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Saturday, May 23, 2015

1975 Chevrolet Monza 2+2

Chev’s Monza rode on a taut 2 463-millimetre (97-inch) wheelbase.
General Motors had a serious sales problem with the subcompact Chevrolet Vega. In an attempt to shore up its segment of the half-pint market, the Monza was developed. It would compete against Ford’s Mustang.

The 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza had its engine in the rear.
Monza is the capital of the Italian Province of Monza and Brianza. It is situated on the River Po, 15 kilometres north of Milan.

The name was borrowed from Chevrolet’s Corvair’s sporty Monza and that came from the Italian city, long the home of the famed Italian Grand Prix.

AMC and GM engineers jointly developed a Wankel engine. A 1975 Pacer is seen here.

The envelope was svelte, graced with a fast front slope, permissable because the car was to be powered by the new Wankel engine--one that would be shared with AMC’s new Pacer.

Chevrolet Monza’s standard power plant was the 2.3-litre (140 cubic-inch) aluminum, overhead cam, four-cylinder engine. Optional engine, shown here, was the 4.3-litre (262.5-cubic inch) V-8.

Despite engineers’ best efforts, the power plant failed to meet emissions standards and delivered sub-par gas mileage. Coupled with nationwide American gasoline shortages in 1973, triggered by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, GM officials reluctantly nixed the rotary engine in 1974.

Chevrolet's Vega shared its 2 466-millimetre (97-inch) wheelbase and drivetrain with Monza but the kinship ended there.

Monza’s face incorporated dual rectangular halogen headlights deeply tunneled into front fenders made of pliable urethane. A simple, colour-keyed, eight-slot grille was low profile. Chevrolet was spelled out on the driver’s side of the front and the bowtie trademark was centred above the grille in a circle. Bumpers were hydraulic, overlaid with generous black impact strips to minimize damage in the event of an accident.  Below the bumper, long turn signals were balanced under the headlights, separated by a pair of grille slots and finished off with a functional air dam. 


From the side, Monza was sleek and gently rounded, with sight lines that promised many zippy, slippery rides. Prominent swells burst from the wheel wells fairly shouted about the speed and power that would rip from steel-belted radial tires.

Side markers were placed at the leading edge of the front fender at bumper level. The roofline was rakish and featured a power ventilation system built into the B-pillar.

From the rear, the slim roof simply melted into the taillights.Taillights were long, narrow affairs that doubled as side makers as they curved into the rear quarter panel.  A vast window dominated the hatch lid. The lower lip was graced with a bowtie ensconced in a circular medallion.

Monza could be had in a myriad of Chev colours including: Dark Green Metallic, Bright Blue Metallic, Orange Metallic, Light Red, Bright Yellow, Antique White or Cream Beige. Unique to Monza were Medium Grey Metallic, Silver Blue Metallic and Burgandy Metallic. 

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Under the hood lurked Chevrolet’s 2.3-litre (140-cubic inch), four-cylinder, aluminum block, overhead cam, a two-barrel carburetor with an electric fuel pump located in the 70-litre (15.4-Imperial gallon) gas tank. Sales people were primed to pitch the little engine as giving “a nice measure of performance, balanced by a nice measure of tightfistedness.”

Optionally, Chev’s 4.3-litre  (262-cubic inch) small-block V8 engine was a sure-fire winner. Advertising bragged that the eight-banger was ‘big enough to move the Monza with effortless ease, yet small enough to let its two-barrel carburetor sip fuel very sparingly the way a small car engine should.”

The Chevrolet Monza’s cabin was practical and sassy.

Interiors were surprisingly spacious, incorporating thoughtful touches such as map pockets in the front doors, door locks located in the arm rests and a high-rise centre console that housed a four-speed manual transmission or GM’s three-speed Turbo Hydramatic shifter.

Cut-pile carpeting was the resting place for deep, comfy bucket seats featuring built-in headrests. The driver’s seat back could be adjustable for a few extra bucks.  The rear seat folded flat to increase cargo capacity.

Cloth and vinyl colours were Medium Sandstone, Dark Blue, Dark Saddle, Dark Red, Medium Graystone and Black. Monza cabins could be dressed up in genuine, fine-grain split cowhide in black, dark red or saddle.

Instrumentation for the 1975 Chevrolet Monza included a tachometer. The four-spoke, colour-keyed steering wheel could be had with a tilt option..

