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Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Carchitecture Frames, Fenders, and Fins

Carchitecture is available for USD$50 from
This is not a book to read--it's a book to devour! With 500 of the most unusual photographs to ever celebrate the art and history of the Deity that is the automobile, each and every page is an offering, a visual feast for the eyes. Both Fredric Winkowski and Frank D. Sullivan have poured heart and soul into this collaborative effort and it is well worth the 20-year wait. Carchitecture is as worthy of homage as are the vehicles it chronicles.
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Copyright James C. Mays 2013
All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

1954 Meteor Sedan Delivery

The Meteor Sedan Delivery was as pretty as it was practical.

            Meteor bowed to the Canadian public for the first time on June 25th of 1948 as a 1949 model. The unique-to-Canada brand shared its shell with Ford. It was slotted to fit neatly in between Ford and Mercury, thus eliminating the considerable price gap between those two marques. 

The 1949 Meteor was an overnight success for Ford of Canada.

Meteor’s entrance in the market would keep folks from straying to Pontiac, Dodge, Hudson and Nash when they were ready to move up from Ford but not yet able to afford the hefty price tag on a Mercury. It was tough to buy a new car in 1948. In an effort to curb inflation, the Government of Canada required consumers to put down 50 percent of the price of a new vehicle at the time of purchase and pay off the balance over a twelve-month period. Chartered banks were forbidden to loan money for new cars. That wouldn't change until 1958. Meteor’s low price would add many sales to Ford of Canada. 

Astonishingly, in its first year on the market, Meteor garnered 11 percent of all sales throughout the Dominion. Its success made it the fourth most popular selling car on the market.  No other automobile brand had ever done so well in its maiden year. 

 Country Sedan was the newest member of the Meteor family in 1950.

A station wagon joined the Meteor family for 1950 and finally, the first Sedan Delivery came along for the 1952 selling season. 

Buyers took home 509 Meteor Sedan Delivery vehicles during the 1952 model year.
The snappy hauler gave any enterprise a modern, up-to-date look. Despite manufacturing restrictions brought about by the conflict in Korea, and the company moving its entire factory from Windsor to Oakville--some 200 miles away—a total of 809 of the attractive Meteor Sedan Delivery trucks rolled out the doors during the 1953 model year. 

The first of the 1954 Meteors finally started coming down the assembly lines on December 8, 1953. The model season began very late for all the automakers because of the Conflict in Korea. Although an armistice had been signed on July 27, manufacturers found it virtually impossible to source sufficient raw material for the civilian production of vehicles.

Advertising didn’t require steel or rubber and Meteor had mountains of publicity. Much was made much of the fact that the Sedan Delivery was styled on the “beautiful, popular lines of the new ’54 Meteor.”  It pledged that a Meteor would build prestige for any business, on every trip it made. The rear quarter panel and door provided a vast 1.4-metre (15-foot) square mobile billboard for advertising. 

The Meteor was a pretty good deal with its list price of $2,082, but a true penny pincher would choose the Ford version, selling for $24 less.

Described as having “smart, sleek sedan styling, designed for long service” and “built for speedy stop-and-go-duty,” Meteor made its way around Mapleville courtesy of the 110-horsepower flathead V-8 engine that had been the corporate mainstay since 1932. “Everything about this superb engine points to more responsive performance that will do more and save more throughout the years.”   The engine sent its power to the Silent-Ease, three-speed manual transmission. A smart owner would spend the extra bucks for the Touch-O-Matic Overdrive for even higher gas mileage. 

 Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The 2 921-millimetre (115-inch) wheelbase Meteor Sedan Delivery weighed in at 1 576 kilos (3,475 pounds) and had an advertised GVW of 1 814 kilos (4,000 pounds) for 1954, though in fact, it was actually 2 086.5 kilos (4,600 pounds). No doubt the figure was fudged a mite so that it would appear to be different from the Ford Sedan Delivery, with which Meteor shared chassis and shell. 

Meteor offered a velvet smooth ride on any road; promising prospective owners that with Wonder-Ride, a full 80 percent of road shock was eliminated. This ensured better cargo protection and gave the driver a less jarring and jolting experience behind the wheel.

While a full bench seat was standard equipment, one or two bucket seats could be installed as an option. Engineers had reworked the steering and this year’s Meteor took 25 percent less effort to pilot through the streets.

