To celebrate Canada Day, I thought I would provide a primer on some of the unique Canadian Ford makes and models. In the United States Ford marketed three mainstream brands–Ford, Mercury and Lincoln–but in Canada, things got more complicated with up to six brands. Two more makes could be added to both totals if we include short-lived Edsel and Continental when it was a division. Why all the brands? Follow along to find out.
Canadian geography plays a large role in this story as we have many small towns separated by large distances. These small towns would generally have either a Ford or a Mercury dealership but usually could not support both. Creating an additional brand for each meant Ford could offer something a bit more upscale in the traditional Mercury market. Likewise, Mercury dealers could offer more basically trimmed cars without cheapening the brand. Thus Ford Corporation could compete across the entire spectrum of the market with a smaller set of dealers. The additional brands were Meteor at Mercury and Monarch at Ford shops.
It did not start that way however. In 1946, Mercury was given a smaller, low priced car to sell based on a Ford but with Mercury style trim. Sold from 1946 to 1948, this Mercury was given the model name 114 which denoted its shorter wheelbase. The above example has been mildly hot rodded, but it is not easy to find curbside examples.
I did see this 1948 four door sedan at a car show a few years in a row.
While the 114 was badged as a Mercury, this changed in 1949 as a new, smaller Ford-based car was sold under the Meteor name but still at Mercury-Lincoln dealers.
These Meteors used the flat head Ford or Mercury V8 engine until 1955 when the new overhead valve V8 engine replaced it.
A Ford-style dashboard in the same 1951 Meteor.
For 1952 Meteor line up received the new, updated Ford body shell. The above 1952 Meteor Customline Convertible is an extremely rare car as 1952 production was reduced due to the Korean war and convertibles were never common in Canada. This car is probably one of a hundred or fewer convertibles produced in that year. The trim portion above the grill should be a painted piece on the Meteor rather than chrome shown here.
Starting in 1954, the Meteor models received Canadian models names like Niagara and Rideau. The Niagara was named after the Niagara Falls region and Rideau after the historic canal in Ontario.
1955 brought an updated grill.
Thisshows off the optional multi-tone paint schemes quite nicely. Rumor has it these 1956 Meteors offered the most factory paint options of any Ford vehicle ever with all the dual and tri tone combinations theoretically available. A base six-cylinder engine was offered for the first time in 1956.
The 1957 Ford body shell with unique Meteor grill and trim. Wheels and yellow fog light are aftermarket items.
1958 brought dual headlights and another new grill as featured on this Rideau four door sedan.
Continuing with the patriotic naming theme in 1959, the Meteor Montcalm was named after the famous French general Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Based off the Ford Galaxy it offered additional chrome and an overall look in keeping with the Mercury line.
For 1960, the Ford body shell was sported an all new look with the twin headlights moving to the grill. Scalloped sides gave it a less boxy look than the 1959s. Meteors inherited these changes again with their own unique grill and trim. The side mounted chrome on this Rideau 500 gives an extra dash of style and is unique to the Meteors.
After 1961, things start to get a bit complicated as the United States Mercury brought out a low priced car called the Mercury Meteor. The Canada-specific Meteors disappeared at this time until the Mercury Meteor was discontinued after the 1963 model year.
Re-launched in 1964, Meteor now wore a Mercury body shell but with a Ford dashboard and interior to achieve a lower price than a Mercury branded car. The above snow covered 1964 Montcalm example sports some incorrect Lincoln hubcaps.
More Canadian model names like Rideau returned in 1965. Montcalm and LeMoyne were the other higher trimmed models with LeMoyne occupying the top spot. The Meteor make was slowly losing importance as time went on since the mild trim and grill changes offered little differentiation from the Mercury models they shared the showroom with.
A minor style refresh for 1966 is displayed in the weathered example above. The flatter hood, revised grill and smaller front turn signals are the most obvious changes from 1965.
Minor styling updates again followed for 1967.
For 1968, the inline six engine was no longer offered.
The convertible was dropped in 1971 when the Meteor became essentially a Mercury Monterey with a Ford interior and only a few badges to differentiate it. Later, the Rideau and Montcalm lines were phased out.
Mercury badges had started being phased in over the years and Meteor officially stopped existing as a separate marque after 1976. This 1974 two-door is near the end of the line but pretty much identical to its American Monterey cousin. The Meteor name existed as a low priced model variant on the Mercury Marquis until 1981.
