|The 1957 Meteor was "all dressed up and everywhere to go." This is the Country Sedan.|
Ford of Canada had introduced the Meteor for the 1949 season through its Lincoln-Mercury dealers.
|The upscale Meteor was an instant success, taking a whopping ten percent of all sales in its first year.|
Badge-engineered from a Ford shell, the Meteor was intended to fill the gap between Ford and Mercury.
The company introduced its 1957 lineup in the fall of 1956 and hundreds of thousands made the annual fall pilgrimage to their neighbourhood Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealer to ogle the latest offerings. The all-new Meteor was advertised as being “all dressed up and everywhere to go.” Meteors were sharp looking for sure. Longer, lower and wider than their 1956 counterparts, ad copy declared that Meteor was “bold evidence of daring design.”
|The 1957 Meteor.|
A lush wraparound bumper with a lower lip started things off. It was jazzed up with a pair of bumper guards. The grille was a swanky wraparound affair, replete with five horizontal bars. At the centre, the chrome quintet yielded to a massive “V” in which the familiar Meteor symbol floated. Rectangular turn signals graced the corners, positioned directly under heavily browed, single headlamps. Meteor was spelled out across the face and a medallion in the standup hood ornament let everyone know that Meteor was indeed a rising star.
|The 1957 Meteor Rideau 500 wears a tri-tone colour combination.|
From the flank, Meteor rode lower than ever before in a “cow belly” frame. Pronounced body creases accented front and rear wheel wells. Stylists added a smart fin to the envelope. Dogleg wrap-around windshields were “de rigeur” in 1957 and Meteor was not to be left out. V8 models carried identifying insignia on the wraparound grille, ahead of the front wheel well.
The most modestly trimmed Niagara four-door models wore a single chrome strip that started at the front fender and dipped down across the body to a smart check at the rear wheel, well before straightening out and running to the trailing edge of the body. Niagara two-door sedans carried a chrome strip that began at the leading edge of the tail fin and streaked rearward to the taillight housing. Dog dish hubcaps were standard but dressy “deep-disc wheel covers” could be had at extra cost.
|The 1957 Meteor offered 24 models spread over five series.|
The Niagara 300s were graced with an additional gold-colour strip set in brightwork. The Rideau’s trim started at the trailing edge of the front wheel well and ran mid-flank to the centre of the back door --or the rear quarter panel in the case of two-door models-- where it kicked upward and flowed to the taillight. The upswing was kissed with a Meteor medallion.
|Ford and Meteor were kissin' cousins.|
From behind, Meteor strongly resembled its Ford cousin, though a medallion on the rear deck lid was distinctive. The word Meteor was spelled out in the slightly recessed centre cove of the rear bumper.
Under the hood one had the choice of four engines. There were variations on the 4.5-litre (272 cubic-inch) mill or the 5-litre (312-cubic inch) monster. Thrifty Canadians looked long and hard at the miserly corporate six-banger.
|The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used Meteors.|
Tucked into the corporate stable between Ford and Mercury, Meteor fielded 24 models in five series. The car was “priced as low as its silhouette,” crowed advertising. The base Niagara model came as a two-door and four door sedan costing $2,434 and $2,449 respectively. The Niagara 300 models were better trimmed and listed at $2,583 for the two-door and $2,647 for the four-door version.
|Meteor and Ford shared engines in 1957 but only four were available to Canadians.|
The Rideau series moved upscale. It came only with V8 engines and rode on a longer 2997-millimetre (118-inch) wheelbase. It offered a two-door and four—door sedan and then added a sparkling pair of two-door and four-door Victoria hardtops. The two-door sedan cost $2,882 and only 347 were built. The four-door Victoria hardtop set one back by $3,038 and was the most rare Meteor of the season—only 214 were built.
The Rideau 500 was Meteor’s top of the line series, all sass and flash. It also made use of the longer wheelbase and offered only V8 engine choices. In this series one found very smartly dressed two- and four-door sedans, two- and four-door Victoria hardtops and a glittering Rideau 500 Sunliner convertible. The ragtop listed for $3,253 and there were orders for only 646 of them.
|A most unusual member of the Meteor family was the Ranchero pickup truck.|
To serve everyone from tradesmen to large families, there was a two- and four-door Ranch wagon listing for $2,831 and $2,959 respectively and a six- or nine-passenger Country Sedan at $3,065 and $4,325. The latter was the most expensive Meteor that money could buy. Although classified as trucks, exactly 300 beautiful Meteor Ranchero pickups were built, too.
Concerned with safety as much as comfort, Meteors were equipped with a “deep centre safety steering wheel” and double-grip safety door latches at no extra cost. The hood hinged from the front for safety.
The options list included such comforting mid-line niceties as air conditioning, antennae, Arctic wiper blades, automatic transmission, back-up lights, car care chemicals, cigar lighter, clock, curb signals, engine heater, exhaust deflectors, floor saver mats, frost shields, grille-wing guards, handbrake warning signal, license trim frames, locking gas cap power brakes, power seats, power steering, power windows, radio, spare wheel cover, a fixed or portable spotlight, a tissue dispense, undercoating, windshield washer and a vanity mirror.
|Parliament relaxed credit restrictions in 1957 and permitted the chartered banks to loan money on automobiles.|
The federal government of Canada allowed banks to loan money for cars for the first time ever in 1957. Six out of ten Canadians still preferred to save and pay cash for their cars in 1957. Of the 376,084 new automobiles sold from St. John’s to Victoria, only 84,055 Canadians made use of credit. Folks in Quebec and Ontario were the most likely to borrow money to purchase a new automobile, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.
|A milestone was marked on July 10th, 1957 as the 250,000th Meteor was built in Oakville, Ontario.|
It was an exciting year for Meteor. There was plenty of hoop-la as the 250,000th one rolled out the factory doors. Not a half bad accomplishment for a brand that was only nine years old. Folks bought a total of 34,165 Meteors during the model year. Meteor owned a comfortable 8.69 percent of the domestic market, making it Number Six in sales behind Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Dodge and Plymouth.
Copyright James C. Mays 2007
All rights reserved.