three-spoke steering wheel with a full horn ring, a simulated Sports-type simulated, wood-grained wheel with padded hub; electric variable-speed wipers and washer; extra foam for front seats and all-vinyl interiors.

Dart offered almost as many light groups as there are constellations in a starry night sky. Vinyl roof coverings were offered in Black, White Afflair, Green Antique or Tan. Two-tone paint jobs, deluxe wheel covers, cast-centre 14-inch road wheels, faux road wheels, bumper guards, fender-top turn signal indicators, tachometer, Trailer-Towing Package, four-speed manual transmission were all on the list of extra-cost goodies.
Colour chart for the 1969 Dodge Dart.

While the fall sales brochure lists 17 oven-baked Acrylustre enamel colours, the year ended with 22 hues: Silver Metallic, Light Blue Metallic, Bright Blue Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Cordovan Metallic, Light Green Metallic, Medium Green Metallic, Dark Green Metallic, beige, Light Turquoise Metallic, Bright Turquoise Metallic, Bright Red, Red, Light Bronze Metallic Copper Metallic, Dark Bronze Metallic, White, Black, Yellow, Cream and Gold Metallic could be had as single colours or in striking two-tone combinations.

1969 turned out to be a great year for the Dodge Dart. Calendar year sales added up to 19,104 units, giving the ChryCo compact 12th place in the domestic sales race.

1970 Ford Maverick racked up a most impressive 19,573 sales across Canada during the 1969 calendar year.

Ahead of it in 11th place was the hot new Ford Maverick. Introduced as a 1970 model, it racked up 19,573 units sold in calendar year 1969. The other small car that was even more popular was the VW Beetle finishing in fourth place with 29,419 sales to its credit. For the record, Plymouth’s Valiant placed 25th with 11,908 sales.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2006 All rights reserved.

Friday, June 10, 2011

1972 Ford Mustang

 The least expensive Mustang one could buy in 1972 was the Hardtop.
 It listed for $3,047 with the six-cylinder engine, f.o.b. Oakville, Ontario.
The Blue Oval design team had given Mustang a major makeover for the 1971 selling season. The resulting look was hot. Sales jumped from 5,140 units delivered throughout Canada in 1970 to nearly double that figure as deals were inked for 9,604 fast Fords in the 1971 calendar year. 

With a new style unveiled only a year ago, there was little to do but sell the sizzle for 1972. This year the sales slogan billed Mustang as “The Driving Machine” and coupled it to the “Better Ideas from Ford” slogan minus the light bulb seen in previous years.  Advertising swore, “You’ll like the solid, road-holding feel. The quick, smooth way Mustang moves. Its agility in traffic and sureness on turns. It’s eager to go where you point, stop when you wish. Sheer driving pleasure.” If that wasn’t enough, ad copy also claimed that Mustang was now “sporty” and “personal.”

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Standard power under the hood was the modest 250-cubic inch, 1-barrel carb mill. The Mach 1 was the lone exception to that rule; the Mighty Mach started life with the 302 V-8 at no extra cost. The 302 was optional in lesser ‘Stangs and there was a 351 with 2- or 4 barrel carb setup were also available. All engines used 91-octane gasoline. Gone were The Boss 351 and the brawny 429, victims of environmental awareness. Ford released the following statement. “It is estimated that with all controls on the 1972 Mustang, more than 85 percent of the hydrocarbon emissions and nearly 70 percent of carbon monoxide emissions are eliminated.”
The Mach 1 was the second most expensive Mustang in Ford’s 1972 stable.
 It sold for $3,452 and is shown here with the extra-cost Mach 1 décor package.

Despite the downsizing, ad copy made up for the loss of horsepower by attempting to sell the car on class, sass and style. “What a Mustang does best is go places. It’s an exciting new blend of beauty and action at an easy-to-handle price. Once you drive it, you’ll find it hard to be happy with anything else.”

