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Monday, April 30, 2012

1956 Nash

  Imported from the United States, the 1956 Nash Ambassador Country Club hardtop cost $4,220 f.o.b. Toronto, making it the most expensive Nash Canadians could buy.
Top brass at Nash Motors of Canada, Limited had a great deal to worry about as the 1956 sales season opened. Production in the Toronto factory and sales nationwide had been dismal in 1955. Although American Motors had been officially chartered in the United States since May of 1954, the corporate marriage had not yet taken effect in Canada. In 1954 Hudson's production facilities in Tilbury, Ontario had been closed and moved to Danforth Avenue in Toronto where it shared assembly lines with Nash-- the two grand marques were still operating as separate corporate entities pending legal hurdles that would allow them to amalgamate. 

The bright, shining star at American Motors Canada, Limited was the compact Rambler. The least expensive model in 1956 was the Deluxe sedan, selling for $2,447.

While the compact Nash Rambler was larger and new from the ground up, the senior Nash lines were on the second year of their styling cycle. The envelope was freshened up. Stylists referred to this as “perfuming the pig.” Headlights were still inboard but the fender-mounted parking lights and turn signals were now circular, set in a huge, ersatz air intakes. 

Brightwork was tastefully rearranged on the sides for a new look, dubbed Speedline Styling. The design lent it self nicely to two- and three-tone paint jobs. At the rear, enormous oval tail lamps were ensconced in a chrome pod that ran to the base of the fender and also housed elongated backup lights. These lights were particularly distinctive when set off with the Continental Rear Tire Mount.
The 1956 Nash Ambassador Super four-door sedan sold for $3,350 f.o.b. and weighed 1 612.5 kilos (3,555 pounds).
Posh Nash Ambassadors were imported from AM’s factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as were the Statesman hardtops. Statesman Deluxe Sedans were what rolled out the factory doors when production got under way in November of 1955 at the Toronto plant. Whether sourced from Toronto or Kenosha, the entire senior Nash cars were billed as the “Finest Travel Cars of our Time.”

For a few extra dollars, power for one’s Nash Ambassador was supplied by the Jetfire V-8 with its horsepower rating of 220. The engine was sourced from Packard.
The blazing 220-horsepower Jetfire V-8 powered the package. Advertising wasn’t shy to boast, “There’s silence so hushed the tick of the clock seems loud. There’s just one smooth surge of furious acceleration from the first touch of the throttle” and “Feel the lightening lunge of its getaway as it plasters you against the back seat.” 

The Statesman’s base power plant was the Nash-designed overhead-valve, tweaked to 130-horsepower in 1956.
Of course, the 135-horsepower Super Jetfire 6 was available as was the legendary 145-horsepower Le Mans Dual Jetfire mill that had set a record at the Grand Prix in Le Mans, France. Electrics were supplied by a new 12-volt system that provided significantly higher generator output, designed to meet the demands of lights, radio and air conditioning.

While a three-speed synchromesh manual transmission was standard equipment, the Twin Ultramatic self-shifter was an extra-cost option. Advertising called it the finest of all the automatic transmissions on the market. “You get split-second action—from standstill to 60 in seconds.” 

Instrument panel of the 1956 Nash Rambler was stylish and practical.
The vast cabin of the Ambassador could be appointed with special leather trim covering front- and rear-foam covered seats. The Statesman was given foam only in the front seat and the interior was dressed in a more sober two-tone cloth and vinyl upholstery treatment. Both Ambassador and Statesman carried a vinyl covered rubber crash pad atop the instrument panel.

The four-door hardtop station wagon Nash Rambler was an industry first.
The Nash Rambler was as striking as it was new. Like the senior members of the family, it boasted superior unit-body construction. Its headlights were inboard, at the ends of the Sports-Racer grille. It rode on a 2 743-millimetre (108-inch) wheelbase, making it considerably more compact than the Statesman. Styling touches included a highly attractive ‘basket handle’ sweep up the body, over the roofline. The headlines fairly shouted that the Nash Rambler was “Canada’s most miles-a-gallon car” and predicted that from Newfoundland to British Columbia, Canadians would “make the smart switch for ’56!”

