Vintage Canadian cars from the past 150 years take the spotlight at the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS)
Is this Canada’s first car?
1956 Monarch Richelieu
1903 Columbus Electric
1949 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Prototype
1937 Studebaker Dictator Coupe
1955 Packard Caribbean Convertible
1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual-Cowl Phaeton
Quebec watchmaker Henry Seth Taylor made this steam-powered buggy and showed it at a fair in 1867, the year Canada was born. It broke down on its first outing, but Taylor repaired it and took it to numerous events. But he couldn’t interest anyone in buying it, and after it crashed—he’d never added brakes—he stashed it in a barn. It was discovered in 1960 and restored, and now belongs to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
Many early Canadian cars were based on existing American models. The McKay, built in Nova Scotia, was inspired by the Pittsburgh-built Penn and carried an engine made in Illinois, but its body was made locally. In 1911, the company’s sales manager drove one to Regina in the hopes of expanding distribution, but nothing came of it. The company closed in 1914 after some 125 cars were made, and this is one of two known to exist.
The first truly successful Canadian car, the Russell, was built in Toronto by the Canadian Cycle & Motor Company—the same CCM that made bicycles and ice skates. CCM produced a few automobiles, including those powered by steam and electricity, before making its first Russell in 1905, named for general manager Thomas Russell. Designed and built locally, it was advertised as the “Thoroughly Canadian Car.”
The McLaughlin Carriage Company of Oshawa, Ontario started in automobiles by building its version of Buick, and would become General Motors of Canada in 1918. This is one of two special hand-built models made for the Prince of Wales’ 1927 Royal Tour. Both still exist, and while one is in a museum, this one is in private hands and is still occasionally driven.
To get around tariffs prior to the 1965 Auto Pact trade agreement, U.S. automakers produced some Canada-specific models, including the Monarch, a specially-trimmed version of the Mercury. This convertible is one of just 163 made at Ford’s plant in Oakville, Ontario, and is believed to be one of eleven left.
Electric cars may seem like a modern invention, but they were very popular in the automobile’s early days, especially when gasoline cars had to be laboriously cranked to start them. Built in Columbus, Ohio, this car has its electric motor under the front seat, and batteries both front and back. Pushing a lever connects more batteries to the motor, increasing the speed.
General Motors built this prototype for the first auto show following the Second World War, held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. It would later be used as a personal car for GM president Charles Wilson. It was one of four Coupe de Ville prototypes built, and the only one to survive.
Studebaker was one of the world’s oldest nameplates, starting as a wagon company in 1852. This model’s unusual name came from advertising that it would “dictate the standard” in automobiles. The company’s manufacturing centre was in South Bend, Indiana, but a plant in Hamilton, Ontario opened its doors in 1912. American production ended in 1964, but the Canadian plant built cars until 1966.
Packard had been one of the most prestigious American automobiles in the 1920s and 1930s, but by the 1950s it was winding down. It had merged with Studebaker in 1954, and the “real” Packards, like this Caribbean, would only last until 1956. For the next two years, it would just build lightly-disguised versions of Studebakers until its demise.
Fast, gorgeous, and breathtakingly expensive, the Indianapolis-built Duesenberg is generally considered America’s finest vintage marque. Its original owner would have bought only the chassis, which cost $8,500—a 1929 Chevrolet was $525—and had a coachbuilder make the body. Duesenberg claimed it could do 90 mph (145 km/h) in second gear, and its owner says that’s not an exaggeration.