The padded instrument cluster was set in a simulated bird’s-eye maple, rectangular housing in front of the driver. Heater and air conditioning controls were positioned in the centre of the instrument panel above the radio. Air conditioning vents were generous, rectangular affairs with a special one on the lower lip of the panel for the driver's comfort.

There were almost as many options for Monza as there are seal pups on a spring beach. Some of the more popular extra-cost items were the space-saver spare tire, aluminum wheels, power brakes and variable-ratio power steering, numerous radio packages, a rear seat speaker, lights for the glove compartment, engine bay and a warning signal that headlights were on. Tinted glass, Four-Season air conditioning and the Electro-Clear rear window defogger were offered. Then there were protective body mouldings, door edge guards and dual sport mirrors.

When introduced, the price for the 1 233-kilo (2,720-pound)  2+2 was $3,865. The beefier Monza two-door hatchback weighed in at 1 262 kilos (2,783 pounds) and was pricier with a tag of $4,289. Sales in calendar year 1974 came to 617 units. That figure jumped to 4,090 in calendar year 1975.

The GM Canada plant in Ste-Therese, Quebec opened in 1966. It will close in 2002.

Monza was built domestically in Ste-Therese, Quebec, Lordstown, Ohio in the US and the Ramos Arizpe plant in the Mexican state of Coahuila. 

Dealers invited consumers to visit bowtie showrooms, check out the new Monza and ‘see why more Canadians buy Chevrolet.’

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

1962 Skoda Octavia & Felicia


The Skoda Octavia was introduced in January of 1962.

Skoda opened its doors as an arms manufacturer in 1859 in Pilsen, Bohemia, a province in the Austrian Empire. The company wanted to broaden its base. Under the patriotic name of Slavia, it began to manufacture bicycles in 1895, motorcycles were introduced in 1899 and, under the name Laurin and Klement, automobiles rolled out the factory’s doors beginning in 1905.
The last Laurin and Klement passenger car was built in 1914.

The conglomerate grew to become one of Europe’s largest, building massive industrial power plants, locomotives. cars, trucks, buses, aircraft engines and agricultural implements, including self-propelled ploughs. War broke out in 1914 and the firm picked up military contracts with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The firm merged with Pizen Skodovka in 1925 to become ŠKODA. 

1933 Skoda 420 Standard

 Introduction of technologically-advanced automobiles in the 1933 saved the company’s corporate bacon during the Great Depression.  A new kind of chassis appeared. It boasted a backbone tube with all-around independent suspension, and bowed on the Škoda 420 Standard. The novel configuration went a long way to solving the lack of torsional stiffness of the traditional ladder frame. 

The same frame was used in the Popular, Rapid, Favorit and the Superb models. Škoda sales soared. It owned a 14%-share of the Czechoslovak car market in 1933 and ranked third, after domestic competitors Tatra and Praga. Skoda’s state-of-the-art line-up pushed it into the Number One spot by 1936, and two years later Skoda had a whopping a 39% slice of the pie.

From 1939 to 1946, workers built 1,500 Skoda ambulances on the Popular chassis.

The winds of war blew across Europe yet again and Hitler coveted the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia. The Third Reich established the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939. 

The six-wheeled Skoda 903 Command Car was built from 1940 to 1942.

Skoda was immediately absorbed into the production scheme of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring. The Krupp Company was chosen to administer the day-to-day activities of the vast manufacturing complex. Workers—thousands of them prisoners and slaves--produced trucks, cars, components for vehicles and weapons, military planes, hand grenades and cartridge cases. 

Allied aircraft bombed the Škoda works repeatedly between 1940 and 1945. The last air raid on the Pilsen complex was conducted on April 25th, 1945 resulting in the complete destruction of the Škoda armament works. An estimated 1,000 workers were killed or wounded.

After the war, the country was occupied by Soviet troops. The newly formed People’s Republic of Czechoslovakia had close ties to the Soviet Union. Skoda was nationalized and auto production of the Skoda Popular resumed in a small factory north of Prague in July of 1945. 

1946 Skoda 1102 four-door sedan.

In 1946 the Skoda 1102 was introduced as a two-door sedan. During its eight-year run, 67,000 units were built, of which 50,000 were exported.

The updated Skoda 1200 debuted in 1952 as a four-door sedan, a five-door station wagon and a three-door delivery van. Records show that 2,000 left the factory as ambulances. The 1200 was replaced by the 1201 in 1954.