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Only the Nash Rambler Deluxe sedan was built in Toronto. The sedan, the four-door hardtop and the Cross-Country station wagon in the Rambler Custom family were imported from the United States. There were no two-door models among the 1956 Nash Rambler offerings.

The 1956 Nash Rambler Custom four-door sedan.
President Richard T. Purdy talked to the press about this year’s larger compact. “The Rambler was designed to meet the special needs and tastes of the Canadian market. We have turned out a car that is bigger on the inside and smaller on the outside—we believe there is a substantial group of the buying public interested in this compact car and these are the buyers we are out to win.”

The sole convertible Nash in 1956 was the Metropolitan. Imported from the UK, it topped the scales at  809 kilos (1,785 pounds).
Joining the Nash family for its third year was the miniscule Metropolitan from Britain. Manufactured to Nash specifications by Austin in Longbridge, England, the jaunty ragtop sold for $1,681 and the sophisticated little hardtop listed for $1,652. 

Both Mets wore bright cheery colours, rode on a 2 159-millimetre (85-inch) wheelbase and zipped down the road courtesy of a four-cylinder, 42-horsepower Austin engine. The first generation Met gave way to an updated 1500 model in April 1956. The new Met wore striking two-tone dress and boasted a tweaked 52-horsepower mill. Canadians snapped up 1,423 of the tiny Metropolitans during the calendar year.

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Owners could hang almost as much optional equipment on their cars as Monarch butterflies could flock to Pelee Island. With the exception of the Metropolitan, one could make one’s Nash more natty with power steering power brakes, Power-Lift Windows, the fabled Weather-Eye Heating and Ventilating System or the breakthrough All-Season Air Conditioning.

Optional Airliner Reclining Seats and Twin Travel Beds that turned every 1956 Nash and Hudson into a roadside Hilton.
 Airliner Reclining Seats and Twin Travel Beds, the Twin-Ultramatic Drive or Dual-Range Hydramatic transmissions, Automatic Overdrive, an oil filter, an oil bath air cleaner, an electric clock, the Continental Spare Tire, the Twin Speaker Duo-Coustic Radio, white sidewall tubeless tires, 6-ply tires, Solex glass, seat belts, the hood ornament and Back-O-Matic lights, to name but a few.

Selling for $3,218, the Nash Statesman Deluxe was built by workers in Toronto. Records show that 639 were built during the 1956 model year.
The legal incorporation of American Motors Canada, Limited finally came into effect in January of 1956. An intense drive was promptly undertaken to beef up the dealer body. By the end of the model year, the number of dealerships Canada-wide had increased by nearly 50 percent.

Those officials who had worried so much at the start of the season now had plenty to crow about at its end. Sales were up by 116 percent for Rambler alone and total Nash and Hudson production had reached 3.68 percent of the domestic industry total—a huge increase from a paltry .85 percent the previous year. A total of 5,585 units were built in Toronto, a record. When they popped open the bubbly, no one in the head office had the slightest idea that 1957 would be the last year for the respected Nash name or that the company’s fortunes were about to soar as high into the stratosphere as the Avro Arrow.

From 1917 to 1957 Nash represented the best of independent automotive engineering and styling.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

1984 Dodge Caravan & Plymouth Voyageur

Chrysler had a huge hit on its hands when it introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyageur minivans in the fall of 1983.

When Chrysler execs made the momentous decision to develop a “garageable van” in 1980 and market it to families they were pretty much standing on the beach, shooting at submarines in the dark of night. Not a one of them had any idea how well the idea would be received by the public. This was uncharted territory. When the plan was unveiled to Chrysler Canada workers in Windsor, they were highly skeptical. 

Three generations of Volkswagen buses are seen here, the 1980 version in the foreground.
Volkswagen had a vaguely similar product on the market and while the VW Type 2 was well known to North American consumers, it was a marginal seller at best.

