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Monday, October 29, 2012

1959 Volkswagen 1200 Standard Sedan

The 1959 Volkswagen 1200  Standard Sedan.
Few imported cars were more controversial in North America than the post-war Beetle. Many Canadian soldiers who had fought in the European theatre during World War Two viewed the German "People's Car" as a second invasion of the Nazi tyranny they had helped to defeat.

Despite any and all rumours about its origin, the little car was economical and grew steadily in popularity. In fact, an important milestone was reached in 1959 when on August 25th the 3-millionth VW came off the line and 54,120 workers were on the Wolfsburg-based company's payroll. Canadians fell in love with them when they were unveiled at the Canadian National Exhibition in August of 1952.

Ferdinand Porsche (far left) and Adolf Hitler examine a prototype model that will evolve into the Volkswagen Beetle.

The car's design predated the Third Reich. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche had working prototypes of vehicles that were very similar to what would become Volkswagen. He had pitched the designs unsuccessfully to Motorcycle manufacturer Zundapp and automaker NSU.

Adolf Hitler awards Henry Ford (centre) the Grand Cross of the German Eagle on July 30th, 1938. The date coincided with Henry Ford's 75th birthday.
Adolf Hitler was mightily impressed with what Henry Ford had done in the United States to put America on wheels. Hitler wanted every German to own a car. Ten days after being sworn in as Chancellor, he announced that the 1933 Berlin Auto Show would focus on small cars. The stage was set for a new era in motoring.

Germany's new leader met in May of 1933 to discuss the Volksauto or People's Car with manufactuers. Auto Union, like rival Mercedes-Benz and Dr.  Porsche were given a $225,000 grant to create such a vehicle. The package was formidable. The car must use only seven litres of gasoline per every hundred kilometres, seat four adults, be air-cooled and be able to maintain 100 kph on the road. The first three prototypes were built at home in Porsche's garage and handed over to the government--a mere sixteen months later--for testing in October of 1936.

The men who ran the government testing agency didn't want the little car concept to succeed. Putting more than 150,000 punishing kilometres on them, the testers wrote derisive reports about the air-cooled prototypes. Yet the trio was sturdy and passed the grade in every critical area of testing. Much to the chagrin of the agency and the other automakers, Hitler approved production of the Porsche-designed models.

On May 26th, 1938, some 70,000 people came to see Adolf Hitler launch the KdF-Wagen.

A factory was built and cars began rolling out the doors. They were called KdF-Wagens short for Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) Wagens, named for the Third Reich's popular sport and leisure program.  A national scheme was created in which workers would pay DM5 a week toward their dream car. Wen they had paid in DM1,190 into the fund four years and seven months later, they were then eligible to take home their new car.

War intervened in September of 1939 and civilian production of motor cars in the new facility ceased. The enormous factory was diverted into the manufacture of war materiel.

Kubelwagens (bucket cars) on active duty.

Kubelwagens--the German equivalent of the Jeep--and Schwimmkubels--an amphibious version--were built throughout the war until the Allies bombed the plant in 1944.

When peace returned in 1945 Volkswagen workers, with help from the Royal British Army, set about to clean up the rubble and begin to manufacture cars again. 

There there was much interest in Canada in owning smaller cars. Canadians enjoyed post-war prosperity but did not have the earning power of their American neighbours. Consumer items cost more because of the smaller population base. When people bought cars they often turned to British imports like the little Austin or the thrifty, compact Rambler which made an enormous positive impact on living the Canadian dream.

Volkswagen of Canada Limited opened its national headquarters on Toronto's Golden Mile.
Officials in Wolfsburg chose Canada to be the testing ground for its product making Volkswagen of Canada Limited is first overseas subsidiary. The first shipment of eleven cars and one ambulance arrived in Canada on July 10th, 1952. Headquarters opened in Toronto with nine employees. Speedway Motors Limited of Victoria, British Columbia took honours for being the first dealership, opening the doors in October of 1952. A total of 94 Volkswagens were sold in the Dominion that year.
Canadians could also buy the sporty Karman Ghia by Volkswagen.

The dealer network spread quickly across the country as Canadians learned how economical the lovable little car really was.

Owners waved to each other on the road and the little car earned many nicknames like "Beetle", "Bug", "Punch Buggy" and "Jelly Bean." When travelling, kids played a Beetle spotting game in which they would see a Volkswagen, shout "Beetle!" and get to hit their brothers or sisters.