The Skoda 440, 445 and 450 models were introduced in rapid succession. The sedans were renamed Octavia and the convertible became the Felicia in January of 1959. The name Octavia was chosen because this was the eighth model to be produced in the post-war company.

Exports of the redesigned compact car were launched in a big way. Targeted western countries were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the USA. Skoda had an excellent reputation and the vehicles sold well, though Skoda withdrew from the American market in 1960.

The Octavia carried redesigned front axles with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers replaced the leaf springs that the 440 had used. 

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Four-cylinder, overhead-valve engines boasted aluminum blocks and dual carburetion. Sedans weighed in at 1,270 kilos (2,800 pounds). They were powered by a 1089-cc (66.4 cubic inch) engine that generated 30 kW (40 horsepower). The Kombi wagon weighed 1,365 kilos (3,009 pounds) and zipped around with 1.2-litre (73 cubic inch) engines.  Top speed was 115 kph (71 mph) and the thrifty motor sipped gas at the rate of 6.6 litres/100km (43 miles to the Imperial gallon). Mills were mated to floor-mounted, four-speed synchromesh standard transmissions. 

The 1962 Skoda Octavia two-door sedan cost $1,694 plus taxes.

The wheelbase for the compact packaged measured 2,400 millimetres (94.5 inches). The design envelope was softly rounded, yet assertive, with overtones of sporty cars. A fine mesh grille was framed in an oval of chrome. SKODA was spelled out in chrome letters on the hood. The gently rounded hood kissed a curved glass windshield. Single headlights were positioned at the leading edge of the fenders, also crowned in chrome. 

The 1962 Skoda Octavia Combi listed for $1,990 f.l.b. Montreal.

A body crease began under the headlight and carried along the otherwise slab sides, swelling over the front wheel well, ending neatly under the taillights. A second body crease ran from the top of the headlight to the crown of the modestly finned taillights.  A ribbed, split chrome bumper, with bumperettes, offered protection in the event of accidents. 

Skoda was imported into Canada by Omnitrade Limited of Montreal.
The elegant Felicia convertible sold for $2,19. The snappy roadster boasted leather-look vinyl trim inside and a novel, detachable plastic top that snapped off in good weather. The Combi was billed as the ‘smartest station wagon in a compact’ and ‘a sportsman’s dream.’ The two-door sedan offered ‘safe and carefree driving under all conditions.’ The retail sticker was a mere $1,694. All prices were Montreal-based.  Skoda didn’t sell enough cars to warrant a listing in the Canadian Automotive Trade magazine's annual sales figures in 1962 but it was listed as one of 2,008 ‘Other Imports.’ 

Most Skodas were sold with hubcaps but full wire chrome wheel covers were available in some markets. A radio was optional.

Though never a huge seller, Skoda had a loyal following in this country and enjoyed a good 30-year run in Canada.
The winged arrow was adopted as Skoda’s logo in 1923.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, May 4, 2015

1972 Cadilac

Cadillac, General Motors’ prestige brand of  passenger cars marked its 70th anniversary in 1972.

 Cadillac, long the Standard of the World, marked its 70th birthday in 1972. All cars in General Motors’ most posh division had been given major restyles for the 1971 model year, so for the platinum anniversary there was little to do but tweak the distinctive, dignified designs and reap the rewards of higher-than-ever sales by an ever adoring public.

The 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood Seventy-Five nine-passenger sedan sold for $14,966 and weighed in at 2 449 kilos (5,510 pounds).

The grandest aristocrats in the Cadillac family were found in the Series 75 limousines and stately Fleetwood sedans. For 1972 the grille was subtly reworked with pronounced, horizontal stripes that carried a sharp centre crease. Narrow parking lamps migrated from the bumper to separate the square-bezels that framed the dual headlamps, set in massive, rectangular recesses.

Advertising for the 1972 Cadillac Eldorado bragged, “From its jewel-like standup crest to its beautifully beveled rear deck, this is motoring pleasure of the first magnitude."

A sculpted wreath of laurels underscored the elegant Cadillac emblems on the raised hood and squared-up trunk.

Flanks were razor-straight from stem to stern with beauty creases--one running along the front fender, while a second flared from the front door to the chrome-ensconced taillight housing. The limousine’s doors were cut high into the formal roof, which could be padded.