No sooner did the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyageur hit the market than designers fueled the fires of desire with a Plymouth Voyageur Concept Vehicle.
Chrysler Canada president Moe Closs braved a very cold, blustery day in March of 1982 to break ground for a new paint shop so that the old factory could be gutted, renovated and consecrated solely to the manufacture of this new vehicle. The last of the rear-wheel drive passenger cars was built on June 10, 1983 while crews ripped up the line behind it. Industry insiders openly taunted Chrysler saying the conversion could not be completed in 16 weeks. The soothsayers were dead wrong. The 304 800-square metre (1-million square foot) building sparkled on time and there were 24,000 cubic metres of scrap steel to be hauled away to prove the point.

The very first Dodge Caravan leaves the line in Windsor, Ontario on November 2, 1983.

Whether one called it the T-115, the Magic Wagon, the Dodge Ram Van, the Plymouth Voyageur or Dodge Caravan, the newest Chrysler baby was born on November 2, 1983. It was ingenious in design. 
The T-115 had enough seats for a private Grey Cup party.

Absolutely cavernous inside and blessed with an exceptionally tight overhang, these beauties were easily manoeuverable. The step-in point was low, to the delight of women. Despite its truck platform, it didn’t drive or ride like a traditional hauler. A T-115 was small enough to fit in virtually any existing garage. Because it made use of front-wheel drive, the floor was completely flat.

Weaning customers from the traditional station wagon was a bold gamble but designers and engineers had created a package so delectable that it would practically sell itself. That was a good thing because the price tag for creating the T-115 was a very cool $700 million. The boys at Chrysler didn’t have to sit on pins and needles for long. Press reviews were highly favourable and so was the reaction from the public.
The 1984 Dodge Ram Van.
Sales were so hot a second shift was required almost immediately. A breakdown of sales revealed that an astonishing 67 percent of new Magic Van buyers in Canada traded in a competitor’s brand. Tom Pappert was Chrysler Canada’s VP of Sales. “This is the highest conquest sales rate ever reported for a Chrysler-built vehicle,” he bragged proudly. He also told the press that 23 percent of the people who came to look at the T-115s had never been in a Dodge or Plymouth dealership before. He could also share that the buyers were “younger, in a higher income bracket, better educated and more often married than in previous years.” This translated into a sweet symphony of cash for the company’s coffers.

The 1984 Dodge Caravan was given clean but distinctive lines.

A letter to Lee Iacocca from a happy Dodge Caravan owner in Georgia tells the tale best. “I am the very proud owner of a new and beautiful Caravan LE. I wanted to thank you for designing the perfect size van for my lifestyle.”

I am a mother of three small children. At least half of my time is spent behind the wheel of my car. I constantly carpool to two different schools, soccer, ballet and horseback riding lessons. I am also the leader of a Brownie Troop of six girls. For all these activities I can actually seat safely and comfortably all of my children… This is the first American car that I have ever been in love with. The only problem I have with the Caravan is that when I come out of a store people are all over it (which I love).”
Instrument panel was carefully planned. Dials were large with white numbers-on-black.

I truly wish to thank you for remembering the needs of my family and so many others. Please thank your employees in Windsor for doing such a fine job.”

Piloting the futuristic Plymouth Voyageur would be state-of-the-art as a live satellite feed would present road maps and information to the driver.

Not content to rest on its laurels, designers were immediately put to work to develop a Voyageur for the future. It bristled with innovations including a massive centre console in between the rear seats housing a television monitor that could be used as a personal computer, watching videos or playing video games. Overhead storage bins kept things neat and tidy while travelling. The front passenger’s seat swiveled around into a club car configuration for easy chatting with rear-seat passengers. A Modular Tailgate Convenience Package provided a trio of flip-up grocery bag holders or a picnic “shelf” complete with ice chest, wet sink, cutting board, cutlery storage and a paper towel dispenser. Another storage bin held a dust buster and an electric shaver along with DC outlets for electrical convenience. 

