Category Archives: Spotted in the wild

Classics, rarities and who-knows-what-else I’ve encountered in my travels.

Inherit the Wind(sor)

1962 Chrysler Windsor, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

1962 Chrysler Windsor, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Mid-November in Canada, Ottawa especially, is a dark, grey, chilly affair.

With skeletal tree limbs stripped of leaves and an icy wind blowing from the north, it’s a grim portent of the frigid winter that will soon arrive.

Trudging along the edge of Centretown, past the cold, grey abutments of the Queensway, I happened upon a happy sight today. There, waiting for its owner to come back from Loblaws, was a perfect beater from the 1960s.

With its faded, blotchy paint gleaming unevenly under the harsh security lights, this aged but upright beast would have looked at home in southern California with a 1980s-era Nick Nolte behind the wheel.

The Windsor became the base full-size Chrysler in Canada in 1962, though most of the attention went to high-end New Yorkers and 300s.

The Windsor became the base full-size Chrysler in Canada in 1962, though most of the attention went to high-end New Yorkers and 300s.

It was a forgotten Canadian classic – a 1962 Chrysler Windsor.

The lowest rung on the Chrysler ladder, the Windsor (manufactured in Windsor, Ontario) was the Canadian counterpart to the base-level Newport in the U.S.

The Windsor name dates back to 1939, where it appeared on lower-level Chryslers on both sides of the border. In 1951 it became the new base model, with models like the Saratoga and New Yorker positioned above it.

After 1961 (which was a weird time for Chrysler), the base model divorced itself and took up a different name depending on which country it was sold in. On the outside, the stripped-down ’62 Chrysler wore the same body and front end as the ’61, minus the tailfins that were quickly going out of style.

From the rear, these models are nearly indistinguishable from their Dodge Custom 880 brothers, which isn’t surprising considering they shared a platform. Note the very plain-Jane hubcaps adorning this supposedly high-end marque – not something you’d want people to see at the country club.

Though it came in many body styles, including a graceful 2-door hardtop, the stodgier pillared 4-door was the most common Windsor on the road. Underneath the hood is a big-block 361 cubic-inch V-8, good for a healthy 265 horsepower.

A 1962 Dodge Custom 880. Notice a resemblance?

A 1962 Dodge Custom 880. Notice a resemblance?

Putting the power down in this model was Chrysler’s legendary Torqueflite A-727 transmission, generally regarded as one of the best and toughest automatics ever made.

In 1962, Chrysler was still outfitting its automatics with push-button shifting, a gee-whiz feature still in vogue at the time. Though you can’t see it in this shot, the steering wheel is of the translucent, tortoiseshell variety.

Very Kennedy era. Or Diefenbaker, if you prefer.

The Windsor nameplate soldiered on in the Canadian market until 1966, after which the base full-size Chrysler made amends with its American counterpart and became the Newport once again, lasting until 1981.

Eventually, this Windsor’s owner came out to see who the guy drooling on his car was. The remarkably young owner told me this relic – sourced from a seller in rural southeast Ontario – was his daily driver, at least until the snow flies.

Over the course of the winter, he planned to work on his prize, hopefully making it a little nicer come spring. For sure, it’s a model worth investing in.

‘M’ is for ‘Mostly Forgotten’

1965 Mercury M-150 pickup, spotted near Arnprior, Ontario.

1965 Mercury M-150 pickup, spotted near Arnprior, Ontario.

Perched atop this pile of scrap in an Eastern Ontario junkyard is a little piece of Canadian automotive history.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks. That’s a Mercury half-ton pickup up there, slowly reverting back to nature now that its road-going days are long over.

A rarity nowadays, Mercury pickups used to be common in Canada. Sold between 1948 and 1968 – with surplus models trickling out until 1972 – the Mercury M-150 was a made-in-Canada solution for Ford of Canada’s problem.

It's not hard to see the Ford DNA in this Mercury pickup grille chart.

It’s not hard to see the Ford DNA in this Mercury pickup grille chart. (Via…)

The problem? Canadians liked buying Ford trucks, but not every postwar town had a Ford dealership. With distances being what they were (and still are, in most areas), that meant pickup buyers might be forced to visit their handy Dodge or GMC dealers instead.

The coverage problem was solved by making a rebadged Ford pickup that could be sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealers.

The badge said Mercury, but underneath the familiar exterior the M-150 was all F-150.

