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Monday, October 31, 2011

1964 Valiant

 The 1964 Valiant Signet hardtop was as elegant as it was economical. Weighing in at 2,640 pounds, it cost $2,690.
Valiant was the little star that twinkled brightly in Chrysler Canada’s five-star corporate lineup. The smart Euro-styled compact replaced the deleted mid-priced DeSoto brand for the 1960 selling season. Valiant shone most brightly for the Windsor, Ontario-based automaker, bringing in customers who walked out with a fine set of compact wheels. Sales of the Valiant brand rose dramatically from 16th place in its introduction year to 10th place in 1962. Nobody was more pleased than Windsor’s top brass when Valiant racked up 29,007 sales in 1963, propelling it from 10th place to fourth in calendar year sales, knocking out none other than West Germany's Volkswagen Beetle.

Valiant was a marque in Canada, sold by both Plymouth and Dodge dealers. This is a first generation Valiant.

            From St. John’s to Victoria, folks praised their Valiants to high heavens. A Mr. Skilnik of Moncton, New Brunswick was so enamoured with his 1962 Signet he penned a letter to the company. This soldier in Her Majesty’s Royal Canadian Armed Forces had racked up an astonishing 32,000 miles (ancient Canadian units of measure) on his Valiant, accumulating much of that distance across the Dominion, with a Shasta trailer tagging along behind. He didn’t think twice about heading up over the Rockies with his trusty Chryco steed.
The rugged Slant-Six was the mill of choice for the 1964 Valiant. It could be had with 101 or 225 horses. Late in the model year, a V-8 would be added.

The narrow gravel road twisted and turned all the way to the 5,300-foot summit. Silnik wrote, “…the Shell 4000 Rally took the same Cascade route and five of the cars did not make it, but there was I coming through with flying colours hauling a 1,000-pound trailer by a Valiant equipped with the small 101 motor.” Skilnik pointed out that his car was quality built; that total expenses for his Valiant had thus far been only $30 for items other than regularly scheduled maintenance.
Shasta travel trailers appeared in 1941, designed for the US Army.  They were popular with personnel in Her Majesty's Royal Canadian Armed Forces, too.

            With testimonials like that, the boys in marketing couldn’t help but be gleeful. A freshly designed, second generation Valiant was ready to hit the market. This beauty would be a real contender against any and all domestic and foreign small car competitors. They would trumpet the news in every corner of the Dominion. “Valiant swings into ’64 with three great series, nine beautiful models…thrilling new styling, sparkling performance, brilliant engineering…everything to make it the value leader of the year,” was the message.
Clean and uncluttered was the instrument panel of the 1964 Valiant. Round, blackface dials were highly functional and the ignition switch was illuminated.

             “Here, front and centre, is a great new Canadian automobile.”  Described as scenically low, lively and strictly modern, the top-of-the-line Signet 200 convertible was targeted to freedom-loving, fun-loving, worldly (!) young motorists who were short on money to burn. The price tag for the open car was a hefty $3,047 f.o.b. Windsor, making it the most expensive Valiant on the showroom floor.

            Sharing honours with the convertible in the posh Signet 200 series was a rakish hardtop coupe that could be had with an optional vinyl roof. The smartest distance between two points was a beeline in a Valiant, and getting there never looked so good as when driving a Signet hardtop. This Valiant variant listed for $3,047. Signets could be ordered with the optional 225-cubic inch Slant Six engine that generated 144 horses. That was more than sufficient power for the pair, weighing in at 2,730 and 2,640 pounds, respectively.
 Touring the countryside was never so much fun as with the Valiant V-200 station wagon. Listing for $2,912 and weighing in at 2,730 pounds, the wagon rode on a 106-inch wheelbase. 
            Carrying less trim and fewer niceties-but no less Valiant-was the V-200 series. Made up of a convertible, a hardtop, a wagon and a four-door sedan, this was the price range that fit the purses of most consumers. Salesmen bragged about the level stretches of roof and deck, the stunning streamlining and horizontally textured grille design before moving on to practical features like massive bumpers that counteracted over-riding and that the old-fashioned generator had given way to a modern alternator.

