Friday, July 8, 2011

GM of Canada Show Cars - 1950s

Forgotten '50s Show Cars from GM of Canada
Text by David W. Temple
Photos from CNE archives and author's files
Brochure for GM's Mid-Century Motorama at CNE in Toronto
While conducting research for my book, “GM’s Motorama: The Glamorous Show Cars of a Cultural Phenomenon,” I learned of several General Motors’ show cars for the Canadian auto show circuit. These cars were modified production cars with special paint colors, unique upholstery, etc. (Such cars were common at the GM Motorama in the United States, so the display of modified production cars by GM of Canada really is not surprising.) Whether the modifications were performed at GM of Canada or the cars were sent across the border to Michigan to be modified is unknown to me. Further research has uncovered additional show cars; there are no doubt more of these to be found.
Five are now known to have been crafted for the 1950 auto show circuit. These were the Chevrolet Royal Canadian, Pontiac Fleur de Lis, Pontiac Magnificent, Oldsmobile Westward Ho, and the Oldsmobile Golden Jubilee – all names associated with Canadian culture and history. All of these were shown at the GM Mid-Century Motorama at the Canadian National Exhibition held in August/September 1950. Presumably, they were also shown elsewhere in the country.
No similar cars have been discovered for the years 1951, 1953, and 1955 through 1958. Most likely, many were built during these particular years. However, those from 1952 are now known; they were another Chevrolet Royal Canadian, Pontiac Catalina Supreme, Oldsmobile Caribbean, Buick Ranger, Cadillac Coronation Coupe, and the Special Delivery (evidently based on a Pontiac Sedan Delivery).
For 1954, a 1953 Corvette was modified with a prototype detachable hardtop and roll-up windows. Other than in some trivial details and its color scheme, it was identical to the one shown in the U.S.
A special 1959 Chevrolet Corvette is known to have been exhibited at that year’s CNE.


Chevrolet Royal Canadian
The Royal Canadian, built from a four-door Deluxe, must have stood out the most among these five cars due to its striking color scheme of Carteret Red and Delicate Oyster White. Gold-plated bumpers, moldings, and hub caps further accented the exterior. Equally jaw-dropping was its interior with two-toned upholstery of white tartan and plain scarlet, white fabric sun visors and headliner, white door panels, white leather seat ends and white leather rear package shelf.
Pontiac Fleur de Lis and Magnificent
Pontiac Fleur de Lis is at center, right. (CNE archives)
Two Pontiacs, both Silver Streak four-door sedans, were less flamboyant than the Royal Canadian. (Canadian Pontiacs, incidentally, were built on a Chevrolet chassis and used a mix of Chevy and Pontiac components for the interior.) The grey-white Fleur de Lis had a fabric and leather interior of grey-white and French Blue while its companion, the Magnificent, was finished in a less subdued scheme of a metallic green lower body and special new crinkle-finish champagne top. Inside were cream nylon duck and green fabrics combined with a forest green carpet.
Oldsmobile Westward Ho and Golden Jubilee
Olds Westward Ho, near center; Golden Jubilee reflecting in mirror at lower right (CNE archives)
The Westward Ho, a two-door club sedan, was finished in Cudahy Yellow. It featured a two-toned interior of Cudahy Yellow (seat inserts) and Cadillac Black leather. Door panel inserts were black. A salmon-colored lower body and black roof distinguished the Golden Jubilee. A matching interior of salmon nylon waffle weave and silky black broadtail along with bits of black leather further enhanced Golden Jubilee two-door club coupe.

GM Travelera at the 1952 CNE
Along with the 1952 crop of GM production cars as well as the 1951 GM LeSabre experimental car, were six special show vehicles at the 1952 Canadian National Exhibition. General Motors’ theme for their display was “Travelera.” As with the 1950 show cars, these were likely displayed at other auto shows in Canada.
Chevrolet Royal Canadian
The 1952 Royal Canadian was very similar to the 1950 version. Described as “breathtaking in beauty and excellence,” it was finished in two-tone paint – Parade Scarlet and deep Guards Blue (roof). Again, gold-plated hardware decorated the exterior. No information is available on this car’s interior, though assuming it was roughly similar to the 1950 Royal Canadian seems reasonable.

1952 Chevrolet Royal Canadian (CNE archives)

Pontiac Catalina Supreme
Few details of the Catalina Supreme are available. It was described simply as a “sophisticated study in Georgian White and contrasting shades of red.” The Catalina was Pontiac’s first production two-door hardtop.
Oldsmobile Caribbean
Just as with the Catalina Supreme, details of the Olds Caribbean are scarce. It was advertised as expressing “the glamour and romance of distinctive motoring at its best.” This show car was painted in “glowing Carib Green.”
Buick Ranger
1952 Buick Ranger; note rifle mount (CNE archives)
The Buick Ranger featured a western theme. It was built from a Roadmaster convertible and was said to be painted El Rancho Beige and Canyon Brown. However, a black & white photo of this car shows it to have had a monotone scheme. The wheels were clearly darker so perhaps the brown paint was applied to them. Brown may also have been the color of the convertible top’s fabric. Fitted on at least the driver’s side door (possibly both doors) was a rifle (type unknown) and holster! This was not the last of the Buick’s with a heavy western theme.
Cadillac Coronation
All that is currently known of the Cadillac Coronation is what was said of it in an advertisement about GM of Canada’s presence at the 1952 CNE: “The dignified styling of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville is given a new distinction by the exquisite use of Sequoia Beige and Royal Maroon.”
Special Delivery
The Special Delivery (considered part of the truck line) was evidently based on the Pontiac Sedan Delivery. It was painted Parchment Cream and Coral with a matching interior. Genuine carpeting was applied to the cab and body floors.
An advertisement (illustrated in this article) about the Travelera stated other so-called Special Delivery trucks were also painted in this scheme. Reportedly, two-tone schemes were not available on GM of Canada trucks until 1954.
Corvette show car for 1954
A Corvette displayed during the 1954 GM Motorama (starting with the Miami show) tour featured a prototype fiberglass top in addition to roll-up windows. (Production Vettes had snap-in panels.) A taller windshield and frame assembly was installed on a 1953 Corvette painted a pale yellow (similar to Harvest Gold or Fiesta Cream) and the interior was outfitted with non-production upholstery and door panels with waffle-pattern inserts, as well as a small glove box on the right kick panel. A similarly patterned upholstery and door panel design, along with the hardtop, would appear for the 1956 Corvette, though the latter item would of course be offered as an extra-cost option.
Corvette prototype hardtop for Canadian auto shows (CNE archives)
For the Canadian show circuit, a second example was built from a late-production 1953 Corvette with serial number E53F001260. This car was displayed at 1954 Canadian National Exhibition as well as other venues in Canada. Other than its color scheme, the only apparent difference between it and the original Corvette hardtop prototype was its wheel covers were stock Corvette units without the crossed-flags center piece installed on the yellow hardtop.

1959 Corvette at the CNE
1959 Corvette with wire wheels at CNE (CNE archives)
Very little seems to be known about a special Corvette show car seen at the 1959 CNE. The only details available are those clearly revealed in the black & white photo accompanying this story. It was equipped with Dayton wire wheels with the knock-off type spinner. Presumably it was further enhanced with other non-production features.

Epilogue
Of all the cars described above, only the Corvette prototype hardtop from the 1954 Canadian show circuit is known to still exist. It has undergone some restoration work, but is currently dismantled.
If anyone has any additional details of the cars mentioned in this article or is aware of other Canadian show cars not covered here, please contact me through the “comments” section on this page.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty car blog. Your posts are so informative. Thank You!

    ReplyDelete