The 100,000th Volkswagen for Canada was shipped in 1959.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 1998
 All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

1979 AMC Concord

The 1979 AMC Concord featured a waterfall grille and rectangular headlamps.

 American Motors was a feisty little company. The last of the independent North American automakers took on The Big Three as well as all international competition with a great deal of flair. The company had long specialized in small cars and niche marketing. When it strayed, AMC got into trouble. The manufacturer nearly failed in the 1960s but reinvented itself with a stylish compact.

The 1970 Hornet was designed by AMC's in-house stylist Chuck Mashigan.

The classic Hornet design offered an almost endless number of variations. Its body was the basis for the sub-compact Gremlin. The Hornet spawned the SC/360, the Sportabout and the Hatchback. A Cowboy pickup truck was nixed at the last minute because there was no place to build it but American Motors of Canada, Limited did create a special Canada-only Green Hornet model. 

The 1972 Canada-only Green Hornet cashed in on the popularity of the comic book hero. A total of 300 of the limited edition model was built.

The company generated profits because its products shared common platforms. It didn't hurt that AMC purchased Jeep. That helped the economy of scale as costs dropped and revenues rose. AMX and Javelin shared much in common. Matador and Ambassador shared sheet metal, too.

All AMC vehicles in 1972 came with a simple, iron-clad 100-word warranty that covered everything but the tires. (Tires were covered by the respective manufacturers.)

In 1972 there were no new products in dealers' showrooms. That would have meant disaster for an ordinary automaker but AMC was ready to pull an amazing rabbit to pull out of the corporate hat--one that astounded the industry as it pioneered the first bumper-to-bumper, all-inclusive warranty.  A caring, common-sense pitch appealed to consumers and sales rose dramatically. Motor Trend magazine honoured AMC for its groundbreaking guarantee with a special Car of the Year Award.

The next year, the warranty was extended, much to customers' delight.

The 1974 AMC Matador two-door coupe was beautiful.

Then AMC found itself in hot water when the Matador coupe appeared in 1974. It didn't share many parts with anything else in the corporate Stable. Worse, it didn't sell.

The 1975 Pacer from American Motors was the most unique car of the 1970s.

The following year, Pacer bowed to the public. Initially the most distinctively different vehicle of the decade was a hot seller but customers shunned the thirsty six-cylinder engine when an oil embargo from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) brought gasoline rationing to Americans.

Pacer, like the Matador coupe, shared virtually no parts with any other AMC cars, either. The company's top brass had pinned its corporate stars on the stylish duo but those hopes would be in vain.

The Ambassador was the corporation's flagship from 1927 to 1974.

The full-sized Ambassador had been retired at the end of the 1974 season. Javelin was nixed. Gremlin and Hornet desperately needed replacing or at least be given massive facelifts. Dwindling sales meant fewer dollars for retooling and no new products translated into ever-declining sales. The cycle was downward and vicious. Worse, it the cycle was fast.

Richard (Dick) Teague was the company's vice president of design. Teague was the longest-serving style chief in the industry and was known as the Dean of Design in Detroit. He knew half a dozen ways to skin a rabbit. He and his boys were about to perform yet  one more magic trick that would stand the entire automotive industry on its proverbial ears.

The 1978 AMC Concord hatchback.
The faithful Hornet would get a new lease on life, reincarnated as a high-class contender in fancy ball dress. Stylists and engineers rolled up their sleeves. The versatile envelope took on a formal, posh look as it was fitted for opera windows and a padded landau roof. Headlamps, nesting in square bezels added to the ritzy look, as did the squared-up, tartan weave grille. Taillights were sophisticated affairs housed in a gracefully understated rear cove. The upscale exterior look was complete with classic colour-keyed wheel covers and a stand-up hood ornament.

The interior of the 1979 Concord offered 'civilized comforts and thoughtful conveniences.'
Inside the cabin, no expense was spared to move the compact into the luxury league. Fabrics were rich velveteen for sedans and a soft-feel vinyl for wagons and the Hatchbacks. Tasteful woodgrain applique was applied to the instrument panel. Upholstered and  faux wood-trimmed doors were fitted with handy map pouches.

Engineers contributed a highly reworked suspension that gave a "big car" ride. There was no money for new power plants but AMC's trusty sixes had enjoyed a solid reputation around the world since their introduction in 1964. Just to cover all the bases, the corporation's 5-litre (304-cubic inch) V-8 was available.