Clever airplane-type overhead bins keep clutter and fuss to a minimum in the Plymouth Voyageur Concept Vehicle.

The Voyageur was fitted with a satellite navigation map unit built directly into the instrument panel. To gild the lily, the concept vehicle was decorated with soft leathers, natural fabrics and warm domestic carpeting to “speak quietly of home comforts” as one travelled in the Voyageur of the future on tomorrow’s roads.

The Plymouth Voyageur Concept Vehicle included a Picnic Package with ice chest, a wet sink and places for cutlery and paper towels.

With or without the Plymouth Voyageur Concept vehicle to spur the imagination, Chrysler had a huge hit on its hands and would continue to be an innovative market segment pioneer and sales leader for the next two decades and beyond.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

1934 Ford

A bold new grille identifies this as a 1934 Ford. The Windsor, Ontario-based manufacturer will sell 14,442 of Ford passenger cars throughout the Dominion of Canada in 1934.

The Great Depression began in 1929 and seemed to have a monstrous hunger of its own. The economic downturn had taken an enormous toll on every sector of the world's economy. Especially hard hit were the automakers. Small ones simply collapsed and even the giants feared for their futures. Only Nash and GM were safe and that was because of their deep pockets.

Folks in charge at Ford of Canada had watched helplessly as sales slid from 41,399 units in 1929 to a paltry 16,565 units delivered in 1931. Sales were off another 5,000 units in 1932 when the tally reached only 11,447 units. It didn’t appear that things could possibly get worse but the final 1933 sales figure was only 9,177 Ford passenger car units delivered throughout the Dominion. Sales of seven imported Lincolns and ten British Fords did little to pump up the bottom line.

The magnificent 1934 Lincoln found only seven homes in the Dominion this year.
Bleak sales figures trickling into the company offices in Windsor, Ontario only served to underscore the horrors of daily life throughout the country. On the Prairies, dust storms so fierce that they blackened the skies for hours at a time, dumped tonnes of silt on everything in their paths. There were no crops; millions starved. There was no market for fish. From Cape Breton to Vancouver Island, tens of thousands of hungry, homeless men wandered the countryside in hopes of work. They looked until they were broken. In Newfoundland, unemployed men were rounded up and marched 16 kilometres to work and back and paid only six cents for the day under a government scheme that was much hated.
This 1934 Ford Deluxe Fordor Sedan listed for $625 f.o.b. Windsor, Ontario. All Fords featured safety glass.
Surprisingly there was much innovation by the automakers during these troubled times. The introduction of the V-8 engine in 1932 had been an important coup for Ford. It gave the company a significant edge on competitors who produced six-cylinder products. Ford wisely tested the waters by continuing to sell the four-cylinder Model B alongside the V-8 that year and they did the same in 1933 as well. The Model B became redundant in 1933 when Ford of Canada began to import the thoroughly modern little Model Y from its factory in Dagenham, England. This year, the domestically sourced four-banger was dropped, its place neatly filled with small, duty-free Fords from the UK.

Ford introduced the Model Y for the European market in 1931. The little car with the 933-cc engine would find buyers in Canada, too.
Changes to the domestically produced Ford envelope were very minor for 1934. Nonetheless, ad copy waxed enthusiastic about the Ford’s new lines. Champagne was broken out for each modification. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, considering the hard times, so it is sufficient to say that a glass was raised to the new Ford. Changes consisted primarily of fewer bars in the grille and the radiator shell was flattened somewhat. Headlight surrounds were flatter. Hubcaps carried painted V-8 emblems rather than chrome embossing. Hood louvres were straightened; they had been curved previously. Though one almost needed a magnifying glass to tell the difference, it didn’t stop advertising from bragging a little. “It was a great car in 1933. A still better car in 1934.”

Salesmen were trained to steer “the woman motorist” toward the 1934 Ford V-8 Three-Window Coupe because of the car’s unusual grace and style.