Valiant claimed to go one better than archrival Rambler, by not only submerging its unit-built bodies in huge tanks of rustproofing, but spraying each Valiant with anti-rust spray, to boot.  They went on to flog the colourful vinyl fabric upholstery that promised to keep its good looks for life and if that wasn’t enough, there was the glamour of new interior trim styles that accented the new instrument panel.
Least expensive in the 1964 Valiant lineup was the V-100 Club Coupe. The plain Jane model rode a 111-inch wheelbase and sold for $2,323. Seven out of ten vehicles leaving the Chrysler factory in Windsor wore white that year.

            The base V-100 series was comprised of a modestly trimmed two- and four-door sedan, along with a no-nonsense station wagon. The design was so sharp, according to the salesman, that chrome moulding and ornamentation was used only for the most sophisticated of accents. Advertising swore that everything “cliché” about styling was jettisoned in favour of a budget price—and then one would need to see the sales bill to prove it cost so little. Sitting on attractive jacquard and nylon warp upholstery, the V-100 owner was assured that he could ride in leisurely beauty knowing that his economical Valiant had cost a good $200 less than a V-200.

            Not just a pretty face, the V-100s made head-turning fleet cars. Italia Bar-B-Q Pizzeria and Restaurant was the largest pizza maker in Windsor, Ontario. The enterprise expanded its home delivery service considerably with the purchase of four new 1964 Valiants. The good- looking compacts may not have made pizza taste better but they certainly added prestige to the company’s image. Many value-minded business owners across the nation followed suit.
Canadians got their first glimpse of the mid-year 1964 Valiant Barracuda at the National Home Show in Toronto. 

            Arriving in April, a mid-year offering was a sporty Valiant model, christened Barracuda. The honours for the very first one built anywhere throughout the entire Chrysler corporation, went to the workers in Windsor. Rolling out of the doors of Plant Three, there were enough in stock for a Canada-wide May debut. With its arrival, an extra-cost, small-block V-8 engine was made available throughout the Valiant line.
  Chrysler Canada’s 100,000th vehicle to roll out the doors in 1964 was this Valiant Signet hardtop.

            The 100,000th car to roll out of the factory doors in Windsor during calendar 1964 just happened to be a Valiant Signet hardtop. The proud owner, one John Lewis, posed for the press behind the wheel as the folks at Midtown Motors in St. Thomas, Ontario looked on.
Chrysler bought 30% of Britain's Rootes Group in 1964 and offered the  Hillman Imp to Canadians.  

            Chrysler Canada marked its 40th year as an automaker during 1964. The company did very well during its Ruby Anniversary, selling 83,429 units of North American type cars and iced the celebration cake with additional sales of 707 Hilmans and 143 Simcas sourced from Chrysler France, to boot. Valiant held onto fourth place in the national sales pie for the calendar year with 34,468 units delivered.
The 1964 Simca 1000 featured a rear-mounted engine.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved. *

Monday, October 24, 2011

1961 Ford

The full-sized Ford was advertised as “the carefree car” in 1961.
The 1960 model year had not been a good one for passenger car sales at the Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited. Only 30,687 new full-sized Fords had sold when the figures were tallied up. That figured into an 8.6 percent decline in the sale of North-American type automobiles from 1959.

Few Canadians bought anything in 1960, let alone big ticket items like automobiles. Untold numbers of unemployed were still reeling from the “made in Canada recession” that resulted from Prime Minister Diefenbaker's abrupt cancellation of the Avro Arrow jet in  February of 1959. His government’s decision to scrub the defense project threw 14,000 employees out of work. The ripple effect throughout the national economy was crippling. One labour leader denounced the cancellation as “economic treachery.” 

