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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

1960 Oldsmobile

 Styling of the 1960 Oldsmobile was conservative and dignified. 

Oldsmobile had a chequered sales history in the 1950s.  In Oshawa, Ontario, model year production for 1952 was 6,112 units. The following model year that rose slightly to 6,800. With an end to hostilities in Korea, GM was once again able to focus on civilian vehicle production. Oldsmobile’s total jumped to 9,008 cars built in 1954. In 1955 model year a total of 14,274 Oldsmobiles rolled off the lines in Oshawa. Because of a 144-day strike, the 1956 model year total was cut nearly in half, at 7,968 units. The final tally for 1957 hit 14,177 units. That dropped to 11,526 built in Oshawa during the 1958 model year. Hard on the comeback highway, a whopping 16,230 Olds units rolled out the doors of the sprawling 30-hectare (75-acre) South Plant in Oshawa during the 1959 model year. 

 There’s a Rocket for every pocket! crowed Olds advertising. !960 models were given lower axle rations that reduced engine speed, improved economy and—Oldsmobile pleasability.

The mid-priced, mid-range Oldsmobile fielded no fewer than seventeen different models when the cars made their debut in the fall of 1959. Six of them were built in Oshawa and eleven others were sourced from the Lansing, Michigan factory. 

While it appeared to be skewed in favour of the Americans, only 231 units were exported from the United States. The small number of cars shipped abroad resulted from a bitter 116-day steel strike in the USA; one that crippled General Motors’ American operations. The labour dispute eventually affected work in Oshawa. Records show that no Oldsmobiles were manufactured in Oshawa that November. A terse ‘zero’ in the column spoke volumes. 

 Oldsmobiles in the Dynamic 88 and Super 88 series were designated as ‘junior’ Oldsmobiles and shared the new corporate B- body style with ‘junior’ Buicks.  

For the 1960 selling season, Olds was conservative in its look. Using the division’s signature rocket logo as this season’s sales cue, Olds was, “radiantly styled for the rocketing Sixties”. Ad copy waxed enthusiastically about the “fresh, balanced, enchanting symmetry” of the complete-sized, complete-value, complete quality automobile. 

The grille was crisp and trim, replete with eleven vertical stacks of chrome bars, each divided into threes, each cluster containing three ribs. Quad headlamps were lightly browed and separated by the Oldsmobile insignia. Above the grille, front and centre, was a long, narrow hood scoop with the word ‘Oldsmobile’ spelled out in capital letters. The hood scoop was defined by twin creases that ran to the cowl. The bumper was split into thirds, the centre being ribbed and recessed. The bumper’s flanks were also split, the perfect place to tuck in the wrap-around parking lights and directional signals.

The sides of Oldsmobile’s sleek envelope whisked the headlamp brow crease all the way to the end of the car where it capped a most modest tail fin. A body beauty line sprang up at the leading edge of the front fender—below a trio of wind splits— spanned the wheel wells, then turned downward in a languid curve that kissed the rear bumper. The greenhouse featured a wrap-around windshield with the trendy reverse-dog leg A-pillar. An Olds could be clad in any of fifteen Magic-Mirror Finish. 

From the derrière, twin creases dashed down the length of the trunk lid. There was enough space between them for the Oldsmobile insignia, centred on a long, thin chrome bar. A sharply defined beauty line  crossed the top of the trunk lid, spanning a pair of rocket shaped tail lights.  Oldsmobile was spelled out below the trunk’s lower lip. The lock was centred. An extra-cost nicety was the Deck Lid Power Lock Release—located in the ‘handy’ glove compartment—that would pop open the trunk, without the driver ever having to leave the vehicle. The back bumper was a flat bar that arced downward at the ends. Round back-up lights rested in the extreme edges of the arcs. A series of horizontal chrome bars traversed the area below the bumper, punctuated by the license plate and decorative chrome bumperettes on either side. 

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A half-dozen Dynamic 88 models were offered. These high-stepping expressions of ‘Oldsmobility’ were billed as ‘standout beauties—the lowest priced Regular Rocket Engine Oldsmobiles’. Thrift was emphasized. Because they operated on regular octane fuel, advertising boasted that owners would save a dollar on every tank of gas. 

