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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

1974 Mercury Bobcat & Ford Pinto

Mercury's 1974 Bobcat was the home-grown economy car with a pedigree.
The Mercury Bobcat was unique to Canada when it was introduced but our story starts with the Ford Pinto. Pinto production began at Ford's plant in St. Thomas, Ontario in August of 1970--as a 1971 model. The smallest car to wear a blue oval was designed to be a potent import fighter. Along with Chevrolet's Vega and AMC's Gremlin, the pint-sized Pinto helped to push sales of imported cars downward to to 23% of the Canadian market that year. That made Ottawa and the domestic car makers happy. 

With Pinto the corporate stable, Ford's handsome Cortina was no longer imported from Britain after the end of the 1973 selling season.

The Pinto had long been in gestation, first appearing on stylists drawing boards in the mid-1960s. Early designs called for a rear transversely-mounted engine. To keep costs low, the subcompact was meant to make use of existing drivetrains drawn from Ford's British and German operations.

Being photographed with adorable baby horses didn't hurt Pinto at all.
Available initially only as a two-door sedan, a smart three-door hatchback quickly joined the Pinto team. Dubbed 'the Runabout', the three-door version was hot. And then, there were three as a station wagon version was added for the 1972 selling season. The wagon boasted nearly 1.69 cubic metres (60 cubic feet) of cargo space with the rear seat folded flat. Pinto would outsell arch-rival Vega from the get-go and as far as everybody at Ford of Canada Limited was concerned, 'that was a good thing.'

The 1971 AMC Gremlin was the first of the domestic import fighters.
The Pinto was a darned cute little car. It featured a vertically slotted grille flanked by inboard turn signals. Its flanks were pleasantly chubby with baby fat. A sharp mid-line crease ran the length of the body, punctuated by the wheel openings. Its wheelbase was a mere 2 387 millimetres (94 inches),  50.8 millimetres (two inches) less than Gremlin. At the rear, Pinto wore long, rectangular horizontally positioned taillights that rode directly above the bumper. The large glass window raked sharply enough for a near fastback look.

Pinto struck a chord with buyers as being user friendly. Advertising stressed just how simple it was to perform basic maintenance. To that end the ignition key was designed to be both a spark plug gap tool and a screwdriver. Ford's legendary Model T was trotted out for photo sessions with Pinto and advertising shrewdly drew comparisons of simplicity, economy and reliability between the two Fords.

West Germany's perennially popular Volkswagen Beetle was the Ford Pinto's ultimate target.
Pinto did make use of the British and German Ford power plants. The four-speed manual transmission was imported too--and rack and pinion steering was incorporated into the package. Pinto was the right car for the right time.

Chevrolet fielded the Vega to compete with Pinto and Gremlin. The small Chev was not popular with consumers, however.
The cabin was carefully crafted to get maximum room and comfort for four passengers. The instrument panel was functional, though some critics complained that it was stark. Well, the target was Volkswagen and the car from West Germany had elevated 'basic' into a prized virtue.

The 1974 Ford Pinto.
The 1974 mode yearl as not a particularly good year for the Canadian automobile industry in general. Memories of the recent gasoline crisis in the United States prompted Americans to shy away from full-sized car lines. Production was of by some 60,000 units at the Oakville, Ontario plant, as fewer large Fords were shipped to the USA.

Still, workers turned out 142,338 Pintos and 11,561 of the brand new Mercury Bobcats. Those Bobcat sales were critical to the health of Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers. Many of the Pintos were shipped to the States but the Bobcats with their wide mesh grilles and long taillights were strictly for the home market. While the Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers sold the Comet-no Mercury had ever been so small or so beautiful as the Bobcat.

The Mercury Bobcat Runabout was as practical as it was fun to drive.
Pinto and the new Bobcat were given standard front disc brakes, like Vega. The massive safety bumpers mandated by Ottawa didn't take away from the envelope's good looks. A larger 2-litre engine was stuffed under the hood as standard equipment and an optional 2.3-litre mill was available.

Advertising for the Bobcat emphasized that this was a uniquely Canadian car geared to Canadian tastes and driving habits. Bobcat was sold by a nifty cartoon character cat and had its own catchy jingle, "He's a frisky little critter, the pack of the litter." Bobcat was touted as "a lot of car for a little scratch." Hey, it was the '70s.

