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Saturday, October 7, 2017

1961 Comet

Comet was the newest brand of automobile for Canadians in 1961. The two-door sedan weighed in at 1 140 kilos (2,513 pounds).

Euphoric Mercury-Meteor dealers blasted into the 1961 model year with its third new brand in four years. The 1958 Edsel was history after three seasons, as was last year’s Canada-only Frontenac. New for 1961 was the Comet. 

1961 Rambler Ambassador 

Comet was neither a Mercury nor a Meteor. Rather, it was a stand-alone brand—in a new size. The 2 895-millimetre (114-inch) wheelbased entry burst into the automotive world. It was initially dubbed billed as “the better compact car”  and, “new, value-packed”. The only competition in that wheelbase niche was the luxurious Ambassador by Rambler, marketed in the far upscale Imperial, Cadillac and Lincoln-land territory. 

An early clay mockup of the Comet (top) carries the Edsel name on the front door and fender. Comet (bottom), as photographed from the rear, appears to be a functional prototype. 

Comet arrived with “a spirited sense of proportion” that “gave it the most successful styling in its field”. Oddly, it started out on the drawing board as an Edsel, under the watchful eye of head stylist Robert B. Jones.  First clay prototypes rendered in 1957, closely resembled the Edsel. However, the mid-priced marque proved unsuccessful. After three  short seasons, Edsel was sent to automotive heaven but the junior Edsel carried all the earmarks of a winner. Management gave the green light to the project and they were right on the money. 

The four-door Comet sedan’s wheelbase measured The 2 895-millimetres (114-inches) and was 4 948 millimetres (194.8 inches) in overall length. 

Advertising bragged that Comet—the only compact car with fine-car styling had burst over Canada—as a US proven success. The Comet brochure reported the last year, workers in the Lorain, Ohio plant had built more than  than 250,000 cars, travelling more than a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometres) on American highways. With “the the look of success, the size of success and the feel of success”, brochures  crowed that Canadians would prefer the Canadian-built Comet and workers in Oakville, Ontario set out to prove them right. 

Our new national highway will open officially in 1962. Stretching  7, 821 kilometres from St. John's to Victoria, it is one of the longest roads on Earth.
Whether the driver was headed across town or across the country, Comet made travelling ‘lighthearted fun”. Two feet  (609 millimetres) shorter than a full-sized car, steering was light and handling was effortless. The longer wheelbase translated into smoother ride. That was a good thing to remember, considering that large stretches of the brand new Trans-Canada Highway were still gravel-bedded road. 


Jones and his team of designers changed the grille at the last minute before introduction, so it more closely resembled Mercury and Meteor offerings. Nine stacks of vertical bars graced the face with dual headlamps at the ends of the gentle oval. Comet script appeared on the right side of the hood, split in the centre with a tasteful crease. Dual gunsight ornaments sat atop the front fenders, near the leading edges. They crowned a pair of equally tasteful body creases. A restrained bumper held parking/turn signals in the lower tier and wrapped around to kiss the heavily-browed, front wheelwell. Full wheel covers were split into three-spoked divisions, carrying a ripple of  rings to a plain, chromed and domed centre. 

The soft, “round-body” envelope was punctuated with a chrome-highlighted crease, just below the door handles, where it kicked up to the top of the rear quarter panel with a discrete but decided chrome-accented flounce. The body carried a wide, butter-knife indent. Comet script appears at the rear, boldly flashing the tasteful fin. At the leading edge of the front fender, a trio of hash tags let everyone know that this was no ordinary small car, Comet a classy ride. Stylists set the car apart further from the competition with the formal, The Thunderbird-look roof C-pillar carried a tasteful Comet insignia above a multiple-striped chrome strip at its base. 




The rear of the Comet was most distinctive with canted ovoid lamps that capped the fins. A crest sweetly kissed the trunk lid, above the centre-mounted gas cap. Comet was spelled out in capital letters on a elongated chrome-look  horizontally striped panel that curved gracefully downward at the edges, to top the bumper. 

Cargo space in the Comet station wagon was  2.1 cubic metres (76 cubic feet) in capacity. 

Surprisingly, station wagons were shorn of the fins. Comet wagons were given semi-circular, gunsight-look taillights housed in bright-metal mouldings. The rear wagon window rolled down, although an electric wind option was available. An extra-cost luggage rack, with  five-stripes of  aluminum  support roof shafts, were included in the option.  Scuff-proof rubber was chosen for the wagons’ flooring—easily cleaned with soap and water. The cargo area measured 2.1 cubic metres (76 cubic feet)—the same as Frontenac and Falcon.