This year the consumer could chose among five models. The Hardtop, SportsRoof, Convertible, Grande and the Mach 1 were each individual Mustangs in their own right. No two were to be alike. “Mustang, more than ever, is designed to be designed by you. It gives you an almost infinite opportunity to design your own personal machine for whichever driving need you have in mind.”
The 1972 Ford Mustang Grande represented everything that was refined and elegant in motoring.
It sold for $$,3415 with the optional V-8 engine.

The elegant Grande was first out of the gate. Speed and power might be dirty words but luxury certainly was not. The Grande was sumptuous. Every detail delivered refined, restrained excitement to driving.  Its interior was dressed in five colour choices of Lambeth cloth and vinyl. Prospective buyers were encouraged to indulge themselves and be spoiled by the luxury of the Grande.
 The 1972 Ford Mustang SportsRoof model carried a sticker price of $3,162. 
The SportsRoof model carried a tinting on the vast expanse of rear glass. “The low, sleep profile and wide stance contribute to its exceptional roadability and handling ease,” advertising bragged. The aerodynamics might help the car go a wee bit faster but it wouldn’t make up for any horsepower shorn off by government regulators. The SportsRoof package was kissed with wheel lip and rocker panel mouldings and twin colour-keyed racing mirrors. The Hardtop shared trim and many other features with the SportsRoof model. Two options for the Mach 1 and the Sportroof were a rear spoiler and a Sport Deck Rear Seat that folded down flat to give a larger storage area.
Ford's 1972 Mustang ragtop was--and still is--a head turner.

The Convertible now boasted the power top as standard equipment. When that top went down it was to reveal tasteful knitted vinyl upholstery. The instrument panel was dressed up in black appliqués and the two-spoke steering wheel carried a woodtone insert.

In traditional European Grand Touring style,
the instrument panel for the Grande Mustang boasted a tasteful wood tone applique.
Without any serious speed to offer, marketing placed a great deal of emphasis on décor and trim packages as a way to generate extra bucks per unit. Ford called the extra goodies “better idea options” and Mustang Designer Kits. These promised to encourage freedom of expression. The Décor Group was available for the Hardtop and Convertible. This extra-cost exterior included a black honeycomb grille with sport lamps integrated into it, a colour-keyed front spoiler/bumper, colour-keyed hood and fender mouldings polished off nicely with wheel trim rings and hub caps. One could also order bodyside tape stripes in black or argent. 
The horse could be dressed in any of 16 colours. Ivy Glow and Gold Glow were among seven new hues that bowed this season. Also on the palette were White, Medium Bright Yellow, Medium Lime Metallic, Bright Red, Bright Lime, Bright Blue Metallic, Bright Red, Medium Ivy Bronze Metallic and Light Pewter. To add to the fun, there were five vinyl roof colours.
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There was plenty of optional equipment for Mustang. For extra money one could have a centre console, SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic Transmission or a four-speed manual transmission with a Hurst Shifter. The centre console contained an integral electric clock. There was a Convenience Group that included a headlamp reminder buzzer, glove box lock, an automatic seat back release, courtesy lights and a parking brake reminder light. There were lights for the trunk, glove box and under the hood as well as a map light. One could order the SelectAire Conditioner, power steering and the five-way adjustable Tilt Steering Wheel. AM Radio, AM/FM Stereo with or without the StereoSonic Tape System. power front disc brakes, power windows, vinyl tops, rear window defroster, a Rim-Blow three-spoke steering wheel, white sidewall tires, numerous tire and wheel cover options including Magnum 500 chrome wheels.

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 There was a special dress-up package for Mustangs that were ordered with the 351 V-8 engine. Designed to set this ‘Stang far apart from its lesser kin, the kit included speed demon items that included Dual Functional NASA-Type Hood Scoops, dual racing mirrors, a black or argent painted hood, engine CID/Ram Air decals and twist-type hood locks. The package wasn’t just pretty, either. The competition suspension and the Wide Oval whitewall tires designed to add grit to the road.