Mercury also sold the full line of Ford trucks from 1946 and 1968. In general these were exactly the same as the equivalent Ford truck but with different badges and perhaps a grill variation depending on the year. The model naming convention was similar to Ford but M was utilized instead of F, so F-100 became M-100 for example. Mercury sold the full Ford truck line up including heavier duty cab/chassis models as well as vans for most of this period. The Mercury-badged vans seem to be less commonly seen than the trucks.
Over at the Ford side of the house, the companion marque was dubbed Monarch. Monarchs were offered for sale starting in 1946 as a higher priced, most luxuriously trimmed alternative for Ford dealers to offer.
Essentially, it was a 118 inch wheelbase Mercury body shell car with Ford trim, tail lights and a little extra chrome. The standard engine was a 239cid Mercury V8 making 97hp. Above is a 1949 example.
Starting in 1949, Monarch adopted a lion badge and moved to the new Mercury body shell but again with a Mercury rather than Ford dashboard. Note the leaping lion hood ornament which is rather similar to the more famous cat found on many Jaguar bonnets. The flathead V8 engine was enlarged to 255cid and 110hp.
Unlike US market Fords, optional two-tone paint was offered giving the Canadian cars more flair in the color department. The fenders and lower portion of the body were painted in the contrasting color.
Like their Mercury Eight cousins, the 1949-1951 Monarch sedans feature center-opening suicide doors. Shown above is the larger new grill for 1951.
1952 saw an updated body shell as well as a boost in power to 125hp. Only minor changes were made to 1953 models like the one above. In 1953 and 1954 Monarch actually outsold its Mercury parent in Canada. The flat head V8 was replaced by a 161hp OHV V8 engine for 1954.
The lion coat of arms was replaced by badges with a crown motif. The trunk mounted one on this 1953 Custom is especially intricate.
1955 brought a new look and an increase in displacement to 292cid.
Check out the center-mounted bumper bullets on the above 1956 Monarch Richelieu. Engine displacement was increased to 312cid with horsepower ratings ranging from 210 to 225 depending on the model. The Richelieu was the top model with lower specification Custom and
A big size increase came with the 1957 model as well as slightly odd styling. Most dimensions increased with a boost of five inches in length, and three inches in width on a 122 inch wheelbase, but height dropped two inches. Horsepower was also up to a full 255hp from the same 312cid displacement. A 368cid 290hp V8 was optional in the top of the line Turnpike Cruiser.
There was no Monarch for 1958 as it was felt Edsel could better fill the upscale Ford position. The Monarch marque returned for 1959, due to the disappointing Edsel sales, as a Mercury body shell with unique grill and badges. The 1958 models were the biggest Monarchs yet, with a 128 inch wheelbase, and could even be optioned with a 430cid V8.
As one of the earlier instances of Ford’s corporate fascination with the II or Mark II suffix, the above car was officially known as the.
Styling moved closer to Mercury for 1960, but still with a few Monarch-specific trim pieces.
For 1961, the downsized Mercury body shell was used but Monarch was reduced to a single line, the Richelieu. Only two and four door hardtops as well as a four door sedan were offered. The much smaller cars meant lighter weight and thus smaller engines. Power plant choices were either a 352cid 220hp V8 or a 390cid 300hp V8. Ford’s top cars were increasingly encroaching into territory traditionally occupied by Monarch, so it was discontinued as a marque for the final time. The Monarch name returned on Mercury’s version of the Ford Granada in 1975, but it was not a Canadian exclusive.
Believe it or not there was yet another Canadian marque offered, but only for a single year. The Frontenac was a version of the Ford Falcon sold only in 1960 by Mercury-Lincoln dealers. Named after a governor of New France, the Frontenac name had actually been used before on a Canadian relative of Durant in the early 1930s. The Ford Corporation’s Frontenac was based on the Ford Falcon of the same year but with unique trim utilizing the Canadian Maple Leaf as a logo. Despite being very popular with over 8400 sold, the Frontenac was discontinued in favor of the Falcon-based Mercury Comet that was introduced in the United States part way through the year.
Hopefully you enjoyed this brief tour of Fords designed specifically for the Canadian market. Happy Canada Day!
Related reading: Mercury Trucks, by D. Saunders