Contributors: Mike Sealey, Bill Watson, Lanny Knutson, Jim Benjaminson, David Zatz;
portions courtesy of the Plymouth Bulletin and Chrysler Canada's 1984 history
We have posted the book, "The Chrysler Canada Story" (with permission)
The Chrysler Canada story starts, in a way, before the very first cars were sold: Walter P. Chrysler's great-great-grandfather was the first settler in what is now Chatham, Ontario.
In 1916, Maxwell Motors of Canada built a new car plant in Windsor, Ontario. Eight years later (1924), under the leadership of a new president, Maxwell started producing Chrysler-branded cars. One year later, a new Chrysler Corporation was created, acquiring the old Maxwell assets; and, in Ontario, the Chrysler Corporation of Canada, Ltd. was created to acquire the Maxwell-Chalmers Motor Company of Canada. The "new" corporation thus gained a single 61,000 square foot factory on Tecumseh Road East in Windsor, Ontario.
Bedecked with flowers, the last Maxwell was driven off the production line in the Windsor plant in July, 1925, and the plant switched to building only the popular new Chrysler. In 1925, the company's 181 employees built 4,474 cars, at the rate of two per hour, from parts passed down through openings in the ceiling. The payroll was $316,000, and the company had 250 suppliers.
In 1926, production jumped to 7,857 cars, with 243 employees. In 1927, they leased the former Fisher Body plant on Edna street in Walkerville, using it for body assembly and trimming. Production shot up to 13,194.
In 1928, Chrysler purchased 70 acres in Walkerville and started a new 280,000 square-foot passenger car assembly plant, which would form the nucleus of today's Windsor Assembly Plant. Chrysler also purchased Dodge Brothers and truck makers Graham Brothers, worldwide, and launched the Plymouth and DeSoto brands.
The new passenger car plant started rolling out cars in 1929; 1,566 people produced over 25,400 cars. The first Dodge trucks rolled out of the Tecumseh Road plant in 1931, and four years later the Fargo truck joined the Dodge.
The Depression brings unique Canadian cars
Fargo was brought into Canada in 1936, to provide trucks for Chrysler and Plymouth dealers - usually, but not always, clear copies of the Dodges. By 1960, there were no differences in appearance or model names, right down to Fargos using Dodge hubcaps. In 1972, its final year in Canada, the Fargo name was relegated to being a decal. Fargo in depth. In any case, the strategy worked wonders in 1936; all previous Chrysler Canada records were broken, with 30,393 cars and trucks produced.
In 1937, the company began a new $3 million engine manufacturing plant just south of the new car plant; by the following year, the new plant was turning out six-cylinder engines, the first domestically produced Chrysler powerplants. The parts and service division moved into a purchased plant in Chatham, about 50 miles away, in 1938.
World War II service
In 1941, and again in 1942, production rose to over 46,000 while employment climbed to 3,435. As the war increased in intensity, so did Chrysler's efforts to produce badly needed war materials. During the war years, the Chrysler Corporation of Canada built 180,816 trucks (not including 5,400 heavy duty "lorry trucks") destined for service on all fronts, plus millions of rocket tubes and shells, tracers, igniters, and parts for Bofors guns, and other items. Included in this wartime production were 5,400 specially-equipped military lorries.
In 1942, some 117 million pounds of materials were shipped from the Chatham plant (only five million pounds were shipped in 1938). Chrysler made a substantial contribution to the Allied cause by developing rustproofing, protective wrapping, and packaging methods adopted by the Canadian Government and the British Army. They also developed, in Sorel, Quebec, the only plant in North America to produce guns and gun carriages from scrap iron to the finished weapon.
Early in 1942, Mr. Mansfield retired and was succeeded by C. W. Churchill, who had started with Winton in New York in 1904, met Walter Chrysler at Buick, and was appointed vice-president in charge of merchandising for Chrysler Corporation of Canada in 1934.
After the War
|Special DeLuxe (1946-50)|
|Fury (1959 only)||Viscount|
The company moved into a new administration building on Chrysler Center in 1949; a record 64,486 cars and trucks were built that year, and employment reached 5,600. Late in 1949, there were major expansions of the engine plant and powerhouse, with more additions to the car plant in 1950, and a new hospital and personnel building.