Interior cargo dimensions for the Meteor were 300 centimetres (79 inches) in length, 80 centimetres (59 inches) in width and 150 centimetres (39 inches) in height. Quick calculation with a pencil added up to more than 2.8 cubic metres (100 cubic feet) of “profitable payload space in the insulated interior.”  A completely flat, specially constructed floor had been installed to withstand “the constant abuse of busy delivery service.” The extra-wide rear door, with its large, safety vision rear window, was hinged from the side, providing nearly four foot of “generous elbow room” and was duly noted as being an important contributing factor in quick loading and handling operations. 

When the Meteor Sedan Delivery wasn't big enough, the Mercury-Lincoln-Meteor dealers sold rugged Mercury trucks.

            The Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1954. The Oakville, Ontario company was the nation’s oldest and largest vehicle manufacturer, selling its cars and trucks not only throughout the Dominion but delivering Ford products into the hands of drivers in every colony and possession within the far-flung and vast British Empire. 

The 1954 Thames.

All of the 1,003 Ford-Monarch and Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers made their way to Toronto to be on hand for the three-day festive occasion on January 6. This was one enormous birthday bash, one that captured the entire nation’s attention. The celebrations included a complete display all of the new cars, trucks and tractors sold throughout the Dominion. Ford, Meteor, Mercury, Monarch, Lincoln, British Fords, Mercury trucks, Thames trucks and Ford tractors glittered in the spotlight, right along with the Meteor Sedan Delivery.

The breathtaking Magical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was featured on the back of the $50 bill from 1969 to 1979.

The RCMP sent its famed Musical Ride team of 32 red-coated Mounties, along with their horses, to entertain at the Ford Jubilee wowing everyone with its spectacular show of intricate military maneuvers. 

Ford of Canada's Windsor, Ontario plant, circa 1954.

Ford workers had been without a contract for nearly a year. By gentleman’s agreement, management and labour agreed to do nothing to provoke each other during the Golden Jubilee year. Both sides kept their word as they negotiated a new working agreement.

Management announced that the model year would end on October 31. Workers, unhappy that labour negotiations were going nowhere, shut down the Oakville, Ontario factory on the 15th. The lights went out all over the 13-hectare (32-acre) plant and the sprawling comples sat eerily silent for 110 days. The walkout brought an early end to the selling season. Records show that a total of 613 Meteor Sedan Delivery trucks had been produced during the 1954 model year.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

1965 Mercury Comet

This is the 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente two-door hardtop.
The Comet was originally intended to be a pint-sized companion for the Edsel but the mid-priced make fizzled. The plug was pulled on November 19, 1959 and Edsel was declared dead. 

 Ford of Canada offered the Frontenac in 1960 but the brand was a one-year wonder. The 1961 model was stillborn  to make room for Comet in the Mercury family. 

Originally conceived as a member of the  Edsel lineup, the compact carried very strong Edsel cues.
 The compact burst over this country for the 1961 selling season wearing the Mercury label. Comet bowed on March 17, 1960 and did well in its first season. 

Rambler was a sales and style leader in 1960.

Small car madness was all the rage in 1960. Four of the Top Ten selling vehicles in the US (exclusive of wagons) were less than full size: Ford Falcon Deluxe staked out 4.1 percent of the market for itself with 244,300 sales giving it sixth place. The Number Seven spot belonged to Ford Fairlane with 242,900 sales and 4.1 percent of the market, Rambler rocketed into eighth place with 1776,100 sales or 2.9 percent of the market and Chevrolet’s Corvair 700 series claimed spot Number Nine with 175,800 sales or 2.9 percent of the market. 

The little Comet skyrocketed. It immediately became the division’s darling, capturing 54.6 percent of all Mercury sales for calendar year 1961. The total racked up to 188,644 units delivered.

New from the beltline down, a virtually all-new Comet appeared for 1964. This incarnation was wider than before and carried more big Mercury and Lincoln-like design cues.

One widely read magazine noted that Comet “has become a sleeker individual” and especially approved of the “neat wedge-shaped tail.”
Body sides were highly sculptured. Comet’s grille was made up of finely ribbed horizontal bars that flanked vertically stacked pairs of headlights. Advertising promised that this beauty now featured “a new young look of luxury.”  No matter how you sliced it, this mama sizzled.  
The restyled 1964 Mercury Comet wore a Lincoln-inspired grill.

To broaden its appeal, Comet was offered in a wider range of dress: a posh Caliente (Spanish for “hot”), the mid-range 404 series and the economical 202 series. There were wagons in the 404 and 202 series as well as a Comet Villager wagon that was so ritzy it was a natural in front of 24 Sussex Drive. The Comet Cyclone was a mean pocket rocket born to scorch the earth. 