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Avro Arrow.
 Fortunately, the overall picture for Canadian blue oval stockholders was salvaged somewhat by exports to wholly-owned subsidiaries in other Commonwealth countries, notably Ford of Australia, Ford of South Africa and Ford of New Zealand. In addition, there were significant increases in sales of captive imports and in domestic truck and tractor sales here at home.

The main internal culprits responsible for the downturn in full-sized passenger car sales, surprisingly enough, were the new compact  Ford cars, Falcon and Frontenac. Folks loved them and traded in their older--and much larger--Ford products for the smaller models, leaving the lovely full-sized Fords to gather dust on showroom floors. The smartly styled compact duo sold like hotcakes but didn’t inspire car owners to switch brands and bring in conquest sales like Rambler did. 
1961 Ford Falcon.

Astonishingly, sales of 17,152 compact Falcons, and 9,536 Frontenacs, along with 15,149 even smaller British Fords and 775 German Fords added up to a whopping 42,902 new owners, eclipsing domestic sales of full-sized Fords by nearly 12,000 units! There was no doubt in anyone’s mind in Oakville that the small car had taken deep root in with consumers and was not just a passing fancy.

The Frontenac was replaced by the Mercury Comet.

 Despite the ever-increasing popularity of pint-sized automobiles, the full-sized passenger car was far from dead. Designers heavily reworked the full-sized Ford lineup for 1961. The grille was given a concave diamond pattern. It was divided by an oversized chrome light bar that ran horizontally across the centre to quad headlights, located at the outer edges of the fenders. The bumper wore a pronounced lip and wrapped around into the wheel well.  A heavy crease ran from the heavily chromed headlight bezel to disappear neatly into the fender. 

Galaxie and Fairlane 500 models carried the appropriate model designation script between the leading edge of the wheelwell and the headlight chrome. Fords still had fins but they were tastefully trimmed and very sleek. The abbreviated flight appendages appeared in the last third of the front door and quietly whisked back to crown the Big Circle taillights. 
Ford’s Galaxie Club Victoria wore a formal, Thunderbird-inspired roofline.

Rooflines on Galaxies were formal and made note of being Thunderbird like. The faddish Fifties wraparound windshield was gone. Advertising bragged, “No dogleg to knock your knees.”  Lesser Fords carried a slim C-pillar, mated to a modestly wrapped rear window.  More expensive models carried brightwork spears and aluminum inserts. 

From the rear, the huge Big Circle taillights, the ones “that say ‘stop’ with authority,” rose to a fuselage point at mid-centre. A prominent, “grille-textured” diamond-pattern insert panel decked the width of the rear cove on Galaxies. The bumper carried a lip, like that in front, and wrapped around to the side of the body.  The design was noteworthy enough to win a medal from European fashion authority the Centro per L’Alta Moda Italiana. The prestigious award was presented to Ford’s stylists “for function expression of classic beauty.”
This medal was presented by the  Centro per L’Alta Moda Italiana for the 1961 Ford design. 
Interior of the swanky Galaxie Starliner used upscale materials.

Consumers could choose among fourteen different award-winning models. The Galaxie Town Victoria was the four-door hardtop and one could be taken home for $2,845 plus taxes. The Galaxie Club Victoria was the two-door hardtop. There was a Galaxie four-door Town Sedan and for $3,055, a Sunliner convertible.

It is interesting to note that for the first time in years, the words “Tudor” and “Fordor” were not used in advertising.
  Interior of the modest Fairlane was attractive and colour-keyed to a choice of sixteen Diamond-Lustre exterior finishes.

Owners of these swank top-of-the-line beauties were swaddled in “Galaxie luxury” replete with sofa-soft seats tailored in deep-pleated nylon fabrics, trimmed with leather-like vinyls and kissed with colour-keyed, deep-pile, nylon carpeting.  There were plenty of goodies included as standard equipment that were optional cost extras on lesser Fords.
From its double-paneled hood, double-hat roof supports to its vacation-volume trunk, here is the “Finer Inner Ford”.