When equipped with the base engine, Comet’s fuel consumption was: 13.8 litres per/100 kilometres (20.5  miles to the Imperial gallon). 
Under the hood, Comet shared its 2.4-litre (144-cubic inch}, six-cylinder engine with its Ford Falcon cousin. Taking a swipe at Chevrolet’s Corvair, advertising bragged that the whisper-quit Thrift-Power Six engine was “front-mounted for better weight distribution, safer driving on all roads.” New this year was the larger, 2.7-litre (170-cubic inch) Thrift-Power mill. Since the Comet weighed more than 200 kilos (400 pounds) more then the Falcon, the extra horsepower was more than welcome—at a cost—of course.

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The three-speed conventional drive was “unusually smooth and responsive, with gearshift conveniently located on the steering column”. Optional Comet Drive automatic transmission gave owners “fully automatic driving at a budget price” because of its simplified design. 

The heavily insulated cabin held six people seated on foam-cushioned seats, fore and aft. Canadians were told they would “praise Comet’s big-car comfort and beautiful Interiors” that were “colour-harmonized” to compliment the Super-Enamel exterior paint offerings. Passengers would appreciate the extra stretch-out space afforded by the longer wheelbase and be better protected from injury in the strongly reinforced unit body that featured double ribs and strong crossmembers for greater strength and rigidity. 


Comet shared an instrument panel with its Ford Falcon kin.


The instrument panel was simplicity itself. A strip speedometer was housed in a large chrome oval with a pair of smaller chrome ovals at the extreme edges—one gauge for fuel, the other for engine temperature. The odometer was placed below the speedometer, flanked by oil and generator lights. Typical of Ford products, the ignition was located at the far left of the panel in the same row as the operations knobs. Comet script was placed in the centre of the panel, above the radio. A centre-mounted ash receiver was located below, in the same lower lip as control knobs. In front of the passenger was the glove compartment. It carried a chrome-look Comet-maple leaf chevron that stretched across the door.

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Standard equipment included the Blue Oval’s Safety Steering Wheel, dual horns and tandem-action windshield wipers. Two front armrests, dual sun visors, an aluminized muffler, an automatic choke and an oil filter all added to the Comet’s value.

 Image result for artist's palette clipart

The artist’s palette was broad for Comet. Colours for Canadians were different than those built in the States. Paint was sourced from the famed Rinshed-Mason Company in Windsor, Ontario, a company that supplied not only the automotive industry, but clad NASA’s experimental X-15 fighter jets and the official dress of the Eiffel Tower. 


Image result for eiffel tower clipart

The colours offered to domestic Comet consumers were: Sultana White, Starlite Blue, Saffron Green, Signal Red, Sunburst Yellow, Empress Blue, Regency Turquoise, Columbia Blue, Green Frost and Sheffield Grey. Two-tone exteriors were available for a fee. 

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Canadians could come home with their Comets in any of a quartet of body styles. The two-door sedan listed at $2,447  while the four-door sedan was priced at $2,513. The two-door station wagon was a bargain at $2,776 and Comet’s four-door, six-passenger workhorse rang in at a modest $2,848. All prices included Ottawa’s hidden 13.5-percent Manufacturer’s Tax. 

Image result for 1961 Meteor
 A pair of 1961 Meteor Montcalms

Management in Oakville reported both Frontenac and Comet production under the Meteor category, Extrapolated figures show Comet ranked Number Six in domestic calendar year sales in its Canadian marketplace debut, with 17,658 units built. Of that figure, records show that 3,718 Comets rolled out the Oakville’s doors during the 1960 calendar year. That gave Comet 5.6 percent of the market. Ford’s Falcon came in with a commanding 19,876 builds, accounting for 5.88 percent of the pie. Oakville was crowned King of the Compacts, with Rambler in second place with more than 11,000 cars built and sold.

Trunk space was “family-sized” generous in the 1961 Comet.

The Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited celebrated more milestones that year. It spent $6 million on a new glass fabrication plant in St. Thomas, Ontario. Ford’s new corporate headquarters building, situated in Oakville, opened in April. Ford of Canada was on a roll and even better times were just around the rainbow’s bend.





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Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 17, 2017

1960 Frontenac


The 1960 Frontenac. Sold by Meteor-Mercury dealers, the trim compact weighed in at 1 088 kilos (2,400 pounds).


The small automobile became increasingly popular with consumers as the 1950s drew to a close. From St. John’s to Victoria, sales of new cars skyrocketed and 110,301 of them—a full 26.2 percent—came from abroad. 
1960 Volkswagen Beetle.