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The United Auto Workers charged that the 2% to 3% extra that Canadians were paying for identical models sold in the United States was discriminatory. The Trudeau government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons and an election was called by the Governor General. 

Robert Stanfield's Tories ran their campaign on a platform of price and wage controls to take care of the kind of problem identified by the Canadian arm of the UAW. Trudeau was opposed. When the polls closed in the Yukon on election night, the CBC stayed on the air through the wee hours of the morning to let us know that the final tally was 139 seats for the Grits and 96 for the Tories. Mr. Trudeau then astounded the nation by imposing a federal price and wage control board. Canadians would tighten their belts and it was a good thing that Pinto and Bobcat were around to help.

Mercury Bobcat interiors were snappy.
The option list for Bobcat and Pinto was longer than a country kilometre. It included dress-up items like "flippers" that allowed the rear windows to pop open, a sunroof, an alarm system, air conditioning, radios of numerous types and a luggage rack. Wagons could be ordered with enough faux wood trim slathered on its sides to make a beaver sit up and beg for a bite.

Canadians bought a total of 226,000 automobiles from the Ford family during the calendar year. Sales were up ever so slightly from 1974--moving up to 24% of the domestic sales pie. The truck picture shone, as 105,290 units were sold, giving Ford a whopping 34.6% of that market.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2003
 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

1964 Rambler

  1. Trim differed greatly on the posh 1964 Rambler Ambassador, though it shared the same body shell with lesser Classic. The big difference was that Ambassador featured a V-8 engine.
    Riding high from being 1963’s Car of the Year and selling out to the walls with banner sales, Rambler entered the 1964 selling season with an attractive line of vehicles. All cars were now built domestically; virtually none were imported from the States.
In presenting the new line, President Earl K. Brownridge said, “We have built our success on this foundation and will never waiver from the dedication to base our product concept directly and specifically on true Canadian consumer needs.” He cited benefits to consumers, providing better value, an emphasis on quality and belief in compact cars as Rambler’s key to success in the Canadian market place. 

The compact and perky American had been redesigned from the ground up. Riding on a new, longer 2 962-millimetre (106-inch) wheelbase, it was beautiful with its deeply tunneled headlights and graceful lines. Only the 220 and the 330 series were offered in Canada, with the sole exception of the Rambler American 440 convertible, of which 936 were built in Brampton for the domestic market. A dozen right-hand drive convertibles, were exported. A total of 129 right-hand drive Rambler Americans were built. Records show that 19 left-hand drive models were also exported. 

The staff at Track & Traffic tested a two-door Rambler American sedan. They liked the style, noted the curved side glass, unusual in an economy car. “It is part of the smart new look for ’64, a trend-setter among compact cars.” The editor wrote, “Rambler has taken a great step forward with the American,” then boldly predicted, “in spite of its south-of-the-border name, there’s a big place for it in Canada.”

The most popular Rambler American model with the Canadian buying public was the 330 four-door sedan. It accounted for one out of every four Americans sold, reaching 2,890 units. The second most popular American was the stripped 220 four-door sedan. Workers produced 2,890 units, taking 22.5 percent of the model’s sales. Billed as Canada’s Economy King, a total of 11,731 Rambler Americans was produced in Brampton for the domestic market during the 1964 model year that ran from August 12, 1963 to July 16, 1964.

In Canada, the 1964 Rambler American convertible was the only model in the series offered in 440 trim.
Engine choices for the American were the venerable 3.2-litre (196-cubic inch), 90-horsepower, six-cylinder; the new, 125-horsepower overhead-valve six or the 138-horsepower, overhead-valve six. All were mated to a three-speed, manual transmission, though the self-shifting Flash-O-Matic transmission was an extra-cost option.
The Rambler Classic was very popular in 1964. The 550 four-door sedans were the second most sought after of the Classics by Canadians. A total of 3,214 were built in Brampton, Ontario during the model year run.
Next up the corporate ladder was Rambler’s Classic. Touted as “having a new low silhouette that looks so smart nestled in your driveway,” it was the company’s bread-and-butter line; Classic production reached 18,993 units during the year. The vehicles were offered in three trim levels: 550, 660 and the upscale 770. It is interesting to note that the 770 two-door sedans, available in the US were not offered here. 

Consumers liked the 660 four-door sedans best of all; 6,766 of them were built. The modestly trimmed 550 four-door sedans were second, finding 3,214 owners. The least popular Classics were the 770 station wagons, of which only 634 were built. Classic accounted for a whopping 58.3 percent of model year production. Of that final tally, 255 right-hand drive models were built.