Sales of Ford Mustang beat the 1971 figure, rising to 10,292 units delivered in the 1972 calendar year. Though no one in the Oakville office could know, things would be even better for 1973.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2007 All rights reserved.

Monday, June 6, 2011

1968 Acadian

Acadian was a Canada-sourced GM brand that graced our lives from 1962 to 1971.
 Acadians were assembled in Chile, as well. A 1968 Acadian two-door sedan is seen here.

            The nation’s Pontiac-Buick dealers were not at all happy when the Chev-Olds dealer body was given the Corvair for the 1960 model year. Compacts were hot but Pontiac-Buick dealers had no small car to sparkle on its showroom floors. It was true enough that they carried GM’s pint-sized British Vauxhall line as a captive import but there was still a very visible price and size gap in the models offered. 
GM Canada execs wanted the Acadian to share the Chevrolet Corvair
shell but dealers shunned it and the prototype was stillborn.
 American Pontiac dealers had the Tempest but it was not a viable option here. There wasn’t a  big enough market to justify building it domestically and under existing laws, it was too expensive to import. For the time being, dealers would do without. It was galling to watch potential customers leave the dealership and head down the street for a Corvair or worse, a Volkswagen Beetle, a Rambler, an Austin or a Studebaker Lark. The situation needed to be addressed.
1960 Chevrolet Corvair was built in GM Canada's Oshawa, Ontario plant.

            Despite Volkswagen's success, GM's rear-engined Corvair did not set the world on fire and management quickly hustled a more conventional compact to market. Chev-Olds dealers would have the pert Chevy II and this time around Pontiac-Buick dealers would be included. Oshawa would once again reach into its  time honoured bag of tricks to create two brands from one body shell. With a little styling magic an all-new, badge-engineered brand bowed at Pontiac-Buick dealers for 1962.
1962 Acadian.

            Christened Acadian, the proud name was carefully chosen to reflect our national heritage and pay homage to the rugged roots put down by those first European settlers. The harsh, rocky, wooded, spruce lined Atlantic coast was claimed for France as Acadia and tamed in the 16th Century by rugged settlers who spread out across Acadia--the land that is known today as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Gaspé Peninsula, the Magdeline Islands and Maine. By choosing Acadian, GM paid homage to the effervescent courage of those hardy individuals who persevered in nation building in the face of harsh climate, hardship and war.
Canadians could also purchase the thrifty Vauxhall Victor, sourced from GM's British subsidiary.

            Selling for the modest price of $2,,383 F.O.B. Oshawa, when fitted with a thrifty four-banger. Acadian was an instant hit with consumers. It scored 14,654 registrations in its first year, racking up a full 3.5 percent of all new car purchases throughout the Dominion. It placed in the Lucky 13 spot, ahead of GM's Oldsmobile and slightly behind British stable mate Vauxhall.  Execs in Oshawa were ecstatic to finally steal sales from the competition, especially from Falcon and Rambler. From St. John’s to Victoria, Pontiac-Buick dealers were delighted to finally be cut in on the action, too.
Canadian production of the Acadian ended in 1967--Centennial Year.

            The little car quickly became entrenched in the hearts and driveways of consumers. With the advent of AutoPact in 1965, a Canada-only compact was no longer needed but Acadian had a strong and loyal following. Who knew if consumers would buy an unkown vehicle like a Pontiac Tempest? Only time would tell. The last of the homegrown Acadians rolled out the plant doors in June of 1967 as GM Canada rationalized its product line in a new continental grid.

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The 1968 Acadian was built exclusively in Willow Run, Michigan.
It shared the Chevrolet Nova shell but got its own badging. 
The Acadian nameplate would not be retired. Acadian would continue to be built for Canadians only--but ironically enough--imported now from Chevrolet’s Willow Run, Michigan plant. Rolling off the line with Corvairs and Novas, the Acadians were loaded up for their ride home to Canada. Once prepped and gleaming on the showroom floor, its price tag was just $25 more than a Nova, starting at a very modest $2,731.