The classy engine-turned panels used on the dash were replaced with paint and wordsmiths drew attention to the new interiors, deeper seat cushions, stronger seat springs, new tufted upholstery choices and the clear-vision ventilation system. This clever system permitted increased air intake by use of a new window winder that moved the glass rearward, this allowing a draft to permeate the cabin. It was pointed out that fresh air could also be drawn from the cowl vent and that could be supplemented by opening up the windshield to let in more of a breeze. 

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The virtues of the 2 844-millimetre (112-inch) wheelbased model were sung. “A longer wheelbase is not always more passenger room. The V-8 type engine takes less space, leaves more inside body room. It is not the length of the wheelbase that counts, but the available passenger space.” No item was too small to praise in the dark days of 1934; even something as mundane as the new garnish mouldings and the new cove headliner was front and centre in the headlines.

Mechanically the 3.6-litre (221-cubic inch) mill was fitted with a new air filter and better breathing resulted from installation of a dual carburetor and dual intake manifold. These changes meant that cold weather starting was much improved. Under the hood, all the ballyhoo that could be mustered centred on the increased efficiency and the higher gas mileage. Leaf springs and shock absorbers were tweaked for a more comfortable ride.
1934 Ford Tudor Sedan tipped the scales at 1 232 kilos (2,717 pounds). The Deluxe version weighed nine kilos (20 pounds) more.
Consumers throughout the Dominion could choose a Ford in any of fourteen different body styles in 1934. The less expensive models were designated as Standard and the dressier Fords carried the DeLuxe moniker. The DeLuxe models featured new swivel-type sun visors “adjustable to any angle,’ dome lights, floor carpets, an ashtray and a cigar lighter. Upholstery choices were fine Broadcloth or Mohair in the upscale Fords. Fender colours matched bodies on DeLuxe models and the wheels used harmonizing colours. Folks were invited to “ride in this new Ford V-8 for 1934 and see for yourself what it can do. You will find it the most completely satisfying car you have ever driven—regardless of price. And the most economical, too.”

The economy improved somewhat in 1934. The picture was particularly bright in the agricultural sector where farmers had significant new sales outlets for grain now that the Americans had lifted their 15-year ban on the consumption of alcohol with the repeal of the 33rd Amendment.

The 1934 Ford DeLuxe Roadster V-8 weighed in at 1 116 kilos (2,461 pounds) and rode on a 2 844-millimetre (112-inch) wheelbase.
Sales figures at Ford of Canada reflected that cautious optimism as they rebounded to 14,442 passenger cars delivered domestically in 1934. A total of nine Lincolns and 43 British Fords sold, too. Things were beginning to look a little better in Windsor. Ford of Canada Limited finished the year in the black. Factories in Windsor and assembly in plants throughout the Dominion all showed a profit for the first time since 1930. The net profit was a healthy $1,878,112.91 for the year and if they could have looked into their crystal balls, they would have been excited to learn that 1935 would be even better.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2006
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 16, 2012

1968 Vauxhall

Vauxhall’s Victor was all-new in 1968 and now rode on a longer  2 590-millimetre (102-inch) wheelbase. Front track was nine centimetres,  (three inches) wider than before.
General Motors of Canada Limited began importing the Vauxhall line of cars from its British subsidiary for the 1948 selling season. The sturdy sedans sold well, through Pontiac-Buick dealers. Canadians appreciated the quality construction, the low initial cost and the inexpensive maintenance costs. Because Vauxhall benefited from GM’s vast global resources, getting parts and service was no harder than watching maple leaves fall off the tree during a good October windstorm. When it came time to trade, a used Vauxhall held its value. Consumers approved and sales were good.

Vauxhall was popular with drivers in Newfoundland and Labrador. An RHD 1948 Velox is seen here.
While Ontario was the largest single market for Vauxhall and Quebec its second most popular delivery destination, Vauxhall’s highest market penetration in the 1950s was in Newfoundland and Labrador. Slightly more than 22 percent of all foreign passenger cars registered with the provincial Ministry of Highways and Byways were Vauxhalls. There is an explanation. Newfoundland had been a British colony until March 31, 1949. Folks who bought Vauxhalls prior to Confederation were, of course, making a domestic purchase. They did not pay the high duties applied to vehicles imported from the Dominion of Canada.