The practice of creating "Plodges" continued; from 1946 to 1950, the Plymouth DeLuxe was modified to become the Dodge Kingsway, while the Special Deluxe became the Regent. For 1951-1952, the Dodge Crusader (D40-1) was a Plymouth Cambridge with a
Dodge grille and ornaments, carrying a long block 218.1-cid flathead six rather than the American Plymouth's 217.8-cid short block engine; the Canadian version had a wider bore and shorter stroke. The Dodge Regent (D40-2) was based on the Plymouth Cranbrook, while the Dodge Kingsway (D-39) was the equivalent of the Concord.
Through the 1950s, Chrysler Canada used the longer Windsor/DeSoto six cylinder engine block; Plymouths and Dodges had a smaller displacement (228 cubic inches, about 3.8 litres). The HyDrive transmission was sold, but the company had to produce a HyDrive-specific version of the 228 block in small numbers.
1953-1954 Chrysler Canada Dodges and Plymouths
Canadian-built 1953-54 Plymouths had the usual variations, including the long-block six. Manual transmission cars came with the familiar 218 cubic inch motor; Hy-Drive and Powerflite cars came with the new 228 cubic inch engine, formerly exclusive to the Canadian-built, American-style Coronet.
For the first time, in 1953, the U.S. Dodge front clip and front fenders were mated to the Plymouth body, to avoid matching the Dodge grille to the unique Plymouth "pontoon" fenders. Since the full-sized Dodge had a longer wheelbase, the fenders had to be modified to fit the Plymouth body. The new 241 hemi V8 was not available.
Bill from Toronto wrote, "The 1953-54 Meadowbrook/Coronet sedans and club coupes were built on a 119" wheelbase with the hardtop, convertible and suburban on Plymouth's 114" chassis. The extra 5" was in the rear seat area."
There were trim differences from American models, including small hubcaps from the 1949-50 Plymouths or Dodges. The full wheelcovers of 1953 were unique to Canada, plain affairs bearing either a Plymouth or Dodge logo on a red background. Mini chrome fins appearing on both 1954 Canadian Plymouths and Dodges did not bear the Plymouth flag logo, as in the US, but a ribbed design used interchangeably on both marques. On the 1954 Dodge Regent and Mayfair (equivalent to Savoy and Belvedere), the Dodge Coronet side trim spear was mated to the Plymouth rear fender chrome. For these two years, Chrysler Canada did not have a two-door sedan, using the close-coupled business coupe (with a back seat) instead.
In 1956, Dodge sold a Canadian Dodge Custom Royal based on the US Custom Royal. It used the 303 cid V8 engine, which was also used in the Canadian Chrysler Windsor and exported to Detroit for use in the Plymouth Fury. The Fury itself, available in the United States starting in 1957, was not made in Canada, but could be imported by dealers.
In 1938, Mr. Todgham left Chrysler to become a Dodge-DeSoto dealer in Chatham, Ontario. He sold his dealership in 1953 and helped reorganize a Dodge-Plymouth agency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In May, 1955, he rejoined Chrysler of Canada and was appointed Executive Assistant to the President. On July 16, 1956, Mr. Todgham was elected the company's first Canadian-born President. During his first year as president (1956), Chrysler Canada, for the first time, produced more than 100,000 passenger cars in a single model year.
In 1957, the Custom Royal was powered by a new 313 ci engine that, outside of its slightly smaller bore, was identical to the familiar American 318. The unique 313 would remain in Canadian production through 1964.
Even with the massive 1957 restyling, Chrysler Canada continued its practice of bringing in Plymouths as Dodges, putting the full front clip onto Plymouth bodies, and leaving the rest of the car essentially unchanged. Because of a difference in front wheel well openings, the Mayfair's Belvedere-style Sportone trim had to be modified to begin behind the opening. However, the difference between the 122-inch wheelbase of the "big" Dodge and the 118-inch wheelbase of the Plymouth chassis didn't seem to affect the fenders.
|1957 Canadian |