From Oldsmobile’s factory in Lansing came a total of 31 Dynamic 88 Celebrity two-door sedans at $3,252 each. Each tipped the scales at 1 290 kilos (4,235 pounds). These plain Janes were the most modest of the entire Olds clan.  Three convertibles in the 88 series were imported, with a list price of $3,767. The ragtop weighed  1975 kilos (4,355 pounds).

Twelve Fiesta three-seat station wagons arrived in Canada, each tipping the scales at 2 127 kilos (4,690 pounds) and a price tag of $3,985. All prices for the imports were FOB Windsor. 

From GM Canada’s South Plant in Oshawa, came the 1 958 kilo (4 318 pound) four-door sedan at $3,095, the 1 935-kilo (4,268-pound), two-door Holiday Coupe with its $3,157 price  and the 1 990-kilo (4,338-pound), four-door Holiday Sport Sedan selling for $3,242. All the domestically-built Oldsmobiles were FOB Oshawa. 

The Dynamic 88s were identified by script affixed at the trailing edge of the rear fender. They carried no belt line trim, save a simple side chrome spear that graced the length of the vehicle. The two least expensive 88s were fitted with dog dish hubcaps, rather than full wheel covers. Chrome trim rings, to fill out the wheel, were optional. 

Oldsmobility power plant in the Dynamic 88 was the 6-litre (371-cubic inch) Regular Rocket. The mill featured new pistons this year and a new Econ-O-Way two-barrel carburettor. Three-speed Synchromesh standard transmission was standard, the lever mounted on the steering column. The Jetaway Hydra-Matic Drive was optional.  Economy was further enhanced with the economy Expressway Axle.

Oldsmobile rode on an exclusive Wide-Stance Chassis that featured a Guard-Beam Frame, nylon-sheared shock absorbers and live-rubber body mounts that were 50% thicker than previous. 

Interiors for the Scenicoupe were available in five colour schemes that featured ‘striking fabric texture’, accented and bolstered in durable Morocceen. The Sport-Sedan was given a dark grey diamond-pattern fabric, accented in ivory-coloured Morocceen—though a choice of four other colourful combinations could be selected. Fashion-Firm seats were foam-padded fore-and-aft, save the rear seats of the two-door and four-door sedans. Flooring consisted of rubber with carpet trim. 

Moving up, there were another half-dozen Olds to be found in the Super 88 series. These were better dressed than the base Dynamic 88s. Niceties included two-speed windshield wipers, the De Luxe Safety-Vee steering wheel and more chrome—inside and out. Carpet was deep-twist pile. The duel ash trays were illuminated. Once again, the Synchromesh gearbox was standard equipment. The Jetaway Hydra-Matic Drive was optional. 

The Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Sportsedan  was built in Oshawa were the four-door sedan rode on a 123-inch wheelbase. 

The only imported models in the Super 88 series were the convertible and the Fiesta station wagon. The former cost $4,109 and weighed in at 1 975 kilos (4,355 pounds), while the  latter offered a generous 2.5-cubic metres (88 cubic feet) of cargo space when the rear seat was folded flat. The two-seat hauler cost $4,196 and the three-seater cost $3,985.

 The Oldsmobile Super 88 Fiesta station wagon was built in Lansing, Michigan. The two-seat carried six. It cost $4,196 and weighed in at 4,645 pounds while the three-seat, nine passenger  variation cost $3,985 and packed a hefty 4,670 pounds of weight.

Under the insulated hood of the Super 88s and the Ninety-Eight models lurked the Premium Rocket engine with its Multi-Jet Carburettor. The 6.4-litre (394-cubic inch) behemoth, belted out an impressive 231 Kilowatts  (315 horsepower).  It promised to deliver maximum performance from high octane, premium fuels—the ideal combination of ‘Rocket thrust and thrift’.

The ’slender’ roof protruded beyond the Sweep-Around, curved rear glass window to provide shade from the sun.

 Built in Oshawa were the four-door sedans listing, for $3,385 and weighing in at 1 980 kilos  (4,365 pounds). The two-door Holiday SceniCoupes tipped the scale at 1 957 kilos (4,315 pounds) and carried a price tag of $3,549. The four-door Holiday Sport Sedans sold for $3,633 and weighed 1 989 kilos (4385 lbs.)

The Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight series were given a 126.3-inch wheelbase, one shared with Cadillac.

The entire Ninety-Eight series was imported from the US. Dressed to the nines, the top-of-the-line four-door Celebrity sedan cost  $4,437. Records show that Canadians bought 19 of the Holiday SceniCoupe two-door sedans at $4,662.

The ’slender’ roof protruded beyond the Sweep-Around, curved rear glass window to provide shade from the sun.

Three of the four-door Holiday Sport-Sedan were sold to consumers for the sum of $4,769 each. These were hardtop convertibles, with no “B” pillar.  The rear pillar was slim, chromed and ‘smartly notched’. The slender roof extended beyond the heat-resistant rear glass to provide shade from the sun.

The Ninety-Eight open convertible coupe sported glove-soft, hand-buffed leather upholstery. The ragtop sold for $4,981. Body creases were laden with brightwork trim. The word ‘Ninety Eight’ was split, staggered billing style, nestled in a tasteful chrome star, at the trailing edge of the rear fender.  The word ‘Ninety Eight’ was split, staggered billing style,  and nestled in a tasteful chrome star,  at the trailing edge of the rear fender. 

Fashion-Flair Interiors for Oldsmobile’s ritzy flagship could be selected in grey, green, fawn, blue or turquoise.  Chrome and brightwork accents throughout the cabin set it apart from its lesser kin. Optional was the sumptuous Custom Luxury Interior Trim package. It featured rich Jeweltone leather with nylon inserts and Morocceen accents on Custom-Lounge Seats, while overhead, Star-Lite headlining was held in place with brightwork roof bows.

The instrument panel featured ovoid-shaped twin coves. Safety padding was standard on the Super 88 and  Ninety-Eight models, as was the De Luxe Safety-Vee Steering Wheel. The Safety-Spectrum Speedometer was of the strip design. Colour-keyed to the speed range, the bar changed from green to amber at 60 kph (35 mph) and then to red at 100 kph (65 mph). For a few bucks more, one could order the Safety Sentinel, which monitored the vehicle’s speed. A light flashed and a warning sound went off  when the driver’s pre-set limit was exceeded.

Standard appointments found on the Ninety-Eight included the Jetaway Hydra-Matic Drive, Roto-Matic Power Steering, Pedal-Ease Brakes, Wide-Arc two-speed wipers, a windshield washer, an electric clock, a rear centre armrest, ‘Deeper’ pile carpeting, electrically operated windows and a fore-and aft power seat adjuster.

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Add ons for the poshest of Oldsmobiles included the Guide-Matic Power Headlight Control with GM’s exclusive Safety Salute. This pistol-shaped sensor was mounted on the instrument panel to the driver’s extreme left. The unit automatically dimmed the Olds’ bright lights for oncoming cars. The Safety Salute component  ‘marks the courteous driver with two quick, compelling invitations to approaching driver to dim his brights’. Dimming distance was adjusted by dial.

The fully transistorized Super De Luxe Radio was offered with or without push-button turning. Wonder-Bar Station Selector was positioned at the top of the radio. A single touch of the tuning bar sent the radio to seek to stations with the strongest broadcast signals. A foot touch pedal, on the floor tuned it, as well. 

Heaters were optional. The manually-operated unit made use of easy-slide horizontal hand levers and a rotating switch  to heat and ventilate the cabin. The fancy Dual-Range Power Heater fan operated on a two-speed switch. Air intake direction was controlled by four buttons and a gliding lever set the temperature. For summer, Air conditioning promised to cool and dehumidify the interior in 180 seconds, while removing 98% of air-borne pollen.

Oldsmobile was the Pace Car for the 1960 Indianapolis 500, the granddaddy of auto races.

GM Canada was on a roll in 1960. A vehicle left the factory every 47 seconds—as many as 1,393 units a day during peak production times. The manufacturer was pleased to announce that it had 15,000 workers on payroll in its plants in Oshawa and Windsor, Ontario. Payroll was pegged at $60 million. 