Introduced in 1964, the ultra-modern, seven-main bearing Typhoon engine was the basis for Rambler's trio of six-cylinder offerings.
Owners could choose among three power plants for Classic: the standard mill was the 127-horsepower, overhead-valve six, the 138-horsepower version or the 198-horsepower V-8. The three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment but the extra-cost overdrive option was available on Classics as well as the Flash-O-Matic transmission.

Classic interiors were finished in a tasteful combination of vinyl and cloth. The seats were coil spring for a more comfortable ride. All Classics and Ambassadors carried a Cushioned-Acoustical Ceiling made of moulded fibreglass, guaranteed to cut road noise by 30 percent.

The 1964 Rambler Ambassador 990-H.
The finest Rambler money could buy was the Ambassador line. It was designed for Canadians who had a “yen for motoring at its luxurious best.” Although it shared its body shell with the Classic, trim and standard equipment set it a country kilometre apart from its Classic kin. The most important distinction was that the compact luxury flagship was available only with a V-8 engine.

While folks south of the border could choose between the 880 or 990 trim levels for their Ambassadors, only the more posh 990 trim level was offered to Canadians. The ultra-swanky 990-H hardtop was imported. The four-door sedan reached 938 units, the two-door hardtop 626 units and the four-door station wagon only 313 units. The Ambassador 990 two-door sedan seen Stateside was not offered here. Production for the most expensive Ramblers totalled 1,877 units, accounting for 5.8 percent of domestic Rambler production. A total of 60 Ambassadors were exported, all to left-hand drive countries. 

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Ambassadors were powered either by the 250-horsepower or the four-barrel, 270-horsepower V-8 engine. The beefier mill required premium fuel. Like Classic, the engine was mated to a standard three-speed manual transmission, though overdrive and Flash-O-Matic were optional equipment.

Interior of the 1964 Rambler Ambassador was elegant. Here one sees the centre console and the rear centre armrest.
Ambassador interiors carried wood-grain inserts on the instrument panel and the doors. Upholstery was “a rich vinyl” or vinyl and cloth combinations in High-Fashion Colours: blue, green red, gold, maroon or turquoise. All interiors co-ordinated with matching cut-pile carpeting. An added touch of class was chromed bows for the Acoustical Ceiling.

After being dipped in anti-corrosion rustproofing bath right up to the roofline in giant tanks, Ramblers were given tough, triple-coat paint jobs. There were fourteen solid colours to choose from: Classic Black, Rampart Red, Forum blue, Westminster Green Aurora Turquoise, Bengal Ivory and Frost White. Then there were the metallic colours: Scepter Silver, Sentry Blue, Woodside Green, Lancelot Turquoise, Emperor Gold, Contessa Rose and Vintage Maroon. For $24.20 extra there were forty-two, count ‘em folks-forty-two two-tone combinations waiting to be had. 

Only 313 Rambler Ambassador 990 Cross Country station wagons were built in 1964. The tailgate opened like a door.
The optional equipment list for this year’s Ramblers was almost as big as Eaton's Catalogue. Those add-ons included power steering, power brakes, and power lift windows. The Flash-O-Matic transmission cost $209.30. There were headrests, Twin-Grip differential, Sunshade Solex Glass, backup lights and a push button all-transistor radio. The windshield washer cost $11.85, outside rear view mirrors sold for $6.50 each. There were seat belts, heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers. The fabled Weather-Eye heater added $83.75 and an engine block heater another $7.55 to the purchase price. White sidewall tires added $19.90 to the tab and full wheel covers replaced dog dish hubcaps for $18.20.

Rambler accessories filled a book in 1964.
One could order bucket seats-with or without console or centre armrest. Of course, there were split bench seats, too. For an additional $31.95 on models so not equipped, either buckets or split bench seats could be made into the famed Airliner beds with the flick of a lever. Wedge-cushions smoothed out bed contours, air mattresses made nap time comfy and insect window screens kept out bugs on an overnight sleep in one’s roadside Rambler Hilton.

Those were the glory days at Rambler Canada. On March 24, a milestone was reached when the 3,000,000th Rambler was built in North America. It happened to be an Ambassador 990 wagon and it happened to roll off the line in Brampton, Ontario.