A pair of Fairlane 500s consisted of a four-door Town Sedan and a Two-door Club Sedan. The former listed for $2,580 and the latter for $2,522.  Four vinyl and nylon cloth upholstery combinations were available, all of them colour-keyed to sixteen exterior colours. Floors were finished in Vinyl-Tex rubber matting. 
 The Fairlane Club Sedan was the least expensive Ford in 1961, listing for $2,522 before freight and taxes.

The base Fairlane series offered the same two models, only in even more modest trim. The four-door sedan’s starting price was $2,450 and the two-door started at $2,392. Three vinyl and nylon cloth upholstery combinations were mated to sixteen exterior colours.  Underfoot was the Sof-Tred Carpet-Textured Rubber Floor, available in black only.
 With a whopping  2.63 cubic metres (93.5 cubic feet) of cargo space, Ford wagons promised “room for a Grey Cup party.”

Rounding out the line was half a dozen station wagons. At the top of the line was a pair of imported--from the USA--posh  Country Squire station wagons with seating for six or nine passengers. They were the most expensive full-sized Fords of all, costing $3,357 and $2,437 respectively.

 A pair of less well appointed, domestically built six or nine-passenger Country Sedans listed for $$2,951 and $3,066. Attention was drawn to the fact that the electrically powered tailgate was standard equipment.  Finally there were the basic two- or four-door Ranch wagons selling for $2,769 and $2,744.
Standard engine for the full-sized Fords in 1961 was the 135-horsepower Mileage Maker Six, promising 24 miles to the Imperial gallon.

Engine choices started with the 3.6-litre (135-horsepower) Mileage Maker Six, which was standard on all of the full-sized Fords. One could upgrade to the 5.4-litre (205-horsepower) Thunderbird 332 Special V-8 or the mighty 6.6-litre (300-horsepower) 390 V-8. All three promised exceptional mileage with regular gasoline, too.
1961 Ford instrument panel was elegantly executed.

The stylish Fords offered basic value but dressing one up with optional equipment was fun. Cruise-O-Matic or Fordomatic transmissions, backup lights, the Console Range Radio, and an electric clock were all popular add-on items.

At the end of the model year, executives in Oakville could breath a little easier. Sales of the full-sized Ford had held its own place in the domestic market. In fact, sales were up every so slightly to 30,791, an increase of 104 units.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2003
All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1950 Vauxhall

 General Motors of Canada began importing Vauxhalls from its British subsidiary in the 1948 selling season. A 1950 model is seen here.

The first Vauxhall appeared on Britain’s streets in 1903. The fledgling automotive company quickly earned accolades  for its racing prowess and that added up to impressive sales. In 1925 the firm was welcomed into the worldwide General Motors family and grew to offer a wide range of popular passenger cars and commercial vehicles to Britain's motoring public. Production came to a screeching halt when World War Two broke out in the fall of 1939.
1939 Vauxhall Ten.

            Targeted by the Luftwaffe, GM’s industrial complex in Luton, England was bombed on August 30th, 1940. 
GM's Luton plant under attack by the Third Reich's Luftwaffe.

The arial attack  damaged the plant extensively, killing 30 employees and inuring another 200. Despite the danger, determined workers toiled around the clock, turning out some 250,000 Bedford army trucks and 5,640 Churchill tanks. Each weapon of death delivered was a nail in the Nazi coffin as Britain  and its Allies beat back the Axis aggressors.
Churchill tanks built by Vauxhall workers.

When Victory in Europe (VE Day) finally came on April 7, 1945, Vauxhall was able to commit once again to building civilian products. The emphasis of all post-war manufacturing in the UK was on exports. The “Dollars for Britain” campaign was absolutely vital as the government needed to earn American money in order to pay back the huge debt incurred during the long, six-year conflict.
1946 Vauxhall Fourteen.

With exports in mind, civilian automobile production resumed at Vauxhall in 1946. At first, warmed over, pre-war Ten, Twelve and Fourteen models rolled out the doors to satisfy the pent-up needs of the domestic market. But the designers in Luton had something pretty hot under wraps in the styling studios and what beauty it would be!
1948 Vauxhall Velox.