Marketing ensured there were options galore, ranging from air conditioning and sunroofs to sports packages and performance options.

The 1978 AMC Concord wagon.
Christened Concord, dealers were delighted. Offered as a two-door and four-door sedan, a four-door wagon and a three-door hatchback, consumers could chose among four swank models to drive.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Public response was terrific. AMC produced 121,293 of the luxurious compacts in its maiden year. That figure was nearly double Hornet's production the year before.

For 1979, Concord was updated with four rectangular headlamps and a majestic waterfall grille. A new Limited model was introduced, replete with leather seats and a Niagara of power options.

This was AMC's 25th anniversary and a special edition was fielded to mark the event. Still, sales were down in North America--ever so slightly--as 102,853 units were produced in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brampton, Ontario.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2002
 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 12, 2012

1985 Buick LeSabre Collector’s Edition


This 1985 Buick LeSabre Collector’s Edition was purchased new by Glen Ryan of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. (photo courtesy of the owner)
Throughout automotive history only a handful of cars have earned the honour of serving royalty, prime ministers, movie stars, champions and captains of industry. For more than 100 years, the elegant and understated Buick has consistently gotten the nod from the world’s elite as their conveyance of choice.
King George VI and Queen Mary toured Canada in 1939 in a McLaughlin-Buick.

Buick had garnered countless accolades since it first appeared in 1899. It was first to bring the luxury of front parlour appointments to an automobile’s interior. It was first in the industry to boast a fully enclosed car. The marque held the distinction of being first to introduce drivers to the novel idea of electric turn signals, power windows and a power convertible top. Dyna-Flow automatic transmission was a first as was the honour of being first—co-shared with sister Oldsmobile—to offer hardtop sedans.

Buick’s Canadian legacy began in 1908 when the McLaughlin family of Oshawa, Ontario, long the largest carriage maker in the British Empire, struck a deal to use Buick engines in their new line of McLaughlin automobiles. The McLaughlin name disappeared in 1942 and Buick was neither assembled nor imported into Canada after World War Two until the 1951 season.

The 1942 McLaughlin-Buick.

The 1985 Buick LeSabre was a very special vehicle because this would be the last of the big, rear-wheel drive land yachts to be moored in Buick’s harbour. Management wanted to make sure that the classic LeSabre would never be forgotten.
The front track  of the 1985 Buick LeSabre  measured 1 570 millimetres (61.8 inches).

To that end, a special Collector’s Edition was created. It was tastefully laden with all the glitz and glamour that Buick was meant to have. The 3.8-litre V-8 engine was standard but one could order the 5-litre mill sourced from GM’s Oldsmobile division.

The car was graced with special badges and a stand-up hood ornament that read, “Collector’s Edition.” There was unique exterior trim including aluminum rocker moulding panels. One could order genuine mag wheels. After all, Buick was every bit as fleet as it was refined. 

Interior door pulls were kissed with gold-coloured inserts. Upholstery was posh, a sumptuously soft velour on ‘loose pillow’ seating arrangement, the perfect compliment to the six-way power seat.
Even the keys got special treatment as part of the Collector’s Edition.

The last of the big LeSabres came with plenty of swag. A brown, suede-look pouch held a decorative commemorative key fob, special key blanks and a limited edition, hardbound book that told the LeSabre’s legend. A set of beautiful colour prints--worthy of framing--showed off landmark LeSabres from 1959 to 1985.

There was more optional equipment for the last of the big LeSabres than there were codfish in the Atlantic Ocean. Power seats could recline, power windows and door locks and a tilt steering wheel were all electric servants. The cabin was heated and cooled with Electronic Tough Climate Control. Entertainment came from the Delco AM/FM stereo replete with a cassette tape player. Sound was orchestrated through the latest in audio technology, a graphic equalizer.

This 1985 Buick LeSabre belongs to A. Glen Ryan of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. He special ordered the car in November of 1984 from Terra Nova Motors in St. John’s. The base price for the Collector’s Edition was CAD $13,980 before Revenue Canada held its hand out. Glen ordered his LeSabre in Black with a Burgundy interior. He had selected every option possible except for the sunroof. The list price was $18,155 but Glen cut a deal for $17,000. With taxes the beautiful LeSabre came to a total of $19,088.