Rambler was the fifth best selling car in Canada in 1964, with calendar year sales of 31,802 units. Pontiac took first place, full-sized Chevrolet took the number two spot (GM listed Corvair, Chevy II and Chevelle as separate makes), Ford was third (Fairlane and Falcon were listed as separate makes), and Valiant earned the fourth spot. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2004
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1975 Ford Granada

Offering elegance in a new and efficient Euro-size, Ford's 1975 Granada was popular with Canadian consumers.

Few new automobiles in the 1970s were as eagerly anticipated as Ford's Granada. It was small, luxuriously appointed, upscale and promised a fit and finish on par with European workmanship. It was economical and--goodness-gracious--if it didn't look a lot like a Mercedes-Benz 280. Granada was the right car at the right time for the North American market.

The 1975 Mercedes-Benz 280. A European model is seen here.
Canadians had watched nervously as a monumental gasoline shortage had crippled the United States in 1973 and 1974. Service stations closed for lack of fuel. Some States instituted rationing. Not since World War Two had there been such a scramble to keep one's car on the road.

Though our domestic supply was never threatened, practical Canadians thought long and hard about what new car would deliver the biggest bang for the buck. Despite the federal Price and Wage Control Board's efforts, Canadians still paid 20% more than our American neighbours for the exact same automobile. An automobile was a major purchase and operating expenses were taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of the household budget.

The 1975 Ford Granada Ghia was subdued and subtle in its styling.
The domestic market had developed into its own, reflecting the unique lifestyle values, habits and characteristics of Canadians. The emergent picture looked very different from that of the Americans. The profile of the average Canadian buyer was young and urban. The 20-to-30 age bracket was rising rapidly. The three major markets were concentrated in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. With first-class mass transit systems at the disposal of the majority of consumers, only 18% of Canadians kept a two-car stable--a full 10% fewer than in the USA. We drove our cars for much longer periods of time than did our southern neighbours--the annual scrap rate was only 60% here at home. 

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Americans were buying smaller and smaller cars but the trend in Canada was slowly shifting to full-sized cars--50.3% of Canadians bought full-sized land yachts in 1972 and that figure drifted upward to 53.7% in 1975. Conversely, American consumers abandoned the traditional big cars. During the same three-year period sales of full-sized automobiles plunged from 62.3% to 48% in the US.

While Americans were buying small domestic and foreign cars in every increasing numbers, Canadians were finished with their foreign flings and returning to North American-made vehicles in all shapes and sizes. Only 13% of all new cars purchased in Canada in 1975 were imported from Europe and Asia, the lowest figure in years.

Ford dealers gave away a little comparison book entitled, The Closer You Look. This author was curious enough to wander into the local Ford dealer in Saint John, New Brunswick in hopes of trading his year-old Datsun B210 for a new Granada. The salesman didn't look twice at the Japanese econo-box. He couldn't sell it; there were simply no prospects.

The 1975 Ford Granada Ghia Coupe weighed in at 3,698 pounds.
And that's why Granada--like Baby Bear's porridge--was 'just right' for the Canadian market. This newest Ford was compact in size , sharing its wheelbase and mechanicals with stablemate Maverick. Granada was refreshingly sophisticated with its clean, contemporary European styling. Advertising called the look "trim" and "personal." Granada's interior was absolutely resplendent from the burled walnut 'woodtone' accents and the 199-position adjustable seats covered in a cashmere-look nylon to the 12-ounce shag carpet beneath one's feet. Solid state ignition, front disc brakes--every touch showed that Dearborn's engineers and designers had done their homework well. 

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Engine choices started with the 250-cubic inch six mill. Ford's tried-and-true 302 and 351 V8s were economical options that gave a little more oomph when scuffing down the Number One Highway. Canadian owners were advised by Ford of Canada that all its engines--save the 2.8-litre V6--required the newly introduced unleaded gasoline.
Granada's base interiors were finished in vinyl but one could upgrade to a cashmere-look upholstery or go whole hog with leather.

There were two Granadas to choose from. The luxurious base model came in two- or four-door configuration along with a pair of sumptuously upscale Granda Ghias. The fancy dress version got a vinyl roof in a choice of eight colours, "floating pillow" seats, 22-ounce shag carpets to sink one's feet into, map pockets, mother-in-law hands for ease in exiting and a digital chronometer (that's a clock, to you and me). White sidewall, steel-belted radial ply tires were standard equipment.