Interiors in the 75 Series were  as sumptuous as they were cavernous, swathed in rich Minuet cloth or a combination of Matador Cloth and Sierra leather. In the limousine, the glass partition between the driver and passengers raised and lowered with the mere flick of a switch. Three comfy jump seats could accommodate extra passengers, while those nestled in the back seat had a generous centre armrest at their elbows.

Luxurious standard appointments in the 75 Series included dual-comfort front seats and rear-seat reading lamps. Cadillac’s famed automatic level control was part of the free ride. Automatic climate control, a rear window defogger, carpeted footrests; power steering and a passenger-side remote control outside rearview mirror all made the list.

The Fleetwood Series 60 Special Brougham was virtually unchanged from last year but for 1972 it kissed with a new of a chrome moulding around the rear window. The four-door sedan topped the scales at 2 184 kilos (4,815 pounds). The price tag was $9,347.

Cadillac’s instrument panel was posh, befitting a world-class luxury car.

Series 60 Interiors were swaddled in any of nine colours. Choices of fabrics were the Sierra grain leather and a Matador cloth that could stand on its own or be mated to the classic cowhide.  Further there was Minuet fabric and—the latest rage—a plush Medici crushed velour.

Front-wheel drive Eldorado was touted as the world’s most elegant personal car, powered by the world’s largest passenger production engine--an 8.2-litre (500-cubic inch) V-8. A bold checkerboard grille set it apart from last year’s offering. Longer than ever, it now rode on a 3 210--millimetre  (126.3-inch) wheelbase. The envelope was gently rounded in shape with the most subtle of Coke-bottle swell aft of the doors. The rich, roguish coupe listed for $8,878 and the convertible, with its sleek, inward-folding Hideway Top, cost $9,325.

The 2 145-kilo (4,730-pound) Sedan de Ville carried a price tag of $7,814 and was a very popular seller for Cadillac.

The Cadillac de Ville series was billed as “a favourite among fine-car owners”. It too was only slightly revised for the 1972 season. The tartan-weave grille was given more prominent horizontal bars and the dual headlights were separated by substantially-sized rectangular parking lights. The Cadillac crest on the hood and rear deck were underscored and accentuated with a large but tasteful chrome “V”.  Power front brakes and a light that indicated the windshield washer fluid was low were included as standard equipment. The 2 145-kilo (4,730-pound) Sedan de Ville carried a price tag of $7,814 and the 2 125-kilo (4,685-pound) Coupe de Ville sold for $7,567.

The least expensive Cadillac for the 1972 anniversary season was the Calais, starting at $7,099 for the coupe.

Calais, at $7,099 for the coupe and $7,315 for the sedan, was the marque’s level offering. Like its cushy kin, it was further refined this season. It carried the same headlight theme as the de Ville series as well as the same tartan-weave grille.  Upgrades in the standard equipment package included a new bumper impact system, and an automatic parking brake release. Interiors were graced with passenger assist straps and flow-through ventilation.

For all models--but Eldorado--there was a pair of engine offerings, the 7.7-litre (472-cubic inch) or the 5-litre (305-cubic inch) V-8. Regardless of which mighty mill was chosen, both were coupled to General Motors’ Turbo-Hydra-Matic transmission.

The thickly padded instrument panel was “artfully curved”. Large, easy-to-read, white-on-black, rectangular gauges flanked a long strip speedometer. The electric clock was set in a tasteful panel along with two generous air conditioning vents.

The list of optional goodies one could add to a Caddy was nearly as long as the Trans-Canada Highway.  There was a trio of radio/stereo setups, including the Signal-Seeking ‘stereo only’ automatic station finder. To add icing to the audio cake, the signal-seeking model could be outfitted with a radio foot control pedal that allowed the driver to change stations with a simple tap of the toe.

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Air conditioning—dual systems for the limousine was another popular extra. Other comfort options were cruise control, an electric sunroof, power door locks, a remote control trunk lock, a towing package and an automatic level control system.

The Twilight Sentinel was a sensor that turned on the headlamps and parking lamps as light conditions changed. It also automatically shut off the lamps 90 seconds after occupants departed the car.

Cadillac did very well in calendar year 1972. Folks from St. John’s to Victoria took home 5,171 of GM’s finest, making Cadillac the best selling luxury car in Canada. Lincoln came in a distance second place with 2,498 units, West Germany’s Mercedes-Benz was third with 1,981 units and Imperial brought up the rear with 643 sets of taillight leaving showroom floors. 

The 1972 Imperial was Chrysler Canada's luxury brand.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2015 All rights reserved.