The top selling compact cars in 1959 were Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Rambler, Austin, Studebaker, Renault, Morris and Britain’s Fords. Big wheels were clearly in  danger of being crowded off the nation’s highways and byways; the Dominion Bureau of Statistics recorded that smaller passenger cars sold now accounted for nearly one out of every three new automobiles leaving dealers’ showrooms.

1960 Valiant was built in Windsor, Ontario.

The 1960 selling season would bring even more little choices. Chrysler Canada—having introduced the ‘Imported from Paris’ Simca last year—now added a new, smaller brand, built in Windsor, Ontario. The Valiant replaced the slow-selling De Soto in the corporate pentagram. 


Up the road in Oshawa, General Motors launched the rear-engined Corvair. The smallest Chev to wear the famous blue bowtie, this pint-sized puppy was designed to compete head-to-head with West Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle. 

Ford Falcon, sold by Ford-Monarch dealers, was Frontenac’s fraternal twin. 

Ford of Canada’s small car entry was one with a conventional engine and drivetrain layout. Ford Falcon was slated for Ford and Monarch dealers. Clearly, the Mercury-Lincoln-Meteor dealer body would require an offering of its own. In time-honoured Canadian fashion, the boys in Oakville created a new, badge-engineered brand, for Canadians only. Rather than making it a model of Meteor or Mercury, Frontenac was born.


The name for the stand-alone brand was chosen with care. Lord Frontenac was Governor of New France in the 1600s. His noble name graced  (and still does) one of the most magnificent and imposing hotels on the continent—Château-Frontenac in Quebec City. “The Frontenac is as Canadian as its name,” ad copy crowed. 

Coming or going, Frontenac was easily identified by its distinctive Canadian styling cues.  Front tread measured 1 397 millimetres (55 inches) and 1 384 millimetres (54.5 inches) at the stern. 
Frontenac’s entire introductory campaign was centred on the word ‘eventful’. An oversized preview poster arrived at dealerships in August of 1959 to build hype for the ‘eventful’ Frontenac by posing sixteen questions that marketing was sure burned within the hearts of potential purchasers. “When we called the Frontenac ‘eventful’ we meant it. It is an event when you get economy and living room comfort in just 181  sleek inches (459.74 centimetres) of Canadian-style car. It’s an event when you own a Frontenac—an event even a family of six can enjoy.”

 Frontenac was a crowd pleaser, selling a whopping  9,536 units in its only year of manufacture. 
John D. King, Ford Canada’s Vice-President and General Sales Manager added to the excitement of the upcoming event. On the 17th of September 1959, The Maurice Valley Chronicle, published in Trois-Riviérès, Quebec, quoted him as saying, “The Frontenac is being built in response to a growing interest among the Canadian motoring public for cars which have a distinctively Canadian identity.” He then added,”The major styling emphasis on this car has been to provide features which will make the car a stand-out in its field.”

Frontenac advertising emphasized that the new, smaller car was 4 597 millimetres (181 inches), bumper-to-bumper, had a wheelbase of 2 578 millimetres (100.5 inches) but it was not a junior model of the Meteor brand. 
Great pains were taken to let everyone know that this was not a junior Meteor. Frontenac was a stand-alone marque of its own. Ford of Canada wanted all the hoop-la associated with introducing a new brand of automobile—not a model of an existing make. 

1960 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

Frontenac may have been smaller but it was exceptionally capacious inside because of ‘the Ford family’s greatest experience in unit construction’. There was a lengthy explanation of what unit construction was and how it was employed in the Lincoln Continental and Ford Thunderbird.

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Economy was emphasized as an ‘eventful benefit’.  Frontenac’s engine offered ‘Canadian style performance’. The 2.4-litre (144-cubic inch), six-cylinder mill was placed in front of the passenger compartment. It was an event that Frontenac was powered by Canada’s newest 70 kW (95-horsepower) engine, one constructed of a specially-treated iron alloy with the weight-saving qualities of high-strength aluminum.  The engine’s short stroke measured 6.35 centimetres (2.5 inches)—a full 2.54 centimetres (one inch) shorter than the bore. 

For years, cars in Ford Canada’s stable listed an oil filter as extra-cost equipment.  Frontenac offered a flow-through oil filter as standard equipment. This promised to eliminate nine oil changes a year, as one could drive 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles) between servicing. 