Anyone looking for a unique collectible could do worse by finding a roadworthy (or restorable) M-150 to play with. Buy an F-150 and a Lincoln Blackwood to go with it and you’d have a FoMoCo trifecta!

Handyman’s special

Behold, 6.75-litres of pure British luxury.

Behold, 6.75-litres of pure British luxury.

Submitted for your enjoyment, an under-the-hood look at the 1975 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.

There’s plenty of space under there for a hand holding a wrench, isn’t there?

This hefty 6.75-litre V8, which powered the Silver Shadow from 1970 until the model’s demise in 1980, only cranked out 189 horsepower (it was the 70s…). However, piles of torque were on tap to get this British beast moving briskly, smoothly applied through a GM-sourced Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission.

That’s the same transmission that can be found in a Trans-Am, but we won’t talk about that unrefined plebe-mobile.

British luxury vehicles of the 70s and 80s had a reputation for frying wires and hoses, and given the amount of piping hot hardware under this bonnet, I’m wondering if a Silver Shadow owner needs priority parking at his local tweed-clad mechanic.


The diminutive Brit

Itsy-bitsy 1953-1956 Austin A30, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Itsy-bitsy 1953-1956 Austin A30, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

During the Second World War, the British fielded the largest non-nuclear bomb of any military power in the conflict – the 22,000 pound ‘Grand Slam’ earthquake bomb.

You wouldn’t guess it by looking at postwar British cars.

While the mighty bombs carried aloft by Lancasters were meant to bring an invading power to its knees, the peacetime reality of a battered and bruised nation still dependent on food rationing called for economical living – especially with cars.

It's not the size on the outside that matters, apparently.

It’s not the size on the outside that matters, apparently.

Small, frugal and low on power, the vehicles produced in postwar Britain were Spartan but innovative.

The Austin A30, built to compete with the popular Morris Minor, adopted monocoque (unibody) architecture to go with its 803 cc engine.

The new manufacturing technique allowed the car to be lighter and sturdier, and able to be powered by a smaller engine.

Produced from 1952 to 1956, life with an A30 would have been quite different from an American car of the same vintage. Instead of the plush interior, powerful engine and modern convenience items that adorned iron rolling out of Detroit, this little Austin listed ‘passenger side sun visor’ and ‘heater’ amongst its optional equipment.

Kids seated in the back would have (not) enjoyed the hard metal shelf topped with PVC plastic that served as a rear bench seat. To indicate a turn, drivers operated a knob that controlled a small indicator arm that popped out of the B-pillar.

The Austin A30 handled this park without even a hint of sidewalk intrusion.

The Austin A30 handled this park without even a hint of sidewalk intrusion.

Fun times.

After a 2-door version and wagon joined the 4-door saloon body style in 1953, the progression of time saw the introduction of the more powerful A35 (34 hp) in 1956, which carried the compact Austin brand through to 1959 (in saloon form) and 1962 (in wagon form).

The author’s mother often spoke of the tiny Austin of her Edmonton childhood, purchased by her father as a first car for the family in the late 1950s.

A nightmare in the frigid Prairie winters (which rendered the turn indicators inoperable), the Austin also accomplished the regular feat of stalling after driving over a puddle. A bottle of carbon tetrachloride had to be carried at all times in order to dry out the points when this occurred.

If anyone’s wondering why any Canadian would have purchased such a car, just remember that British imports came to these shores prices awfully cheap.

Even if it’s cold and stalls a lot, owning an Austin A30 beats waiting for the bus or walking any day.


Britain sends an Envoy

1961 Envoy F-Series, spotted in Gatineau (Hull Sector), Quebec.

1961 Envoy F-Series, spotted in Gatineau (Hull Sector), Quebec.

When was the last time you saw someone driving an Envoy?

And no, I’m not talking about that innocuous SUV of the pre-bankruptcy GM era.

Canada’s mid-century love affair with cheap British imports is a well-known phenomenon, and this rare rolling artifact is another piece of that story.

The Vauxhall Victor F-Series was one of Britain’s most popular exports, with hundreds of thousands snapped up by cost-conscious buyers around the globe.

The model debuted in 1957 with distinctly American styling, but tell-tale British size. Powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder making 55 horsepower, the model wasn’t particularly fast, but by all accounts it was durable and reliable.

A three-speed column-mounted manual transmission put the power to the rear wheels.