Stacked quad headlights migrated from the grill to the fenders in 1965.

 The success of the redesigned Comet would be carried into the 1965 season, too. Caliente promised to be a “not too big a car at not too big a price.” It also swore to forever change the minds of prospective owners who were of the opinion that economy meant dull, and set out to prove it with its optional 3.2-litre (200-cubic inch) six and three-speed, fully synchronized manual transmission.

With upholstery in Glove Soft Vinyl and Solar Fabric sewn into a padded biscuit design, walnut-toned insets in the instrument panel and doors, thick loop-yarn carpeting, door mounted courtesy lights and special exterior trim, Caliente was one classy ride. 

Comet's Villager wagon wore mahogany-look side panels and boasted a power-operated rear window as standard equipment.
Advertising bragged that Mercury Comets in the 404 series had "the elegance of much more expensive sedans.
 The 404 series cost less but still offered interiors of Chevron and Cameron Cloth sewn in a “simulated bucket seat style.” The fabric was treated with a soil-resistant conditioner. The 404 also sported color-keyed carpeting, a bright horn ring, bright trim on the instrument panel, a chrome spear on the flanks, a glove box lock and a trio of chrome-and-black hash mark trim pieces on the front fenders. The 404 wagon’s interior was upholstered in vinyl or a combination of vinyl and Tivoli cloth with colour-keyed carpeting thrown in for good measure.
Even in the most modest 202 dress, one could order a two-door hardtop Comet.
 The base 202 series was a no-nonsense stripper. It offered good value with its vinyl-coated, textured rubber floor cover and pleated Corduroy Vinyl and Woven Pleat fabric upholstery. Even the lowliest of Comets carried the distinguished chrome-and-black hash marks on the front fender.

Finally there was the Comet Cyclone, a performance oriented two-door hardtop dressed up with its own black out, stand-up grille, bucket seats with sew-through pleats and a centre console. More goodies included chrome-plate wheel covers with lug nuts, an engine “Dress Up Kit” with lots of chrome under the hood, unique insignias, a vinyl roof in black or white and a Power-Pac gauge cluster for the heavily padded instrument panel that included a tachometer and elapsed time clock. Ready to take on every Pontiac Tempest ever built, Cyclone itched to tear up the asphalt with its 4-barrel, Cyclone Super 4.7-litre (289-cubic inch V-8) mill and the extra cost four-on-the floor manual shifter. 

The Comet Power Teams consisted of the 2.7-lire (170-cubic inch) or the 3.2-litre (200-cubic inch) six bangers, the two-barrel 4.7-litre (289-cubic inch) V-8 with 200 horsepower and the Super 289 version with 225 horses. The latter required premium fuel. Merc-O-Matic or three-speed manual transmissions were available right across the line but only the V-8s could be mated to the four-speed shifter.

The Mercury Comet Super Cyclone was a concept car that hit the auto show circuit in 1964 and 1965.

Exterior Comet colours were Raven Black, Wimbledon White, Rangoon Red, Silver blue Metallic, Arcadian Blue, Caspian Blue Metallic, Silver Smoke Grey Metallic, Twilight Turquoise Metallic, Vintage burgundy Metallic, Sunlight Yellow, Dynasty Green Metallic, Ivy Gold Metallic, Champagne Beige Metallic, Prairie Bronze Metallic and Ivy Green Metallic. Oh, there were 18 extra cost two-tone combinations to choose among, too. 

Mercury Comets were driven  26 0858 kilometres (16,200 miles) from the tip of South America to Fairbanks, Alaska in an endurance run.
 Mercury’s little guy had a sweet options list that included such choice goodies as intermittent wipers, seat belts and seat belt retractors, back up lights, tinted glass for the windshield, power steering, power brakes (when ordered with the Merc-O-Matic transmission), push-button radio, padded instrument panel and padded sun visors and a luggage rack for the wagons.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2004
 All rights reserved.

Monday, February 11, 2013

1968 Buick Electra 225

 Advertising asked, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a 1968 Buick?” 
Hard on the heels of this country’s Centennial celebrations came the 60th anniversary of automotive giant General Motors of Canada, Limited and its Buick Division. From St. John’s to Victoria, Pontiac-Buick dealers had some very attractive tri-shields to display on their showroom floors when the 1968 models made their debut. 