The Mileage-Maker Six was a gas miser. The fuel tank capacity was a generous 44 litres (11.7 Imperial gallons). 
Urban driving resulted in a a ‘sparkling’ average fuel consumption of 9.42L/100km (30 miles to the Imperial gallon) and even more on open roads. The preview bragged that it was an event when ‘just over a cent (an ancient Canadian coin) a mile (an ancient Canadian unit of distance) for gas should cover all the pleasure you’ll enjoy at the wheel’. Thrift was catapulted into the eventful category as 547 kilometres (340 miles) per tankful, calculated at a savings of 5 cents per 4.5 litres (for one Imperial gallon), were spotlighted.

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Canadians were crazy for automatic transmissions—40% of passenger vehicles on the Dominion’s highways and byways were equipped with such by 1959—according to Frontenac fanfare. While a fully synchronized, three-speed manual transmission with the ‘familiar shift pattern’ was standard equipment, a two-speed automatic transmission was available at ‘small extra cost’. The self-shifting unit was touted as being new and lightweight—thanks to an aluminum housing unit—making Frontenac more fun to drive. 

Engineers designed Frontenac to be durable. Tested for two years before arriving in dealers’ showrooms, information in the preview poster revealed: “Three completely separate series of tests were conducted. First, components such as the engine, transmission, suspension, axles and heater were tested in other cars  (for) hundreds of thousands of miles under Ford British bodies. Second, full mechanized prototypes drove all across the country. Lastly, complete and disguised prototypes were tested under every possible condition on the same type of roads that you drive on.”  In a nation where the Trans-Canada Highway consisted of vast stretches of gravel roadway, Frontenac stood up to the harshest of Canadian conditions. 

While it shared its body and mechanicals with Ford’s Falcon, stylists made Frontenac ’distinctively Canadian in every line’, a ‘ distinctively Canadian touch’. The grille was an elaborate three-piece affair. Single headlamps were located in a recessed, ovoid cove, flanking two finely-ribbed, concave rowing oar-look sections overlaid with a heavy chrome bar that extended horizontally to rectangular turn signals, nestled in the ends of the grille. At the very centre, a substantial chrome circle with a smaller one inside, was emblazoned with the quintessential symbol of all things Canadian—a maple leaf. The front bumper was upturned at the leading edge of the fenders and made a pleasant dip upwards at the centre to hold a front license plate. 


Front fenders carried prominent creases that ran to the cowl. The Frontenac script was front and centre at the lip of the hood, which was accented with a  raised scoop-look stamping. The flanks’ jaunty body creases evoked that of surfboards. Chrome spears adorned the front fenders aft of the wheelwells. Each was kissed with a circular chrome medallion that carried a maple leaf. Giving the impression of speed while standing still, a trio of chrome windsplits appeared on the trailing edge of the rear fenders. The rear wheelwells were cut low and disappeared altogether with the addition of optional fender skirts.  Above the beltline, a generous expanse of glass provided excellent vision with with no blind spots. Drivers and front seat passengers who smoked appreciated the vent windows.



From the rear, Frontenac’s bumper turned downward in a gently rounded curve at the ends, to cradle circular taillights ensconced in wide, flat chrome bezels that featured concentric rings. A concave body crease ran the entire width between the bumper and the trunk’s lip. Identifying Frontenac script was located on the right side.The chromed trunk handle did double duty as housing for the trunk lock.   Directly below it was the gasoline tank cap, a useful position regardless of which side of the gas pump one pulled up to at the Irving, B/A or Pacific 66 station. Trunk space in the sedans measured at a capacious .63 cubic metres (23 cubic feet)—‘large enough to hold seven average sized suitcases of a family on a trip’. 

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The Frontenac ride employed the latest technology, including independent front suspension with ball joints.  Double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers with built-in rebound control were mounted inside the springs (something Nash pioneered in 1940).   A link-mounted ride stabilizer bar minimized road sway on turns.  Rear suspension boasted five springs with diagonally mounted shocks.  The rear axle was hypoid, in a semi-floating banjo housing. The axle ratio was 3.10 to 1 with both the manual and automatic transmissions.

The car’s turning circle was less than 11.6 metres (38 feet) and could squeeze into a space as small as 459.74 centimetres (181 inches). The 43-centimetre (17-inch) diameter Safeguard Steering Wheel required only 4.6 turns, lock-to-lock, thanks to the recirculating ball mechanism, dubbed Magic-Circle.


Economy did not equal austerity. “It is an event when you can have all this comfort and and long-lasting value in a car. There is as much attention to interior styling, seating comfort and beauty of fabrics as any well designed car has received in the past.” Frontenac represented ‘the kind of comfort, luxury and quality to which the majority of Canadian drivers are accustomed. You don’t have to skimp to save in a Frontenac!’