For the 1968 model year, Acadian was brand spanking new on a 111-inch wheelbase. It was sleek and sexy with its long hood and gentle Coke-bottle swell in the hindquarters.  Advertising billed it as, “The daring new idea in low-priced cars!”  

Pared to just a two-door and a four-door sedan, Acadians came in one simple line. Fortunately, one could dress an Acadian right to the nines with a winter's snowdrift of optional equipment, all the way to the screaming Acadian SS option package that “transforms the thin pillar coupe into a very quick, very roadable driving machine, as competitive as they come.”

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Acadian paid attention to safety items required by the Ministry of Transport. An energy-absorbing steering column, seat belts fore and aft, shoulder belts up front, the four-way warning flasher, a dual master cylinder brake system, dual speed windshield wipers and washers, an outside rearview mirror, a glare-resistant padded instrument panel and sun visors were all standard equipment. New this year were the illuminated side markers.

The four-cylinder mill was dropped but a generous Metric half dozen power plants were still available: the Econoflame 230-cubic inch six, rated at 140 horsepower; the 250 with a 155-horsepower rating; the 307 with 200 horses; the Super Econoflame 327 with 275 horsepower and the Astro Econoflame with 295 horses.  The latter two required premium fuel; the latter three could be mated to optional, floor-mounted, four-speed manual transmissions if desired.

Even the low bucks stripper Acadian came with three interior style choices. One was encouraged to shell out a few bucks and “build” an Acadian to order with a Custom Interior that replaced rubber matting with carpet, a luxurious Bucket Seat Package, a centre console with a T-bar gear selector (the latter was available only for Acadians equipped with the optional Powerglide transmission), red line tires, an AM push button radio, an eight-track player, power steering, power disc brakes, vinyl roof, a rear window defogger, heater, block heater, bumper guards, a performance instrument cluster, heavy duty suspension front and rear, two-tone colours, Shade-Lite glass, a remote control outside mirror and an electric clock.

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For an extra $240, the SS option bestowed upon the humble Acadian GM’s wickedly fast 350-cubic inch Astro Econoflame V-8 mill with “many chromed components” and dual exhausts. The Acadian carried special hood ornamentation, under hood insulation, wore Super Sport script on the front fenders, was given a deluxe steering wheel with the SS emblem replacing Acadian’s two traditional maple leaves, sported a blacked out rear end panel with special mouldings, got the heavy duty suspension, finned front brake drums, unique SS wheel covers and a set of Wide Oval E70-14-4 red line tires.

With 295 horsepower pulling a paltry 3,117 pound load, an SS Acadian could rip the centre stripe right off the Number One Highway effortlessly. SS owners didn’t give a flying fox that the 15-Imperial gallon gas tank would require filling at nearly every Pacific 66, B/A and Golden Eagle station their pocket rocket Acadian passed. Showing off at the gas pump was half the fun of owning one!

1968 turned out to be a good year for Acadian with 5,353 units delivered. The marque would soldier on until 1971 when it was replaced with Pontiac’s Ventura II. 

Copyright James C. Mays 2004 All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

1960 Sunbeam

The 1960 Sunbeam family was made up of the ritzy Rapier and the snazzy Alpine models.
It was in 1948 that Sunbeams from Britain’s shore began to arrive on Canada’s fair domain. A cornerstone marque of the long successful Rootes Group, the Sunbeam-Talbot concern, located in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, not far from Coventry, kindly shipped us modest numbers of the Sports Saloon and the Sports Convertible Coupe. They were a pretty pair but the hefty $3,445 and $3,800 (respectively) price tags attached prevented Sunbeams from spreading throughout the Dominion like a wild summer brush fire. Folks bought in moderation.
1948 Sunbeam Talbot Sports Saloon was pricey. 