The completely new Vauxhall lineup was unveiled to the public in 1948. Earmarked for world export, the modest Wyvern and the luxurious Velox shared a pert 2 484-millimetre (97.8-inch) wheelbase and featured frameless construction.  Overall length for the pretty pair was a tidy 4 178 millimetres (164.5) inches. The look was described as “ample”. No one doubted that the envelope was strikingly modern. Advertising boasted that the styling “set new standards in elegance of design, character of performance and economy of operation.”
Britain’s Vauxhall was backed by the considerable resources of GM Canada.

Floating effortlessly above a no-nonsense chrome bumper, five substantial and gently Vee-d, horizontal chrome ribs made up the grille. The Vauxhall name was spelled out on a chrome hood lip, above which rode the mighty Vauxhall emblem. A chromium ribbon rose upward from the emblem to meet the rocket-like hood ornament, crowning the alligator-style hood. Integrated into the deeply valanced fenders, single, sealed beam headlights wore chrome bezels. Small, circular turn signals were located directly underneath. The single-piece windshield was laminated for safety.

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From the side, front and rear fenders were gently rounded and finished off with straight sides. The body envelope was gracefully slab-sided as well. A chrome spear accented the full length of the hood. The front doors opened suicide style while the rear doors were hinged at the centre post in the conventional manner. Running boards had disappeared.

Pulling up behind a Vauxhall on the road, one noted that the rear fenders tapered tastefully into the trunk. A discrete Vauxhall “Four” or “Six” badge was affixed to the mid-section of the deck lid. The T-shaped trunk handle was positioned lower down, just above a deep recess intended for the license plate. The large indent was flanked by inboard tail lamps.
The Velox was Vauxhall’s most expensive model, listing for $1,825. It boasted a six-cylinder power plant.

Some 31,000 British vehicles were imported in 1949 and 77,600 in 1950. Austin and Triumph enjoyed brisk sales. The new kid from Britain’s shore to Canada’s fair domain was the Vauxhall. GM launched a massive advertising awareness campaign in order to familiarize Canadian consumers with  “Britain’s Finest Famous Low-Priced Car.” Publicity ensured that everyone knew Vauxhall was a genuine GM product, that it was available at Pontiac-Buick dealers and that it was  properly "Canadianized".

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Canadianization of Vauxhalls translated into  12-volt electrical systems,  a robust heater-defroster unit and electric wipers as standard equipment. A three-speed, synchromesh, manual transmission --operated by a lever mounted on the steering column--appealed to our driving habits, while our British cousins preferred floor-mounted four-speed manual transmissions.
 Fitted with left-hand drive for the Canadian market, Vauxhall boasted a full set of gauges on its instrument panel.

There was a distinctly European flavour about Vauxhall, even if ours were fitted with left-hand drive.  In typical British fashion,  turn signals operated from a switch mounted in the centre of the steering wheel hub. In keeping with European tradition, a well-equipped toolbox was stashed in the trunk. Should a tire need changing, the socket was located at the mid-section on each side of the body; the Stevenson jack operated with a rachet lever.

While sharing body shells, the fancy Velox boasted a new overhead-valve, six-cylinder engine under the hood. The top end of the speedometer was marked 70 (miles) and the 2.5-litre (54.75-horsepower) mill promised top speeds of 120 kilometres (75 miles--ancient Canadian units of distance) per hour. Velox sported cream-coloured wheels, making it dead easy to distinguish from Wyvern at a glance.
 Wyvern was the lower priced Vauxhall. The four-cylinder model sold for $1,663.

Velox was further distinguished from Wyvern with the use of genuine leather upholstery and incorporated a large, fold-down centre arm rest in the back seat and arm slings (passenger assists) for convenience and comfort. The cabin was large enough to carry “four burly passengers in comfort with room to shift their positions.”

