By the mid-1950s, domestic car manufacturers were getting concerned about a growing buyer attraction to imports -- especially the smaller, less-expensive models that had lower operating costs and better fuel economy than full-size North American models.
Targeting the Volkswagen Beetle, with its simple construction, four-wheel independent suspension and air-cooled four-cylinder rear engine, General Motors felt it could do a better job for the North American market.
In crafting a better bug-killer, GM designers started with a larger six-passenger compact car able to carry growing American families. They stayed with an air-cooled rear engine but added two cylinders and a larger displacement that was better for highway driving.
In late 1959, the Chevrolet Corvair hit showrooms to mixed reactions. Wholly unconventional and totally unlike the compact Ford Falcon and Plymouth Valiant that had also just entered the market, the Corvair was a controversial buy. It was such a radical departure in design from what any other American manufacturer offered many buyers felt unsure and avoided the car.
Riding on a compact 108-inch wheelbase with a total length just over 180 inches, the Corvair was sized like the competitors. But that's where the similarity ended.
Available as a four-door sedan, coupe or station wagon, power came from a rear-mounted, all-aluminium, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engine. It came with either a manual gearbox or extra-cost two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and had the usual optional-equipment packages familiar to Chevrolet buyers.
Enthusiasts liked the feel of the car and its rumbling rear engine. The introduction of the Monza Club Coupe …
It's been roughly 10 years that the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs (MAAC) has been consulting with the province and Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation about a collector-vehicle license plate.
The association has not just been seeking a plate that would identify collector vehicles, but also insurance coverage that meets reflect how these vehicles are actually used.
Finally, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, responsible for MPIC, announced the new plate last July 12 as part of a newly developed auto insurance package. The program becomes effective on March 1.
"This new collector plate and vehicle insurance program option is the direct result of speaking with members of the collector car community who obviously have tremendous pride in their vehicles," Swan said.
The Collector Vehicle Program is designed to reflect the infrequent use of these vehicles and the extraordinary care and maintenance owners provide for them. Until now, owners of these vehicles have registered and insured them in the spring and then changed over to lay-up or storage insurance in the late fall.
For most of these vehicles, which slept through the long prairie winter, it wasn't a problem. But for anyone planning a southern holiday with their vehicle, or even have work done on it during the winter months, it meant returning to full registration and insurance. Many collector-vehicle owners felt the annual rates were high for the use their vehicle saw, and that the lay-up insurance did not adequately protect their vehicles from collision or theft-related claims.
Under the new program, with rates recently approved by the …
The mid-'50s Mercury was part of a milestone event at the Ford Motor Company. Not only was the Mercury lineup totally restyled, but in April of 1955, a new Lincoln Mercury division was established. This further distinguished the marque from its Ford counterpart and really set Mercury on the path of being a unique model.
The '54 model was well-received, as was its new front ball-joint suspension and powerful overhead-valve V-8 engine. The 1955 styling was new, as the car appeared squarer with higher fender lines, a sleeker roof and wider flared rear fenders. Ford aficionados will point out the Mercury still shared the same cowl as the Ford, but that's where the similarities ended. Bold front and rear styling, high-level stainless and chrome trim, fountain tiered dash panel and upscale passenger compartment materials gave the Mercury more of a Lincoln feel. For 1956, Mercury changed little, other than some trim and engine changes that included an even more powerful V-8.
Don Johnson of Oakbank has built and owned several cars over the years, including a very nice 1947 Mercury Coupe. While the street-rod Merc was a blast to drive, Johnson's plan was to eventually leave the car to his son and grandson who live in Arizona. "In 2010, I thought, why make them wait. I can buy something else and give them the coupe now," says Johnson.
Like most car enthusiasts, there's always a catalyst or spark that leads us to look for one particular make or model. For Johnson, it was …
The story of the DeLorean Motor Company is as multi-faceted as the face of a diamond.
John Zachary DeLorean was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1925 and rose through the ranks of new-age car designers. A short, one-year stint at Chrysler was followed by an another brief tenure with Packard Motor Car Company before DeLorean found his niche at General Motors in 1956 as Director of Advance Engineering for the Pontiac Division.
Promoted to chief engineer of Pontiac in 1961, DeLorean oversaw many of the division's engineering innovations, including the Wide Track Pontiac principle, overhead-cam six-cylinder engines, concealed windshield wipers, hidden windshield antenna and the Endura bumper. He spear-headed development of the Pontiac Tempest LeMans, which later became the platform for the GTO muscle car, and introduced both the Pontiac Firebird and Grand Prix models as well as the little Vega economy car.