Vauxhall was a top-ten seller in Canada in 1958. Victors are shown but the larger Velox and Cresta were also offered.
By 1958 the little cars from Luton, England had become the tenth best-selling passenger cars in the Dominion of Canada, snapping hard at the heels of Buick and staying ahead of British Fords. Sales simply exploded for Vauxhall in 1959 as the Victor, Velox and Cresta models reached 32,419 units delivered. That astonishing sales total pushed it upward to be the fifth most popular car sold in the Dominion, following Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford and Meteor. Vauxhall outsold Volkswagen by a whisker, topping the West German wonder by 358 units in 1959.
The 1960 Envoy was a badge-engineered Vauxhall exclusive to the Canadian market.
Since there could never be too much of a good thing, a Canada-only Vauxhall clone, badged as Envoy, was prepared and offered through Chev-Olds dealers for the1960 selling season. The Envoy and Epic have their own story, though suffice to say that Vauxhall and the instantly popular Envoy alone accounted for 27 percent of all automobiles imported into this country in 1960.
The 1962 Vauxhall line was popular with Quebeckers.

With heat from domestic compacts such as Rambler, Studebaker’s Lark, the Ford Falcon, the Frontenac, the Valiant and Chevrolet’s rear-engined Corvair, Vauxhall sales cooled considerably. By 1963 Vauxhall had slid to the 24th spot, resting between Cadillac and a new domestic entry, Volvo.

The 1963 Volvo Canadian was assembled in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
This year will be the low point for Vauxhall. Sales were off substantially because Parliament, concerned about the vast number of imports and the health of the domestic auto industry, passed a bill in the House of Commons to collect taxes on cars from Britain. Vehicles from the UK and other Commonwealth countries had previously entered Canada free of duty. Taxes or not, the super economical, subcompact Viva was introduced and Vauxhall’s popularity with consumers rose appreciably.

The 1965 Rambler American was assembled in Brampton, Ontario.
With 8,758 sales in 1965, Vauxhall was good for the 23rd spot behind the Rambler American and just a hair’s breadth ahead of Oldsmobile’s compact F-85. Sales tumbled in 1966 as only 6,850 units sold. Vauxhall claimed 34th spot behind GM's Acadian and just ahead of Austin.

The Vauxhall Viva was given a new body style for the 1967 season.
Sales slid again for a third year in a row to 5,789 units in 1967, despite a complete new look for Viva. Vauxhall laid claim to the 35th spot in the domestic sales pie, trailing Mercury Comet but ahead of Renault.

It must have been a late decision to import the beautiful new Victor that appeared on Vauxhall-Pontiac showroom floors for 1968. Advertising was nothing more than a single sheet, colour on the front with black and white print on the flip side. Dated January 1968, it is possible that only few sales were expected from the compact, as Canadians had grown very choosy about their imports. Foreign cars fell into two categories: very small or very fast. The classy Victor was neither, but it was prestigious. Track and Traffic listed the price for the elegant four-door sedan at $2,332 and the four-door Estate Wagon at $2,552.

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Low, clean and refreshing, advertising hailed the updated look as “uncluttered.” A deeply recessed, subtly V-eed, single Venturi grille carried fine horizontal ribs. Recessed, dual headlights flanked the grille. The Vauxhall griffin adorned the centre of the hood, enshrined in a round medallion.