The 'Longer, lower, wider' mantra of the 1950s doesn't seem to apply to the Envoy.

The ‘longer, lower, wider’ mantra of the 1950s doesn’t seem to apply to the Envoy.

In North America, Vauxhall Victors were sold through GM dealerships – Pontiac and Buick ones, to be exact – alongside their massive American brethren.

That left the other half of the GM stable (minus Cadillac) without a cheap import to sell.

Enter the Envoy.

Sold at Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealers in Canada starting in 1959, the Envoy F-Series was a Vauxhall Victor with different options and better trim. Nowhere on the body is it mentioned that the vehicle is entirely a Vauxhall.

1960 Envoy ad. Notice the lack of colour on the car they call 'colourful'.

1960 Envoy ad. Notice the lack of colour on the car they call ‘colourful’.

Two-tone paint and interior fabrics showed that Britain was easing out of its postwar slump, and was now able to appreciate (and offer) nicer things.

Note: the aftermarket rims and mirror dice on this pristine example did not come from 1959. Not even close.

The Envoy, like the Victor, lasted in the Canadian market until 1970. The first generation, with its 1950s proportions, lasted until 1961, before Vauxhall adopted a modern, Ford Falcon-esque styling treatment.

This example wore vintage 1961 Quebec plates, marking it was the last year of the first generation, and a badge showing its sale at a Farnham, Quebec Chev-Olds dealer.

Once commonplace, these imports are now a distant memory for older Canadians. Though imports of Vauxhalls died off, overseas GM subsidiaries (Europe’s Vauxhall and Opel, Australia’s Holden) now share hardware and designs with many of their American counterparts.

Are those 13-inchers?

Are those 13-inchers?

Special K

Reagan-era pride: 1982-83 Chrysler LeBaron, spotted in Gatineau, Quebec.

Reagan-era pride: 1982-83 Chrysler LeBaron, spotted in Gatineau, Quebec.

It was, and still is, a status symbol born of 1980s America.

The Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Loved by many (especially Lee Iacocca and Jon Voight*), it was the first spin-off of the 1981 K-car architecture, and brought top-down motoring back to U.S. shores.




Sadly, you don’t see many of these soft-tops plying the roadways anymore.

This 1982-83 example ditched the Town & Country’s fake wood veneer in favour of some sporty red pinstripes. All in all, it’s not in bad shape, though spots of rust are forming and the trim – like that of many old models – is starting to become misaligned.

Ricardo Montalban doing what he did best - hocking Chryslers.

Ricardo Montalban doing what he did best – hocking Chryslers.

While the LeBaron name had been used on and off by Chrysler for some time, it is these 1980s front-wheel-drive compacts that people most associate with the name.

Hot on the heels of the bankruptcy-busting 1981 Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant twins, Chrysler’s 1982 introduction of the LeBaron sedan, coupe, wagon and convertible helped squeeze as many products as possible from an existing platform (in order to put the company’s finances firmly in the black).

Joined by its stablemate, the Dodge 400, the new ‘Super-K’ aimed to bring luxury to the still-novel domain of front-wheel-drive American vehicles.

At the time, the U.S. was still struggling from the effects of a recession and high gas prices brought on by the Iranian Revolution. Value for money was everything, which explains why Americans flocked to buy the cheap-but-roomy Aries and Reliant starting on Day 1.

In order to capitalize on the success of the first year K-cars and solidify the company’s comeback, Chrysler Corporation released a now-famous television commercial starring chairman/saviour Lee Iacocca.

Iacocca enticed potential buyers with an old-fashioned sales pitch that culminated in the iconic line, “If you can find a better car, buy it.”

Mechanically, the early K-derived LeBarons harnessed the same hardware as their lesser brethren.

A carbureted 2.2-litre four-cylinder made 84 horsepower and 111 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 3-speed Torqueflight automatic transmission or less-common 4-speed manual.

The man's desire for Chryslers was insatiable.

The man’s desire for Chryslers was insatiable.

Optional was the 2.6-litre four borrowed from the Mitsubishi Astron. Also carbureted, this hefty 4-banger made 114 hp and 146 lb-ft, and served as the K-class upgrade engine until the Chrysler-made 2.5-litre came on board in 1986.

Starting in 1984, LeBaron owners could outfit their ride with a turbo version of the 2.2 and finally enjoy top-end performance (the stock engine was tuned for low-end torque, but ran out of steam fast).