The next season, the Model 90 replaced the Model 80. Sales continued to be modest, but those Sunbeams looked sharp on showroom floors as they gleamed next to their more economical Hillman kin. Engineers and stylists cleverly turned the sedate Model 90 into an exciting two-seater Alpine. The sports car was added to the Sunbeam lineup in 1953-54. With a $3,177 price tag, it the most expensive Sunbeam one could buy.
A 1955 Sunbeam Mark III Sports Saloon won the Monte Carlo Rallye.

The Sunbeam Mark III Sports Saloon and Convertible were introduced in 1955 and the Alpine joined the fresh-faced pair; though the sports car was in its final year. The next season, the Mark III Sports Convertible was dropped in favour of the stylish Rapier two-door hardtop. The latest Sunbeam offering was introduced with a list price of $2,575. Though the hardtopped Rapier was the sole Sunbeam offered in 1957 much was made of the fact that the marque was 700 dealers strong throughout North America.
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A convertible joined the two-door hardtop for the 1958 season. The ragtop was billed as having “sports-car comfort combined with family-style comfort.” The pair of Sunbeams continued to dazzle folks in 1959 with their tasteful, updated looks. Sunbeams weren’t just pretty faces, they continued to rack up impressive victories in European rallies. Advertising focused on those wins the spotlight shone brightly on the rugged and reliable 1.5-litre Rallymaster engine. Luckily for consumers here at home, prices stood pat at $2,545 and $2,680 f.o.b. Toronto, respectively. 

For 1960, a sleek and seductive two-passenger Alpine Sports Roadster joined the Rapier. The three automobiles were billed as the “great sports car trio.” This latest unibodied beauty was truly corporate sleight-of-hand magic, using the Hillman Husky station wagon’s floorpan as its starting point and borrowing its running gear from Rapier.  Rolling on an 86-inch wheelbase, it could brag of being the only totally new sports car being offered for 1960.

For a mere $2,595 one could have all the power and performance, comfort and convenience money could buy. The Alpine, like all Sunbeams, boasted front wheel disc brakes. It featured windows that rolled up in full-sized doors, which prevented milady’s hair from being windswept. Following the styling dictates of the day, a wraparound windshield was incorporated into the envelope  as were tasteful fins. The four-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine had a cast aluminum cylinder head that permitted delivery of 83.5 horsepower to the close-ratio, four-speed manual transmission.

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Options for Alpine included a detachable aluminum hardtop, wire wheels, a padded centre armrest with a lockable compartment, an ammeter and a clock. Colour choices for Alpine were Carnival Red, Embassy Black, Glen Green, Moonstone and Thistle Grey.

The Rapier Coupe de Sport was designed to satisfy the sports car cravings inherent in every family man. With a 96-inch wheelbase, it did seat four comfortably, after all. The 1.5-litre engine delivered 78 horsepower, more than sufficient to move the 2,360-pound vehicle at speeds guaranteed to attract the interest of Mounties, OPP and QPP on highway patrols. The Rapier’s tastefully finished walnut-veneer instrument panel carried genuine sports car gauges. The centre-floor mounted gearshift was exceptionally short—evoking a sports car driving feel. “If you want an economy-minded sports car that the whole family can enjoy,” then the hardtop Sunbeam Rapier Coupe de Sport was clearly the choice at $2,565.
1960 Sunbeam Rapier convertible 

The four-passenger Rapier Convertible shared all the desirable attributes of the hardtop including the prize-winning Rallymaster engine. The fabric top adjusted to open, closed and the unique half-open Coupe de Ville position as well. This Sunbeam’s price tag was a cool $2,695.

Sunbeam did well in 1960, racking up 1,212 units arriving at ports in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver for delivery throughout the country during the calendar. The entire Rootes Group did equally well.  Sales of 3,296 Hillmans; deliveries of Singers and Humbers added to the bottom line, making the folks at Rootes Motors (Canada) Limited beam from ear to ear, indeed. With the catchy slogan, “Rootes—it’s a better buy because it’s better built,” the world looked bright for next year’s Sunbeam sales. Unfortunately, the corporate smile would not last long; unhappy workers would lay down their tools and walk off the job in 1961.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.