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Safety was an event. Advertising focused on the superiority of unit construction,  Safety Door Locks, Safety Glass all around, available with a tinted strip across the top of the windshield serving as a sun visor, (optional), a Deep-Dish Steering Wheel that protected the driver from impalement by the rigid steering column in the event of collision, padding on the instrument panel (optional) and advanced, foolproof 28-centimetre (nine-inch) hydraulic brakes, now with 30 fewer previous parts to service at maintenance time. 


The fiercely efficient FreshAire heater was singled out for high praise. Designed to defy those dirty, wintery -40C days, only eight minutes from a cold start were needed to melt 6.35 millimetres (a quarter inch) of frost from the windshield. Frontenac’s mighty heater was said to be ‘more modern and efficient than those found in many larger cars’. Hot air in January was clearly eventful!

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Interiors received meticulous attention. The ‘comfortably high’ front bench seat was adjustable and designed for optimal back and leg support. Foam padding was a standard feature, found under durable  and easy-to-clean vinyl coverings. Frontenac’s upholstery was offered in a single hue: Colour-Planned Grey. The lone interior offering harmonized with any exterior colour choice.  However, it was an event to order optional, luxurious ‘elegant, easy-caring upholstery fabrics’ upon which to sit.  Green, Blue or Grey stain-resistant, metal-weave material were colour-keyed to exteriors. 

Passengers were promised big car, roomy comfort, enough for a half-dozen six-footers. The capacious cabin made for pleasurable long-distance treks, even those seated in the centre position.  Frontenac was exceptionally quiet, being ‘insulated to keep out dust, road noise and moisture under all Canadian conditions’. Attention to passengers’ comfort added up to another Frontenac event. 


Paint was offered in a wide range of hues. Oakville’s belle of the ball could be clad in any of nine colours: Raven Black, Corinthian White, Montecarlo Red, Skymist Blue (light), Belmont Blue (medium), Adriatic Green (light), Meadowvale Green (medium), Sultana Turquoise and Platinum. For those seeking something more eventful,  fourteen two-tone colour combos were available.

The newly formulated Lustre-baked enamel promised to keep Frontenac shiny bright, season after season. The twin curses of corrosion and rust were aggressively tackled. Galvanized steel was employed in much of the underbody, which could be coated—at a small cost—with zinc spray.  Inner rocker panels were coated in zinc, too. Even the muffler was ‘aluminized’ for a life twice as long as ordinary mufflers. Keeping road cancer at bay for as long as possible was truly eventful!

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Extra cost accessories designed for Frontenac included front door-operated courtesy lights, cigarette lighter, a rear seat ashtray, the manually tuned Economy Console (AM) radio, a foot pedal-operated Aquatic Windshield Washer-Wiper, electric wipers, the MagicAire heater/defroster, stylish Full-View side mirrors, a chrome-plated Non-Glare rearview mirror,  padded instrument panel, tinted windshield, luxurious interior fabrics,  whitewall tires, oversize 6.50x13 4-ply tires and stainless steel hub wheel covers. DeLuxe trim added brightwork to the windows, beltline and roofline. 

October the 8th, 1959 was the national day of unveiling. The date was chosen because it was a Thursday, just before the Thanksgiving Day weekend, something extra Canadians could be thankful for. Two models graced the dealership—a two and four-door sedan. The preview promised, “early next year there will be a completely new Frontenac station wagon with amazing roominess for both passengers and cargo.”


To make sure the word got out to the public, Meteor-Mercury-Frontenac dealers sponsored two TV shows on the CBC. Tuesday nights the network aired Startime, a 90-minute showcase of plays and anthologies—the best from the world of arts. On Thursday evenings, the dealers sponsored The Deputy, an American western series starring Henry Fonda. 

Largest in its class, the Frontenac wagons boasted a whopping 2.1 cubic metres (76 cubic feet) of cargo space (largest in its field) in both 2- and 4-door models.
When the Frontenac wagons did arrive, advertising was tight and punchy. “Canada’s own compact wagons, 2.1 cubic metres (76 cubic feet) of cargo space (largest in its field) in both 2- and 4-door models.”  In comparison, the Meteor Country Sedans and Ranchwagons afforded 2.7 cubic metres (97 cubic feet) of hauling space and the Mercury Country Cruisers an even larger 2.8 cubic metres (101.7 cubic foot capacity).  