Weighing in at 1 042.7 kilos (2,321 pounds) when it bowed in 1968, Vauxhall’s Victor was cleanly styled. This one, used in early publicity photos, does not carry the new illuminated side markers required by Ottawa that year.
From the side, Victor’s envelope was one of gentle curves, culminating in a classic coke-bottle swell at the rear quarter panel. The long hood, short deck theme was a perfect fit. A strikingly pronounced, straight-line crease gave relief to the body above sharply emphasized wheelwells. The roofline was slim though the C posts were a stylishly raked landau type and pitched sharply into the trunk. Vent windows were eliminated. A formal, squarish rear held long, horizontal taillights, set into the ends of a recessed, rectangular cove in which the word “Vauxhall” was spelled out in sizable chrome letters. The bumper made a stylish accent beneath the cove.

 1 052.7 The four-door station Vauxhall Victor station wagon was sold to Canadians. A RHD model is seen here.
Owners could order the 1600-cc engine with its respectable 83 horsepower under the hood or the hotted up 2000-cc variant of the four-cylinder, overhead cam mill with a mean 120 horsepower rating. With the latter, dubbed as the 474 option, one could also order a three-speed automatic transmission, though an extra-cost, four-speed, floor mounted manual shifter was also available. Victor owners were promised “sedan riding comfort with sports-car-like handling.” To back up that fact, the car sported rack and pinion steering and a computer designed suspension claimed to have eliminated a full 20 percent of pitch and roll. The entire package rode on 6.90x13 four-ply, low-profile tires, mounted on wide rims.

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Advertising skimped on details (how much information can one squeeze onto a single page?) but did promise luxurious interiors that were well appointed. If one ordered bucket seats, they not only got them up front, “bucket-styled” rear seats were fitted into the cabin as well. Other than the new air ducts at the extreme ends, the instrument panel was virtually blank, giving the cabin a very classy look. All the dials and gauges were pulled together in front of the driver in a tight package, capped off under a neat little hood.
Under the hood of subcompact Viva was an 1100-cc (70.7-cubic inch) four banger, generating 56.2 horsepower. Advertising claimed it was smooth, quiet and vibration free.”
In contrast to big brother Victor, Viva was given a full colour fold-out and fold-down catalogue. New last year, the pint-sized, two-door subcompact was adorably chubby on its short, 24330 millimetre (95.8-inch) wheelbase. If the base model didn’t please at $1,900 and the Deluxe model wasn’t quite enough, a swanky SL package was available for the tiny Viva at $2,003. 

The new Viva station wagon’s load dimensions were 152 centimetres (59.9 inches) in length, 83.2 centimetres (33 inches) between wheel arches and had a load height of  79.2 centimetres (31.2 inches). It held .52 cubic metres (18.6 cubic feet) of cargo with the back seat in the upright position.
A new model--an Estate wagon--bowed with a list price of $2,100. The two-door wagon was truly a unique Canada-only creature; it was never offered in any other market, not even in the UK.

A total of 9,357 Vauxhalls sold in 1968, giving it 26th place in the domestic market, behind the Ford Cortina and ahead of the Chevrolet Nova.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2004
 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 2, 2012

1969 Peugeot 504

Introduced to Canadians as “a new grand tourer in the European manner,” the 1969 Peugeot 504 sold for $3,695.
Folks at Paris Auto Show caught their first glimpse of the Peugeot 504 on September 12, 1968. The prestige sedan--with the elegant monocoque coachwork by Pininfarina--wowed the press who promptly named the steel beauty to be European Car of the Year.

When the first 504 arrived in North America, the boys at Canada Track & Traffic flew from Toronto to New York City for the chance to test drive one. They found the 504 to be refined throughout and of the highest quality The editors had only good things to say about the Peugeot, including, “If we’d been blindfolded we would have sworn we were in a Mercedes 230.”

The 1969 Mercedes 230 four-door sedan was Peugeot's competition.
The ride was indeed like that of a Mercedes--and on purpose, too. Advertising was quick to play it up, too. “Peugeot, pioneers in independent suspension since 1929 have exceeded themselves in the 504, providing a grand prix-type independent suspension at all four wheels with four large coil springs and front and rear anti-roll bars. Rear drive is by modern flexible shafts. Result: the wheels stick to the road like glue on the snakiest superhighway curves, or the roughest side roads. No doubt that ride was helped along significantly since the car was shod with Michelin radial four-season tires.