Small but posh, Special was the baby in the Buick family lineup.
The lineup was wide-ranging and impressive. Special, Skylark, LeSabre, Wildcat, Electra and Riviera were all magical names in the 1960s, evoking strong images of power and prestige; each representing a rung on the Buick ladder of success. Benefiting from a lovely restyle in 1967, the cars held onto their basic design for 1968. Even the advertising campaign was similar to last year’s, carefully rephrasing the now classic question, “Wouldn’t you really rather own a 1968 Buick?”
The 1968 Buick Electra four-door hardtop.
The regal and stately Electra clan consisted of a two-door hardtop Sport Coupe, a four-door hardtop and a four-door sedan. Those three family members could all be ordered in fancier dress as Custom models. Additionally, there was an elegant Custom convertible. For the most discerning of Buick buyers, a Limited dress-up package blessed the two hardtop models with an even richer grade of upholstery, vinyl roofs and tasteful “Limited” badges. 

 Electra quietly flaunted its very own egg-crate grille. Split down the centre by a body-coloured panel, the grille crowned a gracefully flowing royal envelope. A pronounced languid Coke-bottle crease  underscored Buick’s elegance as it wended its way majestically from the leading edge of the front fender to the trailing edge of the rear bumper. Wipers were hidden away from view. Four of Buick’s fabled ventiports adorned the glory of the vast front fender. Long, rectangular taillights were housed in the massive bumper. The rear deck fast-sloped into the bumper, giving the brightwork capped, upright fenders a highly refined, near-fin look.

The biggest Buick was not merely an automobile; its anticipated arrival created a presence. The huge Electra loomed longer than a late afternoon spring shadow, measuring an astonishing 5689.6 millimetres (224 inches) or 5.68 metres (19-and-a-half feet) long, from stem to stern. 

Imported from the UK, the Envoy Epic was the tiniest GM product on the showroom floor at the neighbourhood Pontiac-Buick dealer.
One could park a pair of pint-sized Envoy Epics along side and scarcely notice GM’s captive imports! Advertising warned tongue-in-cheek, “If people stare, it’s because you’re driving what could be the most attractive car on the road.”

Even with a gas tank capacity of 91.3 litres (20.5 Imperial gallons), the Electra would be a frequent visitor at Irving, PetroFina, B/A and Pacific 66 stations, always guzzling Super.
 The only engine offered  in the Electra was the 7-litre (430 cubic-inch), four-barrel, eight-cylinder, V-8 mill with a rating of 350 horses. Introduced in 1967, the saucer-shaped combustion chamber reduced hydrocarbons emissions as well as burned fuel more efficiently. Mated to Automatic Super Turbine transmission, it made for a potent drivetrain combo that encouraged Electra glide effortlessly no matter what speed.

“Regular” equipment included power steering, power brakes heater and defroster, an electric clock, floor and lower door carpeting, a trunk light, a “smoking set” (ash trays and cigar lighters), dual horns and dual-speed electric windshield wipers. Interiors were finished in cloth and vinyl combinations with colour choices limited to blue, black or champagne.

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Extra cost items included Climate Control air conditioning, power windows, six-way power seats, an AM/FM stereo radio and a stereo tape player. Custom or Limited interiors permitted Notch-Back seats in a wider variety of colours and a choice of cloth-and-vinyl or all vinyl upholstery. Bucket seats added a little sass and sizzle to the convertible.

This year, illuminated side markers bowed as all the automakers complied with the federal Ministry of Transport’s newest safety code.  Engineers at Buick strengthened door latches, added safety armrests and reskinned the outside rearview mirrors to make them larger.

The 1968 Buick Electra 225 Sport Coupe.

 The Electra was an ultra-comfortable automobile tailor-made choice for the well to do who lived in the snug world of 1968. Pierre Elliot Trudeau succeeded Lester Pearson as Prime Minister. His Grits swept the federal election handily as the nation got caught up in the excitement of fresh ideas and Trudeaumania. The 190-metre Husky Tower opened in Calgary that year. 

Chargex was introduced in 1968; the credit card was a joint collaboration of the Royal, the CIBC, the Banque Nationale and the Toronto-Dominion banks. Nancy Green skied her way to Olympic gold at the Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Parliament established the CRTC to regulate broadcasting and named Pierre Juneau as its first Commissioner. Baseball fever hit a high pitch when it was announced that the National League was establishing a team in Montreal. They would be called the Expos and the first home game was less than a year away.

Fans of the tri-shield can join the Buick Club of America by writing to Box 360775 Columbus, Ohio USA   43236 or visiting their website at  For those who love those uniquely wonderful Canadian Buicks built from 1908 to 1942, contact the McLaughlin-Buick Club of Canada.

 Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2004
All rights reserved.