Production for the 1960 season ended with a total of  11,974 Oldsmobiles built in Canada. (One source shows 10,482 domestic builds), down nearly a third from last year.

Canadians were turning more and more to smaller, more efficient transportation. Oldsmobile had a secret weapon in its arsenal as it prepared to launch the compact F-85 in the 1961 season. 

Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

1962 Chrysler

The 1962 Chrysler Saratoga two-door hardtop sold for $5,288 FOB Windsor, Ontario. It weighed in at 1 687 kilos (3,720 pounds).
Styling plans for the 1962 lineup Chrysler Division lineup got under way in 1958. Anything from mild to wild was considered by industry legend Virgil Exner, design chief for the entire corporation. While a full restyle was ordered, at the very last minute, the new look was defined by shearing the fins from last year’s models. The result was crisp and clean hindquarters, one of the most beautiful automotive design packages ever created.

Corporate records show that the high-powered 300 series was not offered to Canadians during the 1962 selling season. 

From St. John’s to Victoria, the public got a gander at the newest offerings at their Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealers in the fall of 1961. On the showroom floors were the compact Valiant, the grand flagship Imperial along with the petite, ‘imported from Paris’, Simca.

 With a list price of $3,774 FOB Windsor Ontario, the 1962 Chrysler Windsor two-door hardtop rode a 3 098 millimetre (122-inch) wheelbase and tipped the scales at 1 680 kilos (3,705 pounds). 

First and foremost, all Chryslers were full-sized. Great care was taken to emphasize that potential owners understood there were no compacts to tarnish the storied Chrysler name. 

While Chrysler Canada made compact cars, Valiant was a stand-alone brand that replaced De Soto.
“When you buy a new Chrysler, whether it is a Windsor, Saratoga or a New Yorker, you can rest assured that nowhere on the road is there a smaller cutdown, Jr. Edition that is compromising your investment. Every Chrysler represents the full size value, full size comfort and full size performance. No other car in Chrysler’s class can offer you this. For 1962, Chrysler stands along its class.” 

The Chrysler New Yorker four-door hardtop convertible carried a $5,288 price tag for 1962. The price would be hiked 10 percent as Ottawa added a hefty duty on imported vehicles. 
The entire New Yorker lineup was imported from Chrysler’s Jefferson Plant in Detroit. The price of the four-door sedan was $5,414. The three other models were hardtop convertibles: a two-door and four-door as well as a six-passenger or eight-passenger wagon.

This year’s crop of Chryslers borrowed the 1961 Dodge Polara body shells.

 The fresh, side profile was clean, punctuated only by a pronounced brow over the front wheel well and an understated one at the rear.  Unibody construction gave greater strength, reduced road vibrations. 

 Management wisely kept last year’s attractive face, one approved by the public. The canted dual headlights, in their chrome bezels capped  the front fenders. These were flanked with a canted pair of  vee-shaped, free-flow turn signals that wrapped around into the front fender. In keeping with the theme, the massive bumper was also canted. It flowed around to the side, stopping only at the leading edge of the wheel well.  Front and centre, an isoscelese trapezoid grille, replete with gently rounded corner angles, gave Chrysler a sporty European flair. In the lower right, the Chrysler crest was affixed.   A pair of graceful waterfall tail lamps replaced the fins, and came to rest in a gracious fluid curve that, in turn, crowned the bumper. 

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Interiors befitted the marque.  Swaddled in 43 kilos (95 pounds) of  sounds-deadening material, advertising bragged that Chrysler interiors were as subtly beautiful as the entire car. Vast, 1.52-metre (five-foot) long seats, in ‘perfectly colour-keyed’ fabrics, were hailed.   Designer fabrics were of excellent quality, offered in patterns that were both ‘smart and exclusive. Even the deep foam cushions on the seats were distinctive. 

The shoulder-high Driver Command Seat sported a taller back than the passengers’  and  offered ‘the ultimate in driving comfort’. Door and side panels offered a deep horizontal section that featured rich, two-inch pleats with soft trim above and below. 

Instrument panel of the 1962 Chrysler was futuristic in layout. Advertising dubbed the driver control bubble as Astra-Dome Design. 