The upscale Ford Granada Ghia offered no-cost extras as pinstripes and a driver's side remote control mirror.

There were options galore including SelectAire air conditioning, Cruise-O-Matic transmission numerous radio, stereo and cassette tape player combinations, power steering, and power windows, a power sun roof, a deck lid luggage rack, an electric window defroster and a rear window--fan operated--window defogger. The leather-wrapped steering wheel was the perfect compliment to Ultrsoft leather upholstery offered in dark red, silver blue or tan. Of course, there were simulated-spoke aluminum wheels.

The 1975 Ford Granada and the 1975 Mercury Monarch bow to the public.
Granada was just of a a slew of new nameplates introduced by the Big Four in 1975. Along with its Mercury twin--the Monarch--and the mid-sized Ford Elite (no longer part of the Torino series) there was AMC's revolutionary Pacer. GM placed Monza, Seville, Skyhawk and Starfire on the market and Chrysler fielded the beautiful Cordoba and the sleek Charger SE.

The 1975 Chrysler Cordoba.
Initially, North American production of the "precision-sized" Granada was at the Mahwah, New Jersey plant. It wasn't long before the slow-selling Maverick was shunted aside from the Wayne, Michigan factory and Granadas rolled off the lines there, too. Of the 302,650 units produced during the model year, a total of 61,353 Granadas were exported, virtually all of them to Canada.

The most unusual offering for the 1975 model year was AMC's Pacer.
American dealers would struggle with recession but 1975 would turn out to be a the Big Four's best ever year in Canada as consumers from St. John's to Victoria put down their money for 850,903 new passenger cars. That figure was up a whopping 6.8% over the previous year. A notable part of that increased was prompted by the 7% tax rebate on automobiles declared by the Province of Ontario in a bid to stimulate sales and therefore increase jobs.

There was a downside to Granada's popularity. It tole sales from other Ford lines, principally from the compact Maverick and the mid-sized Torino. At year's end, sales were off by 3.8% and earnings were off, too. Still Ford of Canada Limited could lay claim to a full 25% of the market with 212,422 passenger car sales. Its truck division garnered another 107,199 sales, taking 37% of the domestic truck market.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2003
 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1926 Overland Whippet

The 1926 Overland Whippet was introduced in the media with graceful artwork. Note the female driver is alone in the car, subtly indicating safety as well as independence.

The Willys-Overland Company Limited moved its head office from Hamilton to Toronto when it acquired the Russell Motor Car Company Limited in the midst of the Great War. The latter was a well-established firm that manufactured the luxurious Russell automobile. A conveyance fit for a king, His Majesty George V kept a Russell in his royal stable. The homegrown automaker also imported the upscale Rambler and Jeffery from the United States.

Willys and its low-priced companion car, Overland were eager to expand throughout the British Empire. The deal to purchase Russell was consummated on December 18, 1915. At the time of signing, Russell was up to its elbows in lucrative war contracts. Business was good.

The Russell factory in West Toronto c. 1911.

Willys’ primary interest in the Canadian luxury automaker lay in the fact that both Russell and Willys used Knight sleeve-valve engines. Russell had exclusive right to manufacture and distribute these unique engines in the British Empire and Willys coveted that market. Cash rich, the Toledo, Ohio-based manufacturer bought Russell and gave itself a good footing from which to serve consumers.

The Knight sleeve-valve engine.

With a great deal of fanfare the firm announced an entirely new product in July of 1926. The Overland Whippet was introduced. The car that hit Canada’s highways and byways was remarkable. It reflected the latest thinking in automotive style and engineering. The current trend in motoring was light cars and this little beauty certainly fit the bill. It could claim a blended heritage; one that combined the best of European and American engineering. It was attractive and it was fast. The Whippet could zip from 5 mph to 30 mph in only 13 seconds. Company officials claimed the acceleration was 18 percent faster than any other light four-cylinder automobile. 

The stopwatch does not lie. The illustration shows that the Overland Whippet could lope from 5 to 30 miles per hour in a mere 13 seconds.
The car had been in gestation since 1922 when company president John North Willys laid out a modern engineering programme for his entire corporate lineup. Willys’ master plan was like that of General Motors. The offerings from Toledo would consist of a complete range of products covering the buying needs of virtually every family. Willys insisted that regardless of price, the vehicles employ the most advanced principles of European design, the highest standards of quality and that they be the benchmark of modern efficiency. One-piece windshields, quick-geared window crank regulators and cowl vents were extra-cost items on many other automobiles. These features were standard on Willys-Overland products. The front seats reclined for passenger comfort. “You ride in this car, not on it,” advertising boasted.