The Meteor-Mercury-Frontenac wagon line up is showcased in this advert from Halifax area dealers. 
Frontenac “Stops quickly, smoothly, thanks to wagon-size brakes.” The tailgate window opened and close from the outside. Turning—and holding— the key in the lock, conveniently permitted the power-operated window to open and close automatically.

Mercury--Meteor—Frontenac dealers in all ten provinces carried parts and offered full service. Keeping life simple, publicity let the public know that every auto mechanic in the Dominion had the right tools, nuts and bolts to take care of a breakdown—not that it would ever happen. If travelling in the United States, Ford dealers were ready and able to help. 

Sourced from the UK, the 1960 Ford Anglia was popular with Canadians.

Sales of 9,536 Frontenacs, 17,152 Ford Falcons along with 15,149 British Fords and 775 German Fords added up to an astonishing 42,902 small car sales. That total surpassed domestic sales of full-sized Fords by nearly 12,000 units. Ford of Canada garnered 46 percent of all small-size cars in the Dominion. There was no doubt in Oakville that the compact car was here to stay.

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Despite Ford Canada’s phenomenal growth in the small car segment of the market, it came at the expense of Oakville’s big cars.  With only 30,687 full-sized Fords sold, the drop represented an 8.6 percent decline in a one-year period. The company did manage to remain profitable by selling off its Australian, New Zealand and South African subsidiaries.

While a 1961 Frontenac was planned--and made a cross-Canada trek-- it was scrapped at the last moment because management decided to replace it with the Mercury Comet.

Some 43,000 compacts had been built in Canada in 1960, another 18,000 shipped in from the US and 177,000 imported from Europe. Now, one out of every three automobiles sold in the country were—well—really small. Before Christmas recess, Parliament  was quick to overhaul importation regulations, in a bid to safeguard our domestic automobile industry.

1960 Envoy was a badge-engineered Vauxhall, available only in Canada. It was sold through Chev-Olds dealers.

Of the Top Ten selling passenger cars sold in calendar year 1960, half were compacts. Volkswagen earned third place with 31,146 sales; GM’s captive import Vauxhall took the Number Five Spot with 21,530 sales; Ford’s new Falcon enjoyed ninth place with 14,733 units sold and GM Canada’s new badge-engineered Envoy held down the tenth spot with 13,089 sales. 

Peter McKeen of Harrow, Ontario owns this beautiful 1960 Frontenac. Here is the car’s story in his own words. 

My earliest memories involve a Frontenac. My father's first ever brand new car was a Mist Blue, four- door Frontenac which he purchased in December of 1960 at Dingwall Motors Limited in nearby Windsor.  It was also his first ever Blue Oval automobile, which was ironic since Clair McKeen had graduated from the Ford Trade School as a pattern maker and had worked for the company as a skilled tradesman for nearly ten years. 

 My father’s Frontenac cost him $2,687 including the 13% federal Manufacturer’s Tax, Provincial Tax and the Ontario license plate fee from the Ministry of Motor Vehicles. Extras included zinc undercoating, outside mirrors, the heater and a cigar lighter. 

I remember long rides out to the country to visit my grandparents, often seated in the middle of the front seat. I was the youngest and it made sense that my short legs were a good match for the transmission 'hump' that divided the legroom in the front seat. I always wondered why the Frontenac had two brake pedals when our other car had only one. I later learned that the second brake pedal was actually the clutch and wasn't an extra safety feature in case Dad had to stop really, really fast.

In 1968, my grandfather passed away and my father acquired his nearly new 1967 Plymouth Fury III. (I can still vividly recall its new car smell to this day.) It was a good car for trailer towing and suited our growing family, so the little Frontenac  was parked in my grandmother's garage. Eventually her house was sold. With nowhere to store the Frontenac, my father offered it to new owners and it passed out of our family's hands forever.

In 1988, I was home for a visit when I noticed a Frontenac advertised under 'classics' in the Windsor Star classified ads.  My father was about to retire after 37 years with Ford and knowing he had regretted letting go of such a rare Canadian car, I suggested we go take a look.

It was a white two-door with red interior and a 'three-in-the-tree' manual transmission, with 45 061 original kilometres (28,000 miles) showing on the odometer and perfect upholstery in the back seat. The car was in overall good shape and reasonably priced. Thinking my father would want to buy it to tinker with in his retirement, I was surprised when he said very little on the trip home. Eventually he broke the silence and asked me, "if that car was yours, where would you keep it?"
I was living in a Toronto apartment and had just landed my first real job. I replied I would have to keep it at his place but that I couldn't afford the $2,500 asking price.  After a few more miles of silence, my father offered to loan me the money.  I figured I could swing an extra $100 month, so at long last, a Frontenac would be back in the family.

