Canada-only Cars: The same but a little different
<p>PART 1: FORD</p>Published October 1, 2006
<p>PART 1: FORD</p>Published October 1, 2006
PART 1: FORD
There were few variations in the cars built in Canada from their Dearborn counterparts during the Model T, Model A and V8 Ford eras when the Ford Motor Company opened its Walkerville, Ontario, plant in 1904.
At the end of the Second World War, Ford produced three lines of automobiles: Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln.
Canadian Mercury dealers wanted a low-priced car for their showrooms, and in 1946 the Mercury 114 was born. The car was a Ford with a Mercury grille, taillights and trim, powered by the 239 cubic-inch flathead V8. It rode on a 114-inch wheelbase, hence its name, as opposed to the regular Merc's 118-inch wheelbase.
In 1949, this entry-level car was given its own name: Meteor. The car was still Ford-based with Mercury trim and badging, but was a hit with Canadians, taking fourth in sales with some 23,000 units coming off Ford's Windsor assembly line.
The Meteor truly reflected its Canadian culture, starting in 1954. The Ford model names were dropped. The Mainline was now the Meteor, the Customline was the Niagara and the top-of-the-line Crestline was now the Rideau. Some models used the more powerful 120 horsepower Mercury flathead engine, along with the Mercury dashboard.
Meteor isn't really a Canadian name, as it denotes a shooting star or cosmic dust. But Niagara, named after the world's largest waterfall, certainly waves the Canadian flag. And the Rideau name comes from another famous Canadian water entity — the canal connecting Ottawa to Kingston. It's 125 miles long, built in 1832 and is the oldest canal in North America.
With the introduction of the 1955 Ford lineup, all Canadian cars received the new OHV V8 engine introduced a year earlier in the U.S., and in 1956 a Meteor could be ordered with an OHV inline-six.
In 1957 the 250,000th Meteor was built in Canada, and continued to be Ford-based with its own unique trim, including the now standard four-pointed star in the grillework that remained a hallmark for the rest of its days.
When Ford introduced its top-line Galaxie in 1959, the Meteor followed suit with the Montcalm, a name familiar to every Canadian elementary school student as the French general who defended Quebec against the British on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
Ford, as with the other U.S. automakers, started downsizing its vehicles in 1960, and while the Meteor was still a full-size car, it was now based on a Mercury, rather than a Ford platform. This model, introduced in 1964, was another marketing-driven car, as Canadian Mercury dealers wanted a vehicle to compete with its main competition, the sales-leading Pontiac.
The new Meteor looked like a Merc with different badging, along with a Ford dashboard and interior. The 4-door base sedan retailed for $2,881, cheaper than a comparable Pontiac by $46, and more than 25,000 of these new Meteors were sold.
The Meteor was built in Oakville, Ontario, for the rest of the decade, looking more and more like a Mercury. The 6-cylinder engine was gone in 1969, the last convertible was built in 1970, and the Rideau series was dropped in 1973.
By 1975, the Meteor became the entry-level series for Mercury, and in 1981 the last Ford product with the Meteor name was built, ironically in Ford's Missouri plant, and shipped to Canada.
While Canadian Mercury dealers got their low-priced Mercury, Ford dealers asked for and got a higher-priced Ford. In 1946 the Monarch debuted in Canada, a Mercury-based car with Ford-oriented trim and badges, and Ford's trademark oval taillights.
The car sold well over the next five years, placing ninth in sales in the country ahead of makes such as Hudson and Studebaker, cars that were still players in the market.
In 1949, Monarch used the new Mercury bodyshell with unique trim. The car also adopted the lion hood ornament, which was to become the marque's main identity.
And while the Meteor was a Ford with a Mercury dashboard, the Monarch was a Mercury with a Ford dashboard. All body styles were offered, along with two-tone paint schemes, something not offered on any Ford product, anywhere.
In 1955 the Monarch got the new corporate OHV V8 engine of 292 cubic inches. It also came in three series: the Custom, Lucerne and the top-end Richelieu. Really, only one of these names reflects the Canadian identity. While Lucerne is a town in Switzerland or a breed of alfalfa, Richelieu was a French politician in the 1600s and the name of a river in southern Quebec.
When new styling was adopted across the board in 1957, the Monarch followed suit, but the lion ornament was dropped for a crown, which does fit in with the car's regal identity.
After a one-year hiatus, the Monarch returned in 1959 with a new top-line model known as the Sceptre, befitting the car's royal name. This car exuded the decadence and extravagance of the decade, with a 128-inch wheelbase and an overall length of more than 18 feet.
The Monarch was adorned with numerous crowns to distinguish itself from other Ford products, but the make was just about ready to abdicate. In 1961, the Monarch was available, but only as the Richelieu model, downsized to only three body types.
In 1975 the Monarch name was revived for a Mercury version of the Ford Granada and was sold across North America.
The Meteor and Monarch were the main variations to the Canadian Ford lineup. But in another marketing-oriented decision, Mercury got its own version of the compact-size Ford Falcon in 1960 to compete with the Chevy Corvair and Plymouth Valiant before the U.S.-based Mercury Comet became available.
Called the Frontenac, this car lasted just one year, and was named after the governor of New France in the 1600s. In an historical twist of irony, Frontenac helped several New World explorers in their quests, including Marquette and LaSalle. Both of these Frenchmen had autos named after them, and both were General Motors cars.
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