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The stylish four-door sedan used Peugeot’s 1796-cc over-square, four-cylinder engine, canted at a 45-degree angle. It could be had with carburetor or fuel injection setup. They former generated 82 horsepower, the latter 97. The mill was married to a four-speed, column-mounted manual transmission but for $200 more owners could upgrade to the automatic transmission built for Peugeot by ZF of West Germany.
The Puegeot 504 on display at the 1968 Paris Auto Show.
The unitized body was constructed of ribbed steel and deep-dipped into rustproofing that was electro-magnetized. This allowed the paint to stick to every crevice. Advertising pointed out that Lincoln Continental used this method of resisting rust.

Trim in size, the Peugeot was only 4 490 mm (177 inches) in overall length boasted a 10.6-metre (35-foot) turning circle. The 504 weighed in at a tidy 1 200 kilos (2,640 pounds). 
The instrument panel of the 1969 Peugeot 504 was tastefully arranged for the driver’s needs.
Seating five in special luxurious “living room comfort,” interiors for the Canadian market were finished in a ruggedly tasteful leatherette upholstery. Deeply padded posturpaedic seats had ingeniously designed telescoping headrests built into the seat backs. The front seats laid perfectly flat, a la Rambler, for naps. These seats also did a nifty thing. As they slide back and forth to adjust to the driver’s height and weight, they--at the same time--moved up or down in an elliptical plane to automatically compensate the driver for distance from the windshield. Clever indeed. Among the standard items built into every Peugeot 504 was a sunroof.

The windshield offered excellent visibility—the entire glass area was 331 degrees or 92 percent of the greenhouse was glass. The instrument panel consisted of a trio of round dials housed under a padded hood, placed directly in front of the driver. The heater controls and ashtray were placed in the centre of the layout. The steering wheel boasted a padded hub.

The trunk boasted an “oversized” capacity of .56 cubic metres (20 cubic feet). The extra space came from engineers' clever idea of moving the spare tire outside of the trunk. It was stowed under the floor of the trunk and accessible from the outside of the vehicle.

The boys at Canada Track & Traffic waxed more than enthusiastic. “The 504 comes with a range of improvements as long as your arm. To mention a few; four wheel power assisted disc brakes, full shoulder harness, collapsible steering column, fully padded dash and a sunroof as standard equipment.”

The 1969 Peugeot 504 found homes with 2,022 Canadians during the calendar year.
The only complaint that the editors had about the new 504 was that the European halogen headlamp setup would have to be replaced with the traditional “four-eyed” North American sealed beam system of lighting. They felt it wasn’t fair to substitute an inferior system and mar the good looks of such a fine automobile.

Peugeot advertised aggressively in national magazines like Maclean’s and Canada Track & Traffic. It was billed as “the special car for special people.” “Peugeot owners are as special as anyone can get. For years they put up with our ultra-conservative styling because they appreciated first class automotive engineering, great performance and fantastic reliability. ‘The toughest car in the world’ they called it. And to prove their point they rallied Peugeots all over the world—and won.”

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“Probably no other car has such a distinguished and loyal following. In Canada they are mostly the well educated (over 60 percent have been to university) and very loyal (over 75 percent of sales are to previous owners or their friends). These are connoisseurs who recognize quality and don’t look for a high price tag as insurance of their choice.”

This schematic drawing showcases the drivetrain of the 1969 Peugeot 504.

The French automaker had Canadian offices in Scarborough, Ontario and in Pointe Claire, Quebec. It also shared an assembly plant with Renault in St. Bruno, Quebec that had opened in 1965. The joint operation was known as SOMA. The St. Bruno facility turned out Peugeot 404s for the domestic market.
For the 1969 calendar year, Peugeot sold 2,022 units across Canada. That was up slightly from 1,947 units delivered in 1968. No doubt the 504 helped to increase sales; the tally would rise to 2,270 in 1970. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
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