Advertising bragged: “Traditional British craftsmanship shows in every detail of this sleek sedan,” and so it did. Small but not cheap, Vauxhall’s flagship listed for $1,825. On the same showroom floor, domestically built Pontiacs ranged in price from $1,803 to $2,083. 

1950 Pontiac.

Vauxhall was a very welcome addition to the twinned Pontiac and McLaughlin-Buick dealerships in 1950; there were no McLaughlin-Buicks at all.  The prestigious automobile long favoured by the royal family and prime ministers  was missing from GM Canada's lineup. Oshawa didn’t resume building the luxury marque immediately after World War Two at the request of the Federal Government and curtailed their importation from the US until our own substantial wartime balance of payment deficit was squared away with Washington. 
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada in 1939. They ride in a new McLaughlin-Buick limousine built especially for them.

Powered by a durable 1.5-litre (35-horsepower), four-cylinder engine, the 970-kilo (2,140-pound) Wyvern was capable of zipping along at a comfortable 100 kilometres (60 miles) per hour. Passengers in the Wyvern had no leather on their “tension-sprung” seats; they rode on practical Bedford Cord. Its wheels were painted to match the body. The lower-priced stable mate cost $1,663.

There were few options for Vauxhall, though a radio and fog lamp were available.

Billed as delivering “outstanding performance with excellent economy,” a driver could expect to squeeze 560 kilometres (350 miles) out of the Wyvern and 450 kilometres (280 miles) out of the Velox before pulling into a Golden Eagle, White Rose, B/A or Husky station to fill up the 45- litre (10-Imperial gallon) gas tank.

The rugged little Vauxhalls did well in 1950. Records indicate that 1,508 of the well-groomed, smart sedans were registered to happy owners from St. John’s to Victoria. It was an auspicious beginning for the captive import that would grace domestic Pontiac-Buick dealers’ showrooms for the next twenty-three seasons.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2003 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1976 Datsun

1960 Datsun found only 17 buyers Canada-wide.
By the time the first 17 Datsuns were being registered in this country in 1960, imported automobiles accounted for an unprecedented 26.6 percent of all new car sales throughout the Dominion. Ford brought in its entire range of British products from Dagenham to bolster sagging domestic sales. GM fielded the venerable Vauxhall through Pontiac-Buick dealerships and the clever, badge-engineered Canada-only Envoy appeared  its Chev-Olds dealers. Chrysler Canada on the 'small-is-beautiful' train by offering the chic Simca, "imported from Paris." 

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Drivers from St. John's to Victoria were familiar with the many automotive offerings from Europe. For the most part, European cars were as common as the morning dew. After all, Canadians had made Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Envoy into Top Ten sellers. Still, few, if any, had ever seen a car from Japan.

1961 Datsun.
            After unsatisfying experiences with several independent distributors from 1961 through 1964, the corporation stepped in to handle sales and service. The Nissan Automobile Company (Canada) Limited was established in January 1965 with national headquarters located in Vancouver. Sales were modest; 910 Datsun passenger cars found their way to folks’ garages that model year.


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 Datsun used Vancouver as a backdrop.
Consumers appreciated the high quality of the value-loaded Datsun. Often, they laid eyes on their first Datsun at the neighbourhood Rambler dealer. Datsun was a perfect fit for dealers who sold Canada's compact king. The little cars from Japan fit seamlessly into the compact and even smaller traditional categories that American Motors had abandoned in its quest to match the Big Three automakers on a model-by-model basis.

In four short years, Datsun rocketed out of obscurity to take 14th spot in a field of 69 domestically sold nameplates. It held down fourth place in 1970 and 1971 before knocking out the full-sized Fords to claim the Number Three sales position in 1972.