Despite not being designed for it, the 2.2 proved to be very adaptable – several increasingly powerful versions of the turbo 2.2 were built before the engine ceased production in the mid-1990s.

While their numbers dwindle each year, we can find comfort in the fact that LeBaron convertibles will always live on through their many movie and TV appearances.

‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’ (1987) features many memorable road trip scenes in a LeBaron Town & Country, while a 1994 episode of Seinfeld immortalized the same model as the too-good-to-be-true ‘Jon Voight car’.

Long live the Jon Voight car.

The Greatest Generation… of vehicles

Canada marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day last week, and here in the capital the streets quickly filled up with vintage military rolling stock. Here’s a taste of what showed up for the celebration:

World War 2 era GMC CCKW-353 (aka 'Deuce-and-a-half')

World War 2 era GMC CCKW-353 (aka ‘Deuce-and-a-half’)

GMC CCKW-353 2.5 tonne

Tanks and aircraft get the lion’s share of the limelight when it comes to warfare, but troops couldn’t advance en masse without a convoy of study, rugged trucks.

In the European theatre of WW2, that truck was (more often not) the three-axle, 6×6 GMC CCKW-353, affectionately known as the Deuce-and-a-half due to its 2.5 tonne payload rating.

A few hundred thousand of these came in handy in the mid-1940s.

A few hundred thousand of these came in handy in the mid-1940s.

Powered by a smooth and reliable 270 c.i.d. inline six (making 91 hp and 216 lb-ft), this GMC saw the U.S. and Canada through WW2 and Korea.

Given the massive numbers of Allied troops pouring into Europe in the wake of D-Day, huge numbers of transports were required.

Between GM and GM of Canada, 800,000 examples were cranked out in every possible configuration.

The GMC provided a stable platform for carrying and towing, and besides its most common role as a troop carrier, saw use as a water and fuel tanker, surgical van, and mobile anti-aircraft gun installation.

Though replaced in official service in the early 1950s, CCKW-353s were a common sight on military bases well into the 1960s.

Volkswagen Type 166 Schwimmwagen ('floating car')

Volkswagen Type 166 Schwimmwagen (‘floating car’)

Volkswagen Type 166 Schwimmwagen

Count on the crafty Germans to come up with something as innovative as this.

After the Axis power decided that expansionism was the way to go, the German armed forces found themselves needing more than just tanks, trucks, and staff cars to get around. After all, there’s a lot of narrow roads and water in Holland.

"Faster? But Sir, we're already doing 5 knots!"

“Faster? But Sir, we’re already doing 5 knots!”

Enter the lowly People’s Car, which offered up its underpinnings and drivetrain for the VW Type 166 Schwimmwagen, a light, agile car that could double as a motorboat (thanks to a watertight body and a propeller mounted on a driveshaft extension).

And so, the most mass-produced amphibious car in history was born out of wartime necessity. Powered by a 1.1-litre flat four, a total of 14,265 of the bathtub-like vehicles rolled, then swam, off the assembly lines.

Yes, that paddle is there for a reason. The Schwimmwagen could make steady (but slow) forward progress in the water, but backing up required  basic canoe training. If lost, the shovel would suffice for maneuvering the tiny ship.

On dry land, a four-speed transmission and two-speed transfer case (with 4WD in 1st) helped the Schwimmwagen navigate roadways and mixed terrain.

While it provided next to no protection to occupants and was puny compared to other road-going machines of the era, a passenger-side 8-millimetre machine gun helped sooth the driver’s ego.

1941-45 Willys MB, aka 'Jeep'

1941-45 Ford GPW, aka ‘Jeep’ (note: nine grille slots, instead of seven for the Willys)

Jeep (Willys MB and Ford GPW)

We can all thank Hitler for unwittingly introducing the world to the Jeep – an iconic vehicle whose lineage continues to this day in the Wrangler.

With entry into WW2 seeming like a sure thing, the U.S. Army appealed to the auto industry for designs of a small, durable four-wheel-drive scout or reconnaissance car of light weight and adequate power.

A startan interior was just what the Army ordered. Not custom sheepskin shift boots on this restored example.

A startan interior was just what the Army ordered. Not custom sheepskin shift boots on this restored example.

Tiny, failing car company American Bantam submitted blueprints five days later, which impressed the military so much that they sent the designs to Ford and Willys-Overland for refinement, and ultimately production.