I phoned the current owner, George Boden and made him an offer of $1,900, which he accepted. He threw in a cotton car cover (which still protects the car to this day) and a box of spare parts he had accumulated, as well. I think George sensed the car was going to a good home. He told me the fascinating history of the car and how he acquired it.

The original owner was another Ford employee and George's neighbour, John Jackson. John purchased the car as a company executive demonstrator from Ford and drove it for five years. At some point during that time, John's wife passed away and he had the car repainted in funereal  black in memory and honour of her passing. 

He stopped driving it in 1965 and the Frontenac stayed put in his garage unused for 19 years until he passed away in 1984. At that point, John's daughter Patricia offered the car to George as thanks for being a good neighbour for so many years.

As the second owner, George got the car running and had it repainted to its original Corinthian White. He drove it for a few years and after buying a new house without a garage, he decided to sell it—and so—the Frontenac now had its third owner.

I have owned it (thanks to my father) for almost 30 years now and it is still in very good original condition although the odometer now reads over 70811 kilometres (44,000 miles). It still runs like a watch. Many people ask what year it is, thinking it is a Falcon, but the few who know what it is know it can only be a 1960—the only year Frontenac was ever on the market.

My father and I have kept it up over the years. We have twice been invited to display it at the Ford Product Development Centre in Dearborn Michigan. Our Frontenac has no less than nine red maple leaves that adorn the dog dish hubcaps, badging and horn button.  


Like the maple leaf flag, Our Frontenac is white and red and we are proud to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in it. 

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Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Child prodigy designs a car for American Motors Canada Limited

Eight-year old Greg Khouri shows off his drawing of the 1975 Dadamore that he designed for AMC Canada Limited. He’s standing in the president’s parking spot in front of the plant in Brampton, Ontario.

When Greg Khouri was eight years old, the pint-sized American Motors fanatic created a design for a future AMC model that he dubbed the Dadamore. The hybrid name honoured his father, whom he loved with all his heart—and AMC’s beautiful new Matador—which he admired greatly.
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Greg’s Dadamore rendering was inspired by the beautiful 1974 AMC Matador coupe. 

Greg recollects that his Dadamore outclassed everything currently on the road in terms of safety, reliability and power: His detailed plans include a unique triple braking system that combined drum, disc and air brakes; Because his dad’s Rebel had a bad case of Canadian cancer, he proposed to make the body from fifteen layers of steel. For comfort, he added and an elaborate air conditioning system that in hindsight,  would have required a portable power plant to supply sufficient energy to operate it. 

Greg’s father, George, was a teacher, who always sought to bring out the best in children. He encouraged and praised Greg in every endeavour he undertook—whether he excelled  at it or not. George instilled  values in his son by example. George was modest, thrifty and prudent. He was most proud of his possessions and took good care of them. That care was extended to his automobiles.  Greg recalls that no nick was too small to be buffed out and every scratch received prompt attention. 
Image result for 1968 Rambler Rebel 770
1968 Rambler Rebel 770.
In 1975, father and son trekked to Toronto, to celebrate Easter with family.  The seven-hour trek from Montréal was made in the family’s trusty Russet Red 1968 AMC Rebel 770.  Greg remembers that the sedan’s front fenders flapped noisily in the breeze because they had been thoroughly eaten through by rust. 
One of the adventures the father and son duo undertook that long weekend in T.O. was to wander out to Brampton to see AMC Canada’s national headquarters. When they arrived at the corner of Kennedy and Steeles,  the factory was closed for the Easter holidays. Open or not, Greg’s dad thoughtfully memorialized the occasion by snapping a photo of Greg —and the plans for the Dadamore—standing next to the president’s parking spot.  The youngster then excitedly dropped his Dadamore plans into the mail chute, in hopes that Mr. Pickett would receive them. 

William (Bill) S. Pickett was President of American Motors Canada, Limited.

Unbeknownst to Greg, his dad had conspired with Mr. Pickett to give the young lad the surprise of his life. Bill Pickett loved children and the generous man took time out of his  holiday weekend to give the budding stylist the thrill of a lifetime.  That Saturday evening, the phone rang at Uncle Fouad’s home, where the Khouris were guests. On the other end of the line was none other than William S. (Bill) Pickett, president of American Motors Canada Limited—and the phone call was for eight-year old Greg.  


