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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1974 Chevrolet Nova

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova was the 12th most popular selling car in 1974 with 22,283 units delivered to Canadians during the calendar year.
When General Motors of Canada introduced its rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair for the 1960 season its creators were surprised that it failed to take sales away from the imported Volkswagen Beetle or the even the homegrown Rambler. 

Built in Oshawa, Ontario, the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair was designed to compete directly against the Renault Dauphine and the VW Beetle.

Disappointed division honchos hurried to bring a more conventional car to market. The Nova name first appeared in Chevrolet lineup in 1962 as the name of the top-of-the-line model in the new senior compact series Chevrolet Chevy II. For good measure, Pontiac-Buick dealers were given a Canada-only badge engineered Acadian that shared the new Chevy II body.

The 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II was introduced to make sure GM had a popular domestic nameplate in the compact segment of the market.

By the 1968 model year all Chevy IIs carried the Nova name and a year later the Chevy II emblem was retired altogether. The car was not particularly popular with consumers. With 8,915 sales It ranked 27th in the 1968 calendar year behind GM’s captive import Vauxhall, well behind Plymouth Valiant and GM’s homegrown Beaumont built on the Chevrolet Chevelle body. 

The 1968 Acadian shared its shell with the Nova but was sold through GM Canada's Pontiac-Buick dealer body. Ironically, the Canada-only brand was built in Willow Run, Michigan.
Nova sales rose to 12,289 units delivered in 1969 to give it the 22nd spot. Because of AutoPact, GM Canada dropped the popular Beaumont at the end of the 1969 selling season and that, in part, helped Nova to capture 18th spot in 1970, even though actual sales were off to 12,064 units.

The 1971 Chevrolet Vega turned heads and stole sales from the Nova.
In 1971 the GM spotlight shone brightly on the new Chevrolet Vega. No doubt that helped to steal sales from the compact Nova, which finished in 25th place with 10,925 units. There is no question that compact cars were popular; sales figures show that Nova didn’t share in that popularity. The public bypassed the bowtie for Toyota, the second best selling car in the country, Datsun skidded into the lot at Number Four and Volkswagen parked at the Number Five spot. The Plymouth Valiant took 7th and its Dodge Dart kin held the Number Nine spot. 

The 1972 Toyota family.
The figures for 1972 place Nova at 18,727 units, moving it up to the 16th place. It was still a small car world for Canadians. That year Toyota stole the Number One spot from the full-sized Chevrolet. Datsun moved into the Number Three position, the Plymouth Valiant took the five spot and VW landed in the sixth spot. Inching upward to the 15th spot in 1973, the Nova reached 22,493 units. 

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova Custom four-door sedan weighed in at 1529 kilos (3,371 pounds) with the 5.7-litre (350 cubic-inch) V-8 engine.
Virtually unchanged for 1974, Nova returned for its 13th season. That sameness was the Chev’s virtue this year. Advertising was blunt. “Experience is the best teacher. And if you know your Novas, you know we’ve been building essentially the same car since 1968. We think we’ve got it down pat.”

The most trouble free car in its class, there was little to add. “This year we’ve given nova an improved bumper system, front and rear, to help cushion minor impacts. There are some new colours, new carpets new trim. And for the first time ever, you can order steel-belted radial ply tires for your new Nova.” 

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Nova was powered by the Turbo-Thrift 4-litre (250 cubic-inch) six-cylinder mill. It generated 100 horsepower and was mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Turbo Hydramatic transmission was optional. The Turbo-Fire 5.7-litre (350 cubic-inch) V-8 with a two-barrel carb gave the driver 145 horses while the four-barrel version cranked that right up to 160 horsepower.

Nova Customs came with “a touch of sportiness.” There were black impact strips on front and rear bumpers, deep cut-pile carpeting and extra insulation. Special nameplates let one know you had paid extra for the fancy stuff. There was a four-door sedan and a hatchback coupe, with .77 cubic metres (27.3 cubic feet) of space on a nice flat, carpeted floor.

The 1974 Chevrolet Nova SS was a mean little pocket rocket.
The Custom SS stood apart with a blacked out grille with bold SS badges throughout, some serious striping fore and aft, rally wheels, special centre caps and bright lug nuts. The car came with beefy suspension, a remote control mirror on the driver’s side and an ordinary on the passenger side.