The instrument panel was genuinely space age in look. Dubbed the Astra-Dome design, gauges were housed in a large ovoid plastic bubble with the steering wheel affixed to its nose. The affair was covered with a prominent cowl. The steering wheel was unique in that the top half was made of clear plastic laid over a bright chrome core. The remainder of the wheel was, ‘delightfully colour-matched to the interior.’ The Torque-Flite  transmission buttons were located on the underside of a prominent padded cowl to the left of the driver, and heating/air conditioning controls to the right . All other controls were affixed in a brand-new diamond pattered textured metal insert—said to be the ‘perfect touch of subtle background styling.’  The rearview mirror was affixed to the topside of the instrument panel. 

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Salesmen were trained to emphasize the attention that workers paid to the quality of construction. Borrowing from Rambler, Unibodies were deep-dipped six times in rustproofing material, then sealed with Bonderite.  The last bath greatly improved paint quality. Dealers also pointed out that this year’s Chrysler lineup was seven percent more fuel efficient thanks to improvements to the powertrain and lighter design throughout. 

The 1962 Chrysler New Yorker carried a distinctive crosshair grille. The four-door hardtop  weighed 1 800 kilos (3,970 pounds) and cost $5,596 FOB Windsor, Ontario.
As would be expected, New Yorkers were dressed to the nines. Advertising billed it as “An incomparable series in every way, perfectly matched to those discriminating Canadians who demand the best.” The rode on their own 3 200-millimetre (126-inch) wheelbase, while Saratoga and Windsor shared a 3 098-millimetre (122-inch wheelbase). Corporate records show that 531 New Yorkers found their way into Canadians’ garages and hearts. 

On the flank, the decorative spear seen on lesser models was dropped in favour of brightwork strips that crowned the front fenders, ending at the cowl. The New Yorker name was placed on the front fender. The tasteful theme was repeated aft, with garnish beginning at the leading edge of the C-pillar. A series of nine speedy, bright hashmark bars were placed near the trailing end of the rear fender. Wheel wells and rocker panels were also gilded. 

Under the New Yorker’s hood lurked  a 6.8-litre (413-cubic inch), 261-kilowatt (350-horsepower) iron monster, wedded to Chrysler’s Torque-Flite three-speed automatic transmission. 
Pushbuttons were all the rage in the 1960s. Chrysler Canada adapted them to its corporate automatic transmission--standard on all Chrysler models.

There was no lever; the system operated on push buttons. Constant-Control power steering and Total-Contact power brakes were standard equipment, as was a pushbutton windshield washer. 

The most expensive and heaviest Chrysler was the eight-passenger Town & Country wagon. It pushed the scale to 1 989 kilos (4,385 pounds) and listed for $6,407. 

A four-door hardtop station wagon was offered in the New Yorker lineup. The Town and Country wagon could be had in six- or nine-passenger configurations. Price tags were $6,264 and $6,407 respectively. Rear quarters were remarkably different from other models. A chrome spear started at the leading edge of the back fender and wrapped around into the tailgate. Rocket-like taillamps wrapped around, too. The tailgate door was heavily browed, the centre was bejewelled with a trio of gold crowns. 

Built in Canada, the Chrysler Saratoga two-door hardtop listed for $4,049.

A total of 3,487 Saratogas rolled out the Windsor factory doors during the 1962 model year. The four-door  Saratoga sedan cost $230 more than its  Windsor counterpart. Selling in the mid-price range, it was set apart from its lesser kin with more trim, including a rocker panel and a full-length  body spear. It not only ran the full length of the sides, but boasted a snappy upkick that widened at the trailing edges of the doors. 

 A pair of hardtops was also available in the Saratoga range. The two-door sold for $4,049 and the four-door carried a price tag of $4,170. These were powered by a 6.3-litre (383-cubic inch), 227-kilowatt (305-horsepower) mill, coupled to the Push Button Torque-Flite gear set. 

Chrysler Windsor two-door hardtop weighted 1 680 kilos (3,720 pounds) and was priced at $3,774.