Uncle Fouad was a shortwave aficionado and an electronics communication geek who had surreptitiously hooked up a tape recorder to the telephone in order to record the conversation between the two.  

What follows is the transcript of the negotiations between Greg, a precious eight-year old would-be automobile designer and a mighty captain of the automotive industry:
Related image
The Contempra was designed in-house by Northern Electric Limited to honour the 100th anniversary of the Canadian invention of the telephone. 
(Secretly recording) Dad: Good afternoon. This is Saturday afternoon at 3:45pm in Toronto, Ontario at (Greg’s Uncle) Fouad’s house. We have just come back from Brampton, Ontario, and we’re expecting a call from Mr. Pickett for Gregory to discuss the plans of the new Dadamore car. This is Holy Saturday, March 29, 1975, in Toronto Canada. 

Now we’re standing by for the call from Mr. Pickett, President of American Motors in Brampton, Ontario, to discuss the plans for the Dadamore car with Gregory. 
Greg: Greg Khouri. 
Bill Pickett: William S. Pickett Hello ?Hello, Mr. Khouri ?
No ... No, this is his son, Gregory. 
Bill Pickett: Oh hello, Mr. Khouri. This is Mr. Pickett from American Motors. 
Greg: Yes. 
Bill Pickett: I got from my people the plans that you delivered down to our plant. You have some pretty interesting ideas there. 
Greg: Yes.
Bill Pickett: Listen, I have to go down to Detroit for a meeting with my people on Wednesday of next week. Could you be available? 
Greg: I’ll try. 
Bill Pickett: You’ll try, eh? Well, we’ll be meeting at American Motors at 10 o’clock on Wednesday next, eh? 
Greg: OK. 
Bill Pickett: Now listen, the one thing that I’m a little concerned about is the air-condition system that you show on that car. Looks to me as though it’s going to be a little expensive. 
Greg: I know ... anyway I tried to make it fancy, so most people could buy it.
Bill Pickett: I see. Ah, well, you know at American Motors, we rely on putting out a product that not only is utilitarian, but not too so expensive, you see? 
Greg: Yes. 
Bill Pickett: And if we get into a pretty fancy arrangement like the air-conditioning plan I see in your car—well—I don’t know if we’ll be able to put it at a price the public could afford. 

Image result for canada one thousand dollar bill

Greg: Oh, I think I’ll make the price around four thousand. 
Bill Pickett: Around four thousand? That sounds pretty good. But, you see, what we have to do with a new model like this, and it’s something we have to look at very carefully, we have lot of plant and equipment to buy and the tooling costs a lot of money. Now, what do you think we’ll have to spend in terms of tooling up this new car? 
Greg: Oh, around ... let’s see ... maybe around five thousand dollars.
Bill Pickett: Around five thousand dollars? That doesn’t sound too bad. Ah, I’ll discuss it with my colleagues and hopefully you can down to Detroit on Wednesday, eh? 
Greg: OK. I’ll try. 
Bill Pickett: Fine. Now at the same time perhaps you can give my accounting people some idea of what you want to charge for the plans, because this is a pretty interesting proposition. 
Greg: OK. 
(At this point, Greg left Mr. Pickett hanging for nearly 45 seconds because he did not understand what he meant by ‘charges’.  It never occurred to him that he could be paid for his labour of love. Mr. Pickett must have thought he was dealing with an extremely hardball negotiator.) 
Bill Pickett: Hello ? Greg: Hello ?  Have you decided on what kind of changes you’re going to make for the plans? 
Greg: Ah, yes .... 
Bill Pickett: So what kind of figure have you in mind, a ball-park figure, so I can discuss with our financial people. 
Greg: Let’s see now ... look, I’m going to try to make ... Did you get, ah, the ten cylinders?
Bill Pickett: Ah, well, we may have to cut down on the cylinders a little. Ah, I don’t know if we can make it ten;we might be able to go down to nine. 
Greg: Did you understand what I meant by the brakes? 
Bill Pickett: Uh-huh. Yah. Yah. Ah, well I’d have to talk with my technical people too. They’re pretty excited about this. But, as I say, we can kick this around when we get down to Detroit. Greg: OK.
Bill Pickett: Alright?
Greg: OK.
Bill Pickett: Okay, fine. I look forward to seeing you in Detroit on Wednesday, eh? Greg: OK.
Bill Pickett: Good.
Greg: Bye.
Bill Pickett: Thank you. Bye-bye.
Greg: Bye. 

The price discussed in regards to Greg’s sketch of the Dadamore was $4,000 but more than forty years later, the memories of his conversation with William S. Picket are priceless. 



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