            Datsun held a Top Ten spot in the hearts and driveways of Canadians until 1975 when it slipped from eighth to twelfth position. While gasoline-starved American consumers were scrambling to buy anything small and economical as after sanctions were imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), buyers in oil-rich Canada drove right past Datsun’s 226 dealers, opting for domestic vehicles that dripped in chrome and were loaded with horsepower. In fact, sales of imports plummeted to 16 percent, the lowest sales figures in more than a decade.
The Datsun 710 was the company’s Canadian flagship. The four-door sedan (foreground) sold for $4,345 and the two-door sedan carried a sticker price of $4.195.

The  most expensive Datsun that money could buy in 1976 was the 280Z, available as a two-seater coupe or a 2+2 coupe. Both were powered by the 2573cc  engine.
            Datsun regrouped for the 1976 model year. The sensual 280-Z was back but it now cost $7,895 and for an extra grand one could buy an extra 24 centimetres (10 inches) of wheelbase and a back seat. Automatic transmission added $350 to the sports car’s price tag.
The Datsun 610 series was not sold in Canada.

            While our neighbours to the south could buy a trio of 2 500-millimetre (98.4-inch) wheelbased 610 models, the 245-milimetre (96.5-inch) wheelbased 710 was the largest Datsun sold in this country. Since it had been introduced to the world market in 1973 there was little new to say about the vehicle, so engineering and quality was emphasized. Squeak-free unibodies, deep strut front suspensions, power assisted brakes were all on the brag list. A two-door hardtop, two-door sedan, four-door sedan and a four-door station wagon made up the family. They ranged in price from $4,195 to $4,795.

Three C-notes on top of those prices saved one from shifting gears manually.

 The best selling Datsuns in 1976 were the B210 series. The two-door sedan listed for $3,670; the four-door sedan was priced at $3,770 and the Hatchback’s sticker price was $3,970.

            The B-210 was in its third year as the company’s bread-and-butter line. It consisted of a stripped, two-door Special sedan, a two-door sedan, a hatchback and a four-door sedan. The base Special was a steal at $3,295. The dressier two-door sedan listed for $3,695. Advertising proclaimed, “Driving them is pure joy.”  Targeted to young couples, young professionals and university students buying their first new car, the pint-sized B-210 offered many niceties  built into the base price that cost extra on other cars.
The Datsun F10 was new for 1976.

            The all-new F10 series debuted. Datsun’s first attempt at front wheel drive vehicle shared its 2100 cc engine with the B-210 but in the smallest Datsun, the mill was transversely mounted. The half-pint series rode on a  2390-millimetre ( 94-inch) wheelbase. It consisted of a two-door sedan, a two-door hatchback and a four-door station wagon, all surprisingly roomy. An automatic transmission was not available in the F10s.

            Finally, a two-door pickup with a 183-centimetre ( six-foot) bed listed for $3,995. The same hauler fitted with a 231-centimetre (seven-foot) bed sold for $4,195. An automatic tranny added $300 to the sticker price. The longer truck could be had with a Deluxe Cab at extra cost.

            It was a turbulent year for Canada, at best. As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, opened the Olympic Summer Games in Montreal. Rene Levesque led the Parti Quebecois to power in Quebec. Pilots and air traffic controllers went on strike over the right to use French in the air. An angry mob of 5,000 farmers swarmed Parliament Hill and threw bottles of milk at Agriculture Minister, Eugene Whelan. MPs abolished the death penalty for all “civilian offenses.” Saskatchewan mulled over expropriating the potash industry. Joe Clark became leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. The T. Eaton Company published its last catalogue—the end of a national tradition begun in 1884.

            It was a turbulent year for Datsun too, as sales continued to slide. The final figure for 1975 had been 31,993 passenger car and truck sales, good enough for 12th place. When the last unit was counted, the 1976 model year tally was 28,676. Of that figure, 24,343 units were automobiles. There was a positive spin, Datsun still held 12th spot in the domestic sales pie. Brighter days were just around the corner; folks in the Vancouver head office had no way of knowing that Nissan sales would rebound sharply in 1977.
The 710 series and the trucks shared Datsun’s 1952cc, four-cylinder, in-line, overhead valve, high cam engine.


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Copyright James C. Mays 2007
 All rights reserved.