Interior of the 1974 Chevrolet Nova could be upgraded with bucket seats and a centre console.

Cabins were dressed up in black or blue cloth and vinyl upholstery or black or neutral all-vinyl upholstery. Of course there were cloth and vinyl combos in black with trim or green with black trim. Strato-Bucket seats could be ordered in black and white sport cloth for the coupes and hatchbacks. For those who preferred, black, green or neutral vinyl covering was available. The bucket seats were a natural with the extra cost sporty centre console.
 Like Nova itself, the instrument panel was the epitome of good taste and ergonomics.

One was hard pressed to tell the difference between the Standard Nova and the Custom. There were fewer trim extras and upholstery choices were less fancy. The base Nova was no nonsense, for sure.

An Interior D├ęcor/Quiet Sound Group added lights and insulation. A new feature was the seat and shoulder belt that was interlocked with the ignition. The car would not start unless buckled. Drivers hated the feature.

Colours offered were Antique White, Bright Blue Metallic, midnight Blue Metallic, Aqua Bleu Metallic, Lime Yellow, Bright Green Metallic, medium Dark Green metallic, cream Beige, Bright Yellow, Light Gold Metallic, sandstone, Golden Brown Metallic, Bronze Metallic, Silver Metallic, medium Red Metallic and Medium Red. Now, one could order two-tone variants with Antique White over Midnight Blue Metallic, Aqua Blue metallic, medium dark Green metallic, Light Gold Metallic, Bronze Metallic and Medium Red Metallic.

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Nova might not have been the most flashy car on the Number One Highway but the list of options was as long as the drive from Moose Jaw to Winnipeg. Well, it seems like that. Chev wasn’t shy to shovel out the extra-cost goodies. 

One of the most unusual options available for the 1974 Chevrolet Nova was this Hatchback Hutch for camping.
There were vinyl roof treatments in ten different colours. Soft-Ray tinted windows and Four-Season air conditioning made for a more comfortable ride. The ComforTilt Steering Wheel with six-way adjustment, power disc or drum brakes, an AM or AM/FM push button radio and power steering made driving more pleasant. The Turbo Hydra-matic transmission eliminated shifting. There was Positraction, a forced-air rear window defogger, electric clock, power mirrors, sport mirrors, deluxe seat and shoulder belts. One could dress up the car with wheel trim rings. More room could be had in the trunk with a Space-Saver spare. For cold weather and hauling needs, there was the heavy-duty battery and rad. A trailer hitch, trailer wiring harness and trailer mirrors were useful, too.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2006
All rights reserved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

1970 Volvo

The rear of a 1970 Volvo 145 was carpeted and offered up 70 cubic feet of cargo space..

If there was ever a European passenger car ideally suited to our harsh climatic conditions, it would have to be Volvo. Unlike automobiles that can trace their origins back to carriage makers or bicycle manufacturers, the Swedish auto draws its heritage from a ball bearing company. 

The automobile was first thought of in 1924 but it took three years for engineers to get everything to be like baby bear's porridge-- “just right.” Volvo bowed to the public in 1927, its name being Latin for “I roll” or “I turn.” Volvo was a solid product and satisfied the Swedish and Scandinavian markets. 

Because Sweden was neutral during World War Two, Volvo built passenger cars throughout the war years—though the vehicles did run on steam and carry their own boilers. Volvo first appeared on our shores in 1959. By 1961 the sturdy little cars were finding 2,000 owners or so a year throughout the Dominion. 
The 1961 Volvo 120.

When it came time to expand, Volvo chose Canada for its first new home outside of Sweden. The company’s requirements were complex. A factory needed to be on a deep-water port for easy and quick delivery of parts from Sweden as well as the possibility of shipping completed cars to other countries. The site needed excellent road and rail links to the rest of Canada.  
The 1965 Volvo Canadian.

After careful study, a 1.6-hectare site in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia was chosen. A building stood on the shoreline property already; a previous factory had refined sugar. The deal for the property was signed with Atlantic Estates Limited in 1963 and records show that Volvos began rolling (yes, the pun is intended) out the doors in September 1964. The first products were the P120, P130 and the P220 models. These were known throughout much of the world as the Amazon. Here at home they were called Canadian.   The domestic production tally was 1,139 units for the 1964 model year. 

The Volvo is seen in its natural habitat: snow and cold.