Powered by a Willys-sourced ‘Go Devil’ 2.2-litre four cylinder making 60 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque, the vehicle went into extensive production starting in 1945.

Because production was split between two companies, Willys designated their model the MB, while Ford called theirs the GPW. The only tell-tale difference between the two was the nine-slot grille on the Ford, versus the quintessential seven-slot grille on the Willys.

The Willys 'Go Devil' engine was chosen for the Jeep due to its small size and robust power.

The Willys ‘Go Devil’ engine was chosen for the Jeep due to its small size and robust power.

In all, Willys assembled over 359,000 of the do-anything runabouts before the end of the war, while Ford produced over 277,000.

Nowhere in official documents was the word ‘Jeep’ mentioned. There’s much speculation about how the car – and eventually the company – came to adopt the name; most of it centres around slang used by servicemen and a high-profile 1941 media event in Washington, DC.

Whatever the origin, the word ‘jeep’ became synonymous with small, rugged 4×4, sparking a worldwide movement that led to the creation of the Land Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser.

After the war, the popular civilian Jeep (CJ) found itself on quite a wild ownership ride, changing hands several times.

This 1947 Willys, found on a farm in the Yukon, was painstakingly restored to 1944 specs (including the installation of a WW2 Ford grille).

This 1947 Willys, found on a farm in the Yukon, was painstakingly restored to 1944 specs (including the installation of a WW2 Ford grille).

After Willys-Overland, the CJ was built by Kaiser-Jeep from 1953 onwards, followed by a long stint at American Motors Corporation (AMC), before being purchased by Chrysler Corporation in 1987.

The ride didn’t stop there, as Chrysler then embarked on its own ownership roller-coaster. From DaimlerChrysler AG, though the dismal Chrysler Group LLC years (which was followed by bankruptcy) and eventually to its current home in Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the Jeep division clearly has nine lives, and many new dads.

The fact that the division has remained in such demand over the decades – and created such a lifestyle around its products – should make the original designers of the Jeep proud.

Hero of the Republic

Late 1980s Peugeot 505 V6, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Late 1980s Peugeot 505 V6, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Though a mountain bike was attached to the rear bumper, the driver of this rare French beast slid behind the wheel with a bag from a nearby McDonalds.

Drivers need fuel too.

Looking stylish in silver, this Peugeot 505 V6 was France’s answer to low-end BMWs and Mercedes-Benz’s of the circa 1980s. Produced in massive quantities between 1979 and 1999 and marketed worldwide, it was the last rear-wheel-drive passenger car produced by the storied company.

Meow! Can you sense the animosity being hurled over the Maginot Line?

Meow! Can you sense the animosity being hurled over the Maginot Line?

Respected for its comfort, handling, and relative toughness, the 505 was just at home on the rutted roads of Nigeria as it was cruising along the highways of Paris.

The V6 designation helps narrow down the age of this particular vehicle.

Between 1987 to 1990, the Peugeot 505 came with an optional 2.8-litre SOHC V6 making 168 horsepower and 174 foot-pounds of torque. The 90-degree engine was mated to either a 3-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.

(A long list of gas and diesel inline fours ranging from 1.8 to 2.5 litres were offered during the model’s lifespan, in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged form)

The last 505 sedans reached markets in 1990, with the wagon version soldering on longer.

During the model’s run, the 505 was manufactured in every continent except North America. Production of the 505 for the European market ceased in 1992, though production continued in Argentina, China and Nigeria well into the mid-to-late ’90s.

The 505 stands out amongst 1980s/90s vehicles due to its low beltline, forward facing grille and ever-so-slightly sloping trunk lid. Though it can happily inhabit the term ‘boxy’, the 505’s shape offers hints of upper class design – think a muted Audi 5000 or BMW 530i.

French connection


Straight outta France: 2006-2008 Renault Mégane CC, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Straight outta France: 2006-2008 Renault Mégane CC, spotted in Ottawa, Ontario.

Is there heroin in the rocker panels?

There’s no telling who owns this 2006-2008 Renault Mégane, but the diplomat plates imply it’s a bigwig from the Republic (who really wanted to bring his car with him).

Exotic imports aren’t as big in Canada as they are elsewhere, so it was a treat to eyeball this French interloper, seen parked outside a Euro-centric garage near the ritzy diplomat enclave of Rockcliffe Park.

Diplomatic plates make this French tourer all the more intriguing.