The Windsor series was a strong seller in Canada. Although nixed in the USA, Windsor was wisely retained here at home. The price of admittance into the Kingdom of Chrysler was a mere $3,731. The four-door sedan filled in nicely for the recently deleted, De Soto. Two- and four-door hardtops were built in Chrysler Canada’s Windsor, Ontario plant. Windsors zipped along the nation’s highways and byways, courtesy of a 5.9-litre (361 cubic-inch), 197-kilowatt (265-horsepower) engine. Like its brawny brothers, the ‘trigger-quick’ Pushbutton Torque-Flite automatic transmission was standard equipment.

Windsor models sported full chrome wheel covers and brightwork around the windows. A stylized crown emblem was affixed to the leading edge of the front door, followed by a speedy chrome-look spear that graced the side all the way to an indented rear flank.  Add-ons for Windsor included sill moulding, stone shields, electric clock and window frame brightwork on sedans. 

The only ragtop in the 1962 Chrysler model year lineup was the Windsor Newport. Priced at $4,879, it weighed 1 714 kilos (3780 pounds).

Imported from the States was the Windsor Newport sub-series. This consisted of a trio of upscale offerings, more than $1,000 higher than the basic Windsors: a  convertible, priced at $4,879, a four-door hardtop that rang in at $5,002 and a four-door pillarless, eight-passenger wagon listed at $5,146 FOB Windsor. For the extra bucks there was more exterior trim and upgrades in cabin appointments. 

A total of 7,510 Windsors were shipped to dealers across the Dominion during the model year.
The first province to make the wearing of safety belts will be Ontario. The law will take effect on the first of January, 1976.

On January 16th, national highway groups announced a campaign to persuade Canadians that they would be safer in they equipped their vehicles with safety belts. Chryco belts were optional but anchors were included in the base price. Advertising bragged that Chryco’s safety belts surpassed all established strength requirements and met all SAE specifications. Their use intended to ‘ensure safe travel and confidence to both driver and passengers.’

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Optional equipment for Walter’s namesake seemed to be nearly as long as theTrans-Canada Highway, inaugurated by Prime Minister Diefenbaker, that year. White sidewall tires dressed up one’s Chrysler. Sedans could be fitted with a nifty rear window defogger and a backseat radio speaker. Power radio antenna,  and an engine block heater were good choices. The remote control outside mirror was included in the New Yorker. Vacuum operated door locks were optional, but only on New Yorker. 

For both Windsor and Saratoga, rear bumper guards, larger brakes, protective undercoating and under-the-hood insulation refined the Chrysler—at a cost. There was an optional remote control outside mirror, the pushbutton windshield washer, Constant-Control power steering, power windows and Total-Contact Power Brakes. Child-Guard safety locks were a wise choice for young families. A heater was a mandatory extra-cost item, meaning that one could not buy a Chrysler without it. 

1962 Chrysler Canada colour chip chart. 

Exterior colours were sourced from Canadian Pittsburgh Industries Limited in Windsor, Ontario. Chrysler selected CPI’s Ditzler Quickset Enamels. New for 1962 was a spray of metallic hues: Holiday Turquoise,  Sage Green, Dusty Rose, Smoke Brown, Indian Bronze, Blue Sapphire and Empress Blue. Held over from last year were Festival (Corona) Red and Executive (Shadow) Grey Metallic. Other paint choices included Dawn Blue, Buff, Polar White, Grenada Yellow, Black and Pearl Grey. 

On June 26th, the Canadian auto industry’s fortunes changed dramatically. Chryslers imported from the US and the corporation’s European subsidiaries became more pricy. To protect the domestic auto industry,  Ottawa slapped a stiff tariff increase that added 10 percent to the cost of those cars. However, the 7.5 percent luxury tax—added to the price of domestically-built cars since World War Two—was dropped. Canadian automakers immediately lowered prices by an average of $150 a vehicle. This spurred production significantly, giving the national economy a big shot in the arm.

Imported from the United States, a total of 639  posh Imperials were sold in Canada during the 1962 model year.

The boys at Chrysler Canada did themselves proud. The Chrysler Division did well for itself with a total of 11,528 cars shipped to dealers in all ten provinces. The tally bested the 1961 model year which hit 9,980 units.  

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Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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 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.