The Canadian was rugged and owners loved them. Domestic model year output for 1965 was 2,870 units. A year later workers assembled 3,458 units in Dartmouth and topped that figure in 1967 with 3,993 units produced. 

The 1968 Volvo 140 series appealed to practical Canadians.

As more and more Canadians discovered Volvo, domestic 1968 model year production reached 4,760 units. It didn’t hurt any that Volvo introduced an updated series of automobiles, either. After five years of increased production, the number of Volvo passenger cars built during the 1969 model year dropped to 3,030 units. 

1970 was the last year for the Volvo Amazon.

The dependable 140 series was returned for the third year and was virtually unchanged for the 1970 season. The unit-body was solid with more than 8,000 weld points. One could stack ten Volvos on top of each other and they would hold their own weight. When cars did fall into the ocean while being loaded, Volvo turned the disaster into a publicity stunt by doing exactly that. 

 As a firm believer in improvement only for the sake of improvement, there was nothing for Volvo to do but build more cars. There was so little to talk about that the corporate headline was, “This year it has two new colours.”  Advertising also boasted that nine out of ten Volvos registered in Canada since 1959 were still registered and running the roads.

The Volvo 140 series definitely did not follow the fashion dictates of the time—a long hood and short rear deck—making the car from Sweden stand out in any parking lot.

Volvo made use of three-digit numbers to identify models. The “4” stood for four-cylinders and the final digit told how many doors the vehicle had. Hence, 142 was the designation for the two-door sedan, 144 was the no-nonsense moniker for the four-door sedan and 145 was given to the station wagon. 

Volvo was a lot of car for just a little more money. Each came with four-wheel, power-assisted disc brakes. A new requirement for the rest of the industry, Volvo boasted a steering lock and had used one for years. Most impressive was an odometer that ran right up to 999,000 miles (ancient Canadian units of measure) or 1.6 million kilometres. The company’s advertising boasted the million-mile odometer showed, “we have confidence.” 
The 1970 Volvo 142 weighed in at 1 161 kilos (2.560 pounds) and had a 1 348-millimetre (53.1-inch) 1 161 track, front and rear.  It could be had for $3,888 or $85 a month in car payments.

Under the hood of all the cars in the 140 series was Volvo’s powerful 2-litre, 118-horsepower four-cylinder, five-main bearing engine judged to be “unbreakable.”   A four-speed, manual floor shift was the norm but half of all orders were for the extra-cost automatic transmission. 

Interiors were surprisingly large and comfortable. One could actually fit three passengers in the rear seat. The upholstery was a “miracle fabric we call ‘cloth’. Not cotton or wool but a tightly woven synthetic. It breathes.” Front seats boasted a lumbar control for additional back comfort. 

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There was a list of optional equipment but it was about as small as Prince Edward Island. Extra-cost goodies included air conditioning, an AM or AM/FM radio and a stereo tape player. One could also order a roof rack or a ski rack and a limited slip differential. A fitted spare gas can was a nice touch. There were bumper over-riders, a trim package and a discrete variety of other equipment “designed to tailor make a Volvo to your individual requirements.” 

The 145 promised that it was different from others of its ilk. “Most station wagons are either of two things, a car that rides like a truck when it’s full or a car that rides like a truck when it’s empty.” Volvo pledged to be a station wagon that did not have the disadvantages of a station wagon.  With 70 cubic feet of room in the cargo area, the Volvo wagon was every bit as luxurious and comfortable to ride in as a Volvo sedan.  Further, Volvo offered an electric rear window wiper and an electric washer on the back window as standard equipment. Ad copy said, “Never seen one before? If you’ve owned a wagon, you’ve often wished you had!” The idea was not new, Nash had offered a rear window wiper on passenger cars in 1950 but the convenience was greatly appreciated. In keeping with owners’ desires Volvo’s electric rear window defogger was moved from the accessories list to standard equipment, too.  

The posh top-of-the-line Volvo 164 series rounded out the marque.

The 1970 model year production hit an all-time high of 7,730 units. Though no one knew it at the time, workers at the Volvo plant in Dartmouth would come within a cod fish kiss of cracking the 10,000 mark in 1971. 

