Ignition Summer 2017 (#19)

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It might surprise some to learn that Canada’s automotive history is as old as the country itself.
That’s right – the first Canadian car, a steam car built by jeweler and watchmaker Henry Seth Taylor in Stanstead, Quebec, came to life in 1867, the same year as Canada’s confederation.
Now, Taylor’s steam car was primitive by today’s standards. It was powered by a coal-fired boiler, which moved a piston attached to the rear axle to move the vehicle forward. It had no reverse gear, no brakes and was slower than the average bicycle (24 km/h top speed).
And it didn’t last long on the road, either – shortly after it was unveiled at the Stanstead Fall Fair, it crashed into a creek.
While Taylor’s steam buggy was the first, it was the McLaughlins that really introduced the automobile to Canada, at least from a mass-manufacturing standpoint.
Robert McLaughlin founded the McLaughlin Carriage Company in Enniskillen, Ontario in 1869, and initially only built horse-drawn carriages. The company grew and relocated to Oshawa in 1876, and by 1898 it was producing 25,000 carriages annually.
In 1907, led by McLaughlin’s son Samuel, the company began producing automobiles with the McLaughlin Motor Company being formed later that year. McLaughlin and McLaughlin-Buicks began to proliferate and the family name would continue to adorn its products until 1942.
Through a partnership with General Motors co-founder William Durant, McLaughlin would eventually form the Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada in 1915, which would become General Motors of Canada in 1918.
Almost 100 years on, GM Canada still builds cars in Oshawa, the Cadillac XTS sedan and Chevrolet Equinox SUV among them.
The point I’m trying to make here is that despite not having any true ‘domestic’ car companies that are Canadian owned and operated, our nation remains an important hub for auto manufacturing, engineering and research.
With Canada’s 150-year anniversary upon us, we thought it made sense to shine a light on some of our contributions to the industry.
The Canuck’s Guide to the Automotive Industry (p. 8) provides some basic facts and figures on the manufacturers operating within our borders, including the five that build cars here.
Deeper into the issue, our senior correspondent Mark Hacking takes the Canadian-built Ford GT supercar to the track for some seat time during one of the most anticipated first drives of the decade (p. 44).
Other bits of automotive Canadiana are sprinkled throughout, including David Miller’s profile on the growth of Honda in Canada (p. 38), and a closer look at two Canadian-made cars – Honda CR-V and Chrysler Pacifica – in our Summer Escapes section (p. 88).
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fine retrospective look at the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, written by our long-time motorsports editor and writer, George Webster (p. 32).
It’s a great piece that digs deep into the genesis of Formula One history and Canada, and beautifully illustrated by the photography of Lionel Birnbom, an award-winning Ottawa-based motorsports photographer who, like George, was at the first race in 1967.
Finally, for those looking to get out there and celebrate all that Canada has to offer, check out our Summer Road Escapes listings beginning on page 72.
From concerts to county fairs to scenic drives and automotive events, it’s your keep and save guide for Canada 150.