Despite all these accomplishments, DeLorean felt he had more to offer and resigned from his position as Vice-president of General Motors in 1973. Seen by many as a charismatic maverick in the conservative auto industry, his vision was to create a sports car like no other -- one that performed well, with good handling and superior stopping power, and built on a frame and body that would never rust.
DeLorean's dream of an ethical sports car also promised a measure of economy with low emissions. It was a tall order, but with that mandate the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) was born.
When a prototype was unveiled in October, 1976, many panned …
For 1940, the Ford Motor Company rolled out an icon: the DeLuxe.
Although the basic body was little changed from the '39 model, Ford stylist Eugene Gregoire added a heavy chrome trim incorporating a park lamp surrounding the almond-shaped headlamps. The DeLuxe grille featured a centre section with horizontal bars and secondary side grilles. Shift levers were now mounted on the steering column and the rear fenders sported Chevron inspired tail-lamps.
Today, the 1940 Ford is not only a revered classic but a perfect street-rod platform. Gord Patterson's 1940 Ford Tudor sedan is in the street-rod category.
While looking for a neat truck to keep pace with his wife Dale's custom Chevy pick-Up, Patterson spotted the Tudor for sale at a local car show. Originally imported from California in 2009 by Bill Windsor, the '40 Ford had been an online street-rod purchase.
Windsor, known locally as Whipper, drove the car until 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed it, but felt it fell short of his expectations. With the help of friend Jim McNeill, the car was stripped down for a full rebuild. The work was completed in 2011, but Windsor unfortunately passed away the following year. The car sat until Patterson purchased it following the show last summer.
The Ford is drenched in a new coat of bright red base/clear paint. Body modifications included a nosed hood, decked rear trunk lid, dual side-view mirrors, shaved door handles with electric latches to pop the doors open, recessed rear licence plate and a V-butt glass front windshield replacing the …
She's real fine my 409, my 4...0...9.
The line comes from the Beach Boys song 409, released in '62 and letting everyone know about Chevy's newest high-performance powerplant.
Introduced in October 1957 as a 348-cubic-inch engine intended for Chevy trucks, it had the low-end torque needed for pulling heavy loads. But by the late '50s General Motors realized the additional cubic inches and torque from the 348 was also needed to pull the weight of the ever-growing full-size Chevrolet.
The 348 responded well to increases in compression and carburetion to the point that it kept Chevrolet competitive in the market. But in late 1961 an increase in bore and stroke to yield 409 cubic inches really got the ball rolling. Again, increases in compression and a move to dual four-barrel carburetors yielded 425 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m., making the Chevy a viable street machine and successful weekend racer.
By 1964 there was a new player in town called the mid-sized LeMans GTO, which had less weight and almost as much performance potential. The full-sized cars were losing some of their performance image. But, hook a full-size Impala Super Sport up with the 425 horsepower 409 V8 and fading quietly into the woodwork wasn't an option.
There were 8,684 Chevrolets built in 1964 with the 409 V8, so finding one today can be a bit of a challenge. But since less than 10 per cent of them found their way into the Impala Super Sport convertible, finding a needle in a haystack starts to look like …
Following World War II most car manufacturers met the growing demand for civilian automobile production by resurrecting their pre-war 1942 designs with a bit of a restyle and a few mechanical upgrades. At Chrysler, their Plymouth line was a solid car that offered buyers real value and the warmed-over models met with buyers approval.
In 1950, Plymouth would undergo a mild styling update that included new peaked rear fenders, added stainless steel trim and a simpler grille. Equipped with a 230 cubic inch L-Head six cylinder engine and 3-speed manual transmission, it was no powerhouse, but fuel economy was decent.
One of the value-leaders in Plymouth's line-up was the P-19 Deluxe 2-door Business Coupe. Riding on a 111-inch wheelbase the coupe was a versatile vehicle. There was room for three passengers on the bench seat and room behind for suitcases or small sample cases. The abbreviated passenger compartment allowed room for a huge rear trunk compartment. It was just the vehicle for a salesman on the road or a light service technician and Plymouth produced 16,861 P-19 coupes in 1950.
