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Special Commemorative Signals Edition 1920-2020


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29 Special Commemorative Signals Edition for the 100th Anniversary of the Auto Show This special magazine publication for members and friends of the New Car Dealers Association of BC captures some of the historical moments through the decades in British Columbia and the important story of cars, dealerships and the people behind them. The issue was created for the celebration of the Vancouver International Auto Show’s 100th anniversary at the Vancouver Convention Centre (West), March 25–29, 2020. Enjoy!


26 Photo courtesy Watkin Motors

Blair Qualey President & CEO bqualey@newcardealers.ca Shakira Maqbool Manager, Finance & Administration smaqbool@newcardealers.ca Joshua Peters Manager, Member Services jpeters@newcardealers.ca Ofir Sapoznikov Membership and Operations Coordinator info@newcardealers.ca Roni Sapoznikov CEVforBC™ Program Administrator cev@newcardealers.ca

Photo City of Vancouver Archives

The Pit Crew–New Car Dealers Association of British Columbia

Photo NCDA File

#380–8029 199 Street, Langley, BC V2Y 0E2 Tel: 604-214-9964 // Fax: 604-214-9965 newcardealers.ca // info@newcardealers.ca


Beatrice Francu Accounting Assistant accounting@newcardealers.ca


Vancouver International Auto Show

12 100 Years in the Biz The car business was no easy sell in Vancouver a century ago

26 Boom Years Demand exceeded supply after WW2

15 Downtown Georgia Street Vancouver’s original auto mall

27 VW on the Rise The need for compact cars

18 The Orphans Single-brand “orphan” cars sold for decades

29 The Future of Auto Shows It’s all about the experience

Jason Heard Executive Director jheard@vanautoshow.ca Direct: 604-220-2725 Have a topic or story suggestion? Email Us! And for article and ad submissions and rate card details, please contact: Joshua Peters | 604-214-9964 EXT 225 jpeters@newcardealers.ca For subscriber inquiries, please contact: info@newcardealers.ca

Oliver Sommer Director, Multimedia Audience Engagement 210-15288 54A Avenue, Surrey, BC Tel: 604-575-1806 // blackpress.ca Published in Canada The contents of Signals, such as text, articles, opinions, views, graphics