Today Glen still owns the Buick. His neighbours have nicknamed it “the sunshine car” because it only comes out to play in warm sunny weather. With only 77,000 kilometres on the odometer, Glen and his family will no doubt enjoy the car for many years to come.

The trunk capacity of the 1985 Buick LeSabre  was .589 cubic metres (20.8 cubic feet). That’s a lot of room for luggage or handsome bear cubs.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2012
 All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

1966 Studebaker

The 1966 Studebaker Commander series was available in two- or four-door configurations.

No other North American automaker could reach as far back into transportation history as Studebaker. The company's beginnings centred aound brothers Henry and Clement who began building high quality wagons and carriages in 1852 in their Southold (South Bend), Indiana blacksmith shop.

Henry, Clement, Jacob, Peter and J.M. Studebaker

Their credo was a simple one, "Always give more than you promise." The brothers prospered because they did exactly that. With time, three more brothers joined the family enterprise, adding their knowledge and expertise to a rapidly growing business.

Studebaker's sturdy Conestoga wagons were a favourite of pioneers trekking across the continent to search for gold and land. The company became the world's largest manufacturer when awarded a contract to supply wagons to the US Army in 1861.

In the 1870s the company expanded its line to include stylish traps, elegant carriages and beautiful sleighs for its urban customers. Keeping pace with the times, electric and gasoline buggies were added at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

A 1908 Studebaker Limousine.

In 1908 Studebaker became the third largest auto manufacturer in the world. Battling it out with rivals Maxwell and Willys-Overland, by 1911 Studebaker had climbed to the Number Two spot, bested only by Ford.

Studebaker's management wisely emphasized building key components so that they could be shipped worldwide. This allowed for locally made parts wherever they were shipped. Recognizing the local content laws required in many countries gave Studebaker preferential tax breaks in many markets. 

A 1911 E-M-F Touring (top) and Roadster.

For the British Empire, Studebaker's headquarters were in Windsor, Ontario. When the company purchased the E-M-F concern in 1911, part of the deal was the E-M-F plant in Windsor.

The 1913 Studebaker Model AA.

By 1913 the E-M-F name was retired in favour of Studebaker. Records show that 3,000 Studebakers were domestically assembled that year.
This 1913 photo shows the Studebaker of Canada Limited factory in Windsor, Ontario.

The stylish cars appealed to the affluent. The least expensive Studebaker cost CAD$1,245 in 1918. As early as 1923 records showed profitable shipments of Canadian-built Studebakers throughout the British Empire.

Business was great until 1927 when the Erskine was introduced. Designed for wealthy globetrotters, the car was too European in looks and sufficiently overpriced that it was not accepted by the public. In May of 1930 Canadian production of the Erskine was discontinued. The car was rebadged as Studebaker 53 and old somewhat better.

The 1932 Pierce-Arrow Model 54. Note the unusual position of the headlights.
 In 1928 Studebaker moved further into the luxury field by purchasing old-line Pierce-Arrow. The prestigious marque had long been the preferred conveyance of royalty and heads of state, but had fallen on hard times as management had not kept up with the changes in the industry. Studebaker poured millions into the development of a new 12-cylinder engine for Pierce-Arrow, but  to no avail. The investment proved to be a very expensive mistake. Produced in Canada from 1932 to 1934, Pierce-Arrow buyers were far and few between. The luxurious brand was sold off in 1934.

The third costly error was the introduction of the Rockne in 1932. The little economy car was a great idea but with one out of five Canadians was looking for works in the depths of a world business depression, no one was buying. With three stunning failures in a row, Studebaker's world president committed suicide.

The company went into receivership in 1933, though the Canadian subsidiary operated in the black throughout the Dirty Thirties, sending a cheque to head office for $3.5 million in 1934. Reorganized and nursed back to health, the company soldiered on.

The 1936 Studebaker President sold for $1,073 in Canada.
Assembly continued in Windsor until 1936 when Parliament rewrote the laws pertaining to the domestic content of automobiles. It was now more lucrative to ship completed cars to Canada than to build them here.

Through good times and bad, Studebaker continued to impress. American presidents and Hollywood stars appreciated their elegant lines. King Edward VIII had one in his stable. Viscount Alexander of Tunis--Canada's Governor-General from 1946 to 1952--counted Studebaker among his favourite conveyances.
The 1922 Studebaker Model EK Big Six, a.k.a. the Whisky Six was a favourite of rum runners carting booze from Canada into the United States.