For Darrell Bracken of Headingley, his 1950 Plymouth Deluxe Business Coupe has been with him most of his life. In 1975 at the age of 16 Bracken's high school buddy told him of a car for sale in Rosser, Manitoba, just west of Winnipeg, The Plymouth was basically being used on a rural farm as a field car and with a solid body and only some slight floor pan corrosion, Bracken purchased …
In the late 1960s, a simmering cauldron of performance vehicles was available. The youth market was exploding, and all of the manufacturers were promoting their latest idea of a go-fast machine to a generation that embraced speed.
Mid-size muscle car and pony-car advertising was everywhere, and prospective buyers were inundated with performance specifications and optional-equipment lists. American Motors Corp., whose focus had always been to build cars for the average buyer, finally joined the trend in 1968 with the sporty Javelin.
The two-seat AMX performance car followed, with the model designation standing for "American Motors Experimental". It was the first two-seat, American-built, steel-bodied, sports model built since the '55-'57 Ford Thunderbird.
The AMX was the kid brother to the Javelin, built on a 97-inch wheelbase that was 12 inches shorter. But when it came to performance, the lighter AMX was far more nimble than its big brother, with much-improved handling.
The 1968 and '69 models were visually identical but, for 1970, AMC rolled out a moderately face-lifted AMX with some interesting options and performance features. Two inches longer in overall length and about an inch lower in stance, the AMX had a horizontally divided crosshatch-patterned grille, with rally-style park lamps. The re-styled hood had a large and functional Ram-Air induction scoop that funnelled cold air to the engine.
For many, the '70 model encapsulates the best that AMC had to offer in a performance vehicle. And today, and with only 4,116 produced, it's the rarest and most difficult to find.
Gabriel and Linda Dorge's quest for …
By mid-1960, the Ford Motor Company had ceased production of the mid-priced Edsel, downsized the Mercury, brought out a new Lincoln and introduced the new Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet compact line.
Ford's aim was to build cars that fit the times and buyers tastes, and the intermediate Fairlane fit the bill when it arrived in 1962. A familiar name from the '50s, the new model was a great fit between the compact Falcon and full-size Galaxie.
Available with both six-cylinder and V8 power, the Fairlane was lightweight economical to operate for growing North American families. It was also a model on enthusiasts' radar for drag racing -- Ford even produced a limited number of 427 V8-powered Fairlane 500 models in 1964 that went on to win many National Hot Rod Association titles.
To the masses, the Fairlane was only available with the small-block 289-cubic-inch V8 until 1966 when it was redesigned to accept the 390 and 390 high-performance V8 engines. Ford still went on to supply 427 V8-powered Fairlanes to drag-racing teams, and a few savvy buyers could find the right codes on the order sheet to get one for the street as well.
Today, the mid-size 390 V8 Fairlane is quite collectable. While finding a 427 V8-equipped example would be like winning the lottery, building a clone or tribute car is a viable option to finding these rarities.
A few years ago, Scott Payton of Winnipeg had his eye on a '67 Fairlane in Minnesota. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, the car was a …
By the early 1950s, the automotive sales race was screaming along at a fever pitch.
Both Ford and Chevrolet had over-produced and forced dealers to take additional inventory. That left some relations strained, but the consumer came out the winner, often buying at cost.
Banner sales at Ford and Chevrolet left Chyrsler and its divisions in a sales slump. At Plymouth, the mildly face-lifted 1952 models were basically carry-overs from 1953, but there were a few mechanical upgrades that included a new 110-horsepower six-cylinder engine and PowerFlite two-speed automatic transmission.
The low-price Plaza Suburban two-door wagon actually posted sales of 35,937 units, surpassing the higher-priced Belvedere by nearly 27,000 units. At $2,044 it was affordable, and its economical performance -- even with a utilitarian style and bare-bones amenities -- gave young families just what they needed.
A Plymouth Plaza wagon wasn't even on Paul Roy's radar until a trip to Lockport, MB in 2010 turned up a 1954-vintage 331-cubic-inch Fire-Power Hemi V8 from a Chrysler New Yorker sedan.
"The sight of that motor sitting on the garage floor sparked my interest," said Roy, who had previously restored vintage wooden boats and a couple of Chevy pick-ups.
Roy began looking for a likely candidate to receive the vintage Hemi V8 and, a few months later, found a 1954 Plymouth Plaza Suburban station wagon for sale in Winkler. The two-door Plaza wagon had a few great things going for it -- it had minimal rust issues and was the same year of manufacture as the Hemi engine. It …