Diplomatic plates make this French tourer all the more intriguing.

The Mégane is Renault’s bread and butter offering – its all-important C-segment (small family car) model that space-conscious, overtaxed Europeans flock to in droves.

First offered in 1995, the Mégane has sprouted every possible body style over its two decades of existence, though the retractable hardtop CC (for ‘coupe-cabriolet’) is by far the rarest.

Yes, you would really be living large as you cruised down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris – passionately, of course – in one of these babies.

Crafted by famed design studio Karmann, this era of Mégane CC could be had with a wide variety of engines, ranging in size from 1.4 to 2.0 litres. As for sales, it was wildly successful in its home country, and saw healthy sales in neighbouring Britain.

Seriously, what gives?

Seriously, what gives?

The model remains in production and continues to garner accolades, including kudos for providing a lower entry price for convertibles. However, at £23, 795 for a 2015 model, it will still set you back over $44,000 in Canadian currency.

Since spotting this example, I’ve yet to see it on the roads. Hopefully, if Mr. Diplomat is still in town, the coming warm weather will lure it outdoors for some top-down motoring.

Then I’ll get my chance to ask about that bull emblem on the trunk lid.


British Steel

Pre-1953 Ford Prefect, spotted in Kazabazua, Quebec.

Pre-1953 Ford Prefect, spotted in Kazabazua, Quebec.

When your average North American thinks of a British car, it’s usually an image of a Jaguar, Rover, Austin, Lotus or MG that pops into their head.

Not Ford.

Those classic English marques definitely made an impact on both sides of the pond, but Ford of Britain should get credit for dutifully cranking out staid and sensible vehicles for the driveway of the everyman.

It’s hard to imagine now, but for decades, Ford of Britain marketed their vehicles in the U.S. and Canada alongside their more familiar counterparts from Detroit. This was especially prevalent in the early postwar period and 1950s, as the British models undercut the American models in price by quite a bit.

The Prefect's 1.17-litre engine made a whopping 31 horsepower.

The Prefect’s 1.17-litre engine made a whopping 31 horsepower.

They also undercut them in power, comfort, and size.

The Ford Prefect was a big name among British cars. As an uplevel version of the Ford Popular and Ford Anglia (naming models wasn’t their strong suit), the Prefect was introduced in 1938 and continued in production – minus a three year gap to accommodate a pesky global conflict – until 1961.

Following World War 2, a devastated England geared up its factories, and, using existing dies, tools and plans, built and exported cars to save its financial life. Ford of Britain sales and service networks were set up in North America to handle the influx (Latin America and Australia being other big customers).

Per capita, the British Fords proved more popular in Canada than the U.S.

Ford of Britain workers are seen constructing Prefects in 1950.

Ford of Britain workers are seen constructing Prefects in 1950.

Whether it was the Commonwealth factor or the long-standing love affair with domestic vehicles south of the border, Canada’s sparse population soaked up 235,000 British Fords between 1948 and 1973.

In 1950 alone, a Baby Boom-era Canada bought up 14,804 British Fords, a good number of them Prefects.

Your author’s mother often recalled the Prefect of her Alberta youth, one of several British imports purchased by her budget-minded father (the others being an Austin and a Vauxhall).

Throughout the model’s run, the body received only one significant upgrade – in 1953, when the upright, pre-war look was ditched for something more contemporary.

The mechanics of the Prefect were as basic as you could get, and wouldn’t win you any races. The only powerplant available was a side-valve 1.17-litre four cylinder making 31 horsepower and 46 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a three-speed manual transmission.

Vintage North American ad for British Ford cars.

Vintage North American ad for British Ford cars.

Compared to the V8-powered American Fords of the same time period, the Prefect seemed to have more in common with the Model T (especially considering that it retained the capacity for crank-starting).

With a top speed of about 65 miles per hour (105 km/h), you wouldn’t want to try passing logging trucks in the Rocky Mountains in a Prefect. But, driving a Prefect was better than not driving at all, hence why British imports became popular with the cost-conscious.

Despite the number of vehicles sold here in the Great White North, British Fords are scarce. The Prefect at the centre of this post, spotted in a field near Kazabazua, Quebec, was a rare surprise.

While the model itself is far from the minds of modern-day Canadians (and Brits), the Prefect gained lasting recognition after a confused main character in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adopted the car’s name in an effort to appear “inconspicuous” among locals.