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James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

1971-1972 Ford Cortina

The 1971 Ford Cortina GT carried a special Canada-only blackout grille, styled steel wheels and special bucket seats with headrests moulded into the seat backs.
Ford dealers throughout the Dominion began selling the British Ford Model Y in 1933. Sales were modest--only eight were delivered that year-- but they continued to grow. The cars were small, sturdy and thrifty; just what the doctor ordered.
The 1933 Ford Model Y.

During World War Two production was suspended as workers churned out war materiel but with victory in 1945 came a return to civilian manufacturing and the Ford factories at Dagenham, England began to hum to the happy sound of automobile assembly.

Canadian owners were delighted to have their little British Fords again. They could have their cake and eat it, too. Owners could be brand loyal, drive a new car, save big bucks and take advantage of the vast resources behind the global Ford organization. 

The deal was good for Ford, too. Canada was a self-governing dominion within the British Empire and enjoyed the special tax status afforded to member nations and colonies. The empire gave way to the new British Commonwealth in 1948 and automobiles were an important part of inter-commonwealth trade.

After the war, Ford execs reorganized the dealer body. Ford-Monarch dealerships and Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealerships created a much larger corporate presence across the nation. British Fords were sold by both.

1950 Ford Anglia and Prefect advertising for the US market. Note the word 'English'  is used. In Canada, the cars were billed as 'British' built.
It is interesting to note that advertising was careful to refer to them as British Fords or British-built. Our American neighbours bought English Fords but that would never have worked here. The English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish have highly distinctive cultural heritages and would have taken umbrage at insensitive publicity that referred to an 'English' Ford.
1963 Ford Cortina.

The Ford Cortina bowed in 1963. It was immediately popular. Britian's Number One seller quickly became Canada's Number One import. Folks from St. John's to Victoria practically lined up to buy the little darlings from Dagenham. In 1970 British Fords were withdrawn from the US market but the love affair with them continued in the land of the maple leaf as 10,936 units were sold.

 Sales of British Fords fell to 6,889 units in calendar year 1971. All were 1970 models. The tally would have been much better but for a bitter strike in England.

Not a single 1971 Ford Cortina was sold in Canada. Executives in Oakville finally were able to send out a press release: "The all-new 1972 Cortina will be introduced at selected Ford and Mercury dealerships on the west and east coast August 6 and in the rest of Canada August 20. Model availability includes the L-series two-door, four-door, station wagon and GT two-door. All have new design more interior space, improved ride and handling power disc brakes and 2000-cc engine with four speed manual transmission as standard equipment."

The Cortina borrowed styling cues from its Mustang cousin.

Early advertising in domestic magazines showcased the car the the "L" and "XL" trim packages, though no "XL" models ever arrived in Canada. Folks who took home the racy GT bought a car with a unique-to-Canada grille that stood out like a pair of red mitts in a snow bank. They were easily distinguished from the crowd of British, South African, Australian and other export Cortina GTs.

Changes were thoughtful. The wheelbase grew from 2 489 millimetres (98 inches) to 2 578 millimetres (101.5 inches), though the overall length stood pat at 4 442 millimetres (174.9 inches). The Cortina was widened. Its front track was stretched 3.5 inches to measure 56 inches.

Oddly enough, the old 1600-cc Kent engine was available as option in Canadian Cortinas for a few months in late 1971. Cortinas built for the UK market also got the 1600-cc engine.

The 1971 Maverick was Ford of Canada's domestically-built compact entry.

The Cortina now competed with compact Ford Mavericks and Mercury Comets sourced from Ford's plant in St. Thomas, Ontario. The even smaller and adorable pint-sized Pinto bowed at Ford dealerships. The sophisticated Cortina did not suffer in the least from the in-house competation. Sales hit 12,135 units for the 1972 calendar year.

When the tastefully facelifted 1974 Cortina made its world debut in the fall of 1973 it was absent from Canada. The company's annual report told stockholders that Cortina could no longer meet the stringent requirements adopted by the Ministry of Transport. It further pointed out that the wild currency fluctations of the pound sterling made the importation of the Cortina impractical.

The 1974 Mercury Bobcat was strictly for the Canadian market. Americans would get the pint-sized Merc in 1975.

Those Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers who had sold and serviced the Cortina were given the Canada-only badge-engineered Merclury Bobcat on November 30, 1973. Sales of the "little critter who was Mercury's new "pick of the litter" were brisk but came nowhere close to the deleted Ford Cortina.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2003
All rights reserved.