Outlaws liked Studebaker's speed. Big Studebakers were favourites of folks smuggling alcohol into the US from Canada during the years that our southern neighbours went 'dry.' Nicknamed 'Whisky Sixes,' speedy Studies could easily outrun police cars, adding glamour and panache to the brand.  The very name Studebaker meant power. Not to be outdone the Windsor, Ontario police force ordered Studebakers for their own arsenal.

The thrifty and small 1939 Studebaker Champion was popular enough with Canadians that the company planned to reopen its assembly plant.

In 1939 war broke out. Studebaker's plans to reactive its assembly plant in Canada would have to wait until the war's end. When peace did come in 1945, the company bought a factory in Hamilton, Ontario. The new plant opened to much fanfare in August of 1948.

First out the door were the highly popular and thrifty Champions. Soon other models including trucks, were rolling down the production lines and being loaded onto transports for dealer delivery in all nine provinces. Figures show just under 13,000 vehicles were built in 1949 and those included shipments to Canada's newest province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Production rose to more than 15,000 units in 1950. In 1951 the corporate flagship--the Commander--became a Canadian product.

The 1952 Studebaker Commander V-8.

Studebaker marked its 100th anniversary in 1952. A new design wasn't ready so there was one more face lift for the ageing body.

Studebaker was honoured to pace the Indianapolis 500 Race in 1952.

The 1953 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe.

Then Studebaker found itself in trouble for a variety of reasons. The 1953 cars were not well received as many found them to be far too European in looks. Worse, the surviving independent automakers were virtually cut out of the market as Chevrolet and Ford engaged in all-out war to be Number One in the hearts and garages of consumers. Their ruthless price-cutting game was devastating to Nash, Hudson, Packard, Studebaker and Willys-Overland. Survival meant merging and Packard bought badly ailing Studebaker in 1954.
The majestic 1954 Packard Patrician. Packard had been building cars for 55 years in 1954.

Unfortunately, Studebaker's South Bend plant had the highest break eve point of all the indepdenents partly because it paid the highest wages in the industry. The newly merged company was not a healthy one and internal rivalries were bitter. Studebaker had lost control of its cost. High retail prices prompted consumers to to buy vehicles elsewhere.

Packard had its own troubles. Management didn't trust each other. The cars were poorly finished. Convertibles leaked. Top brass decided to resolve the problem on the cheap by ordering waterproof upholstery. Confidence continued to slip. That meant there was less new money to develop new products.

Truck production was pulled from Hamilton in 1955. Only 256 trucks were built that year. Total car production in Hamilton dropped to 8,441 units.

The 1956 Studebaker, Packard and Clipper (now a separate marque) lineup should have been the company's last.

The public perceived Studebaker and Packard as yesterday's cars. Production for the 1956 model year was limited to actual orders. Even sales brochures were rationed. Packards by the scores were sent back to the factory because of a flaw in the rear axle design. Things got worse when Chrysler bought Briggs--the company that stamped Packard bodies for years. Merging operations wasn't going well, either. Packards couldn't be built in South Bend because the bodies were too large for the lines. Underwriters refused to advance Studebaker-Packard the USD$95 million needed to tool up new bodies for the 1957 model year. 

Top-of-the-line Studebaker President four-door sedan for 1957.

The story would have ended right then except for US President Eisenhower. It was an election year and he wanted a second term in office. That wasn't going to happen if Studebaker-Packard went under. It would be the largest business failure in American history. It was arranged for S-P to be purchased by Curtiss-Wright. The aircraft component maker would manage the company for three years and get it back on its feet. 
The 1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL turned heads.

Problems began to get solved. A new Packard would be made from the Studebaker body. A compact car would be made from the current Studebaker body as well. In the short term, S-P dealers would sell Mercedes-Benz, imported from West Germany. Finally there needed to be a stop-gap vehicle that would keep the doors open until the new compact arrived in the fall of 1958.
The 1957 Studebaker Scotsman was priced in the Volkswagen Beetle range.

 That stop-gap model would be the Scotsman. It was a stripper but it might steal sales from frugal folk who might buy Volkswagen and Rambler. Billed as an inflation fighter, the Scotsman used cardboard in the interior and paint rather than chrome. Those who remembered Studebaker's glory days were disgusted. Denis 'Gus' Gaskin, President of Studebaker-Packard of Canada took one look and snorted, "Why don't you save some more money by taking the wheels off the darned thing." He resigned that day and went to work the next Monday as president of Mack Trucks of Canada.
The Studebaker Scotsman was plain from every angle.