At the end of the Great War, gasoline prices rose sharply throughout Europe. Governments slapped taxes on cars for weight, length, engine size and any other identifiable way they could think of to squeeze more revenue from motorists who were perceived as being wealthy. Automakers played cat-and-mouse by responding with smaller dimensions, lighter vehicles and new “intensely efficient” engines. Europeans paid premium prices for these new cars. Overland literature noted that $1,500 to $1,800 was the going rate customers should expect to pay for one of these new cars when purchased outside of the Dominion. It further noted that because of the company’s large domestic manufacturing capacity, the Overland was built and sold in Canada for practically half the price a European would pay.

John North Willys.

John Willys touted a new corporate way of thinking, one he called “the absence of mass production.” He instituted a novel apprenticeship programme that carried a human touch. Seasoned workers passed their skills to the younger generation while working in an assembly line atmosphere.

The master plan also called for Willys-Overland products to be cut loose from the herd in terms of style. These cars were to bear modern lines and stand out from the others. ‘Low-slung,’ ‘rakish’ and ‘graceful as a Whippet’ were terms used to describe the petite Overland. Caught off guard, competitors attempted to compete with the Overland Whippet on the cheap by putting smaller wheels on standard-sized bodies. The hurry-up solution brought results that were largely inefficient and ugly. Overland’s advertising promised 35 miles on an Imperial gallon of gasoline at 55 miles per hour. The car boasted four-wheel brakes—another industry first in the light car segment of the market. Braking was good enough to stop the vehicle in two car lengths--from 25 miles an hour. 

The four-cylinder 1926 Overland Whippet five-passenger sedan was designed to compete with the low-bucks Ford. Finished in blue lacquer below the belt and black lacquer above the beltline. Standard equipment included tools, jack, ammeter, electric horn, ignition theft lock, demountable rims, spare tire carrier, sun visor, cowl ventilator and headlight dimmer.
Available as a Coach, a Coupe and a Touring Car, its exterior dimensions were small enough that the nimble car turned in a 34-foot radius. It was only 5-foot 8 inches high—its lower centre of gravity made it less likely to tip over. Despite the compact size it was still the car with the most legroom in class. It was “designed to look like the custom-built automobiles of America and Europe.” Women were advised to “stand in front of this car and imagine you are on the Grand Boulevards of France. Compared with contemporary, big, bulky cars the Overland Whippet appears smarter and much more graceful. That’s because height and length are in true artistic proportion.”

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Ad copy read, “In the Overland Whippet you have the feeling of riding closer to the ground—with the resultant sense of solidity and absence of that side sway so noticeable in the conventional type of car. The high-up-in-the-air feeling is gone—here is a new kind of riding comfort. Step into this car and you will be surprised to find so much spacious room.”

It was the smallest car available for sale on the domestic market. It was also the only four-cylinder offering in the Willys-Overland stable. The base engine was a 134-cubic inch mill, generating 30 horsepower. It quickly made history on racetracks, as all kinds of endurance runs were undertaken all over North America. A Minnesota trial achieved 44-mile an hour speeds over a 48-hour period while racking up 2,148 miles. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an Overland scooted up an 850-foot railroad incline on 17th Street in just 45 seconds—from a standing start. A six-cylinder Whippet was quickly offered as a companion model.

The six-cylinder Overland Sedan was finished in Cairo Grey below the lower moulding and Thebes Grey above the moulding. It rode on a 112.75-inch wheelbase. It carried all the equipment of the less expensive four and added “snubbers,” a.k.a. shock absorbers.

Sales of the Whippet were strong. The light car with the European flair was so desirable that they helped to pushed corporate sales into the stratosphere. Dividends were 7 percent on preferred stocks and 3 percent on common stocks that first year. 

Tongue-in-cheek advertising for the 1927 Overland Whippet read, "Speed--too fast. We admit 55 miles per hour."
In 1927 more than 20,000 Willys and Overlands would be assembled in the Toronto plant. In the US, the company somersaulted to third place behind General Motors and Ford by 1929.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2011
All rights reserved.