Regardless, it was the lowly and humble Scotsman that would tide the company over until the sensational new compact--the Lark--could be readied for the 1959 selling season. Engineers got things right this time around, as many sound mechanical improvements were made. Studebaker's fiscal house was in order by August of 1958. Curtiss-Wright's management team pulled out of its contract 14 months early, allowing the company the freedom to operate as it wished.

Engineers and designes took the 1958 body shell and cut big chunks out of it. The result was a smart, compact design that would compete well with Rambler, Volkswagen and anything the Big Three might have waiting in the wings.

The 1959 Lark by Studebaker was a big hit with the public.

When the Lark debuted in the fall of 1958, sales were phenomenal and continued to be a strong seller in 1960 as well. The automotive press speculated constantly about Studebaker's demise. It was rumoured that any day Studebaker would pull the plug on its unprofitable automotive division. Folks shied away from the possibility of owning an orphan car.

The 1962 Studebaker

Still, Studebaker soldiered on. A facelift for the 1962 Lark made it look very Mercedes-like. Studebaker was chosen to be the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500. The Lark was Track and Traffic Canada's pick as Car of the Year. Packard had been allowed to die in 1958 and the corporation dropped its name from its title. Here at home the new name was Studebaker of Canada, Limited.

Introduction of a station wagon with a novel sliding roof didn't help sales much. Neither did the introduction of the sleek, fibreglass-bodied Avanti sports car.

Production in the US was right at 30,000 for 1963 but the company lost $25 million on sales of $403 million. On December 31st the South Bend plant was shuttered and production was moved to Hamilton, Ontario. The newer and more efficient plant could supply cars to dealers in North America. As long as production held steady at 20,000 units a year, the company would make a profit. The introduction of the Canada-USA AutoPact made it easy to ship Studebakers to the States.

Studebaker got a much needed and very stylish facelift for 1964. Jane Kmita received a beautiful new Studebaker convertible when she was crowned Miss Canada that year. At home, it was billed as "Canada's Own Car." People liked them and production hit 17,614 units.

Stealing a bit of Volkswagen's thunder, the 1964 and 1965 Studebakers were touted as thrifty because they were no changes.
A very real problem was sourcing engines. The engine plant had not been brought to Canada. A solution was found by having motors made by GM Canada's McKinnon Industries in St. Catherines, Ontario. That company built engines for Chevrolet. The new mills were built to Studebaker engineers' specifications. Folks who thought that the motors were just Chev engines were surprised to learn that none of the parts were interchangeable.

The 1964 Volkswagen T1500 Sedan.

The company constantly looked for new ways to improve the profit margin. AutoPact allowed Studebaker to import cars. It was already importing Mercedes and now it added Volkswagen to the list. The West German cars were shipped to Canada with no tax or import duties and then resold to Volkswagen of Canada, Limited. This deal put money in Studebaker's bank account and allowed VW to sell its cars for less money than if they had imported them itself.

The 1964 Datsun Bluebird.

Gordon Grundy was president of Studebaker. He saw the future and to him it was clearly Japanese. He went to Japan to talk to Nissan. The two companies were ready to sign when Grundy was ordered to break off negotiations and sign with Toyota. Nissan's honour was at stake and Japan's national pride was about to be insulted. Toyota officials refused to meet Grundy and he came home empty handed.

The 1965 Isuzu Bellet was assembled on Cape Breton Island.

Top brass wanted out of the car business once and for all. Grundy came very close to selling the automaking division to Canadian Motors Limited. This company already assembled Toyotas and Isuzu Bellets in Nova Scotia for the domestic market. The deal fell through when a single bureaucrat in Nova Scotia refused to sign the papers.

The 1966 Studebaker was reskinned on a body that was now 14 years old. The look was attractive. Remarkable new features included a transistorized ignition and an advanced flow-through ventilation system called Refreshaire. It wasn't enough to save the day. Only 2,045 cars had been built during the calendar year (model sales were 8,947 units) when head office pulled the plug on its profitable automobile division. The last Studebaker rolled off the line on March 17th, 1966. The Timberline turquoise V-8 Cruiser was shipped to the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, the end of another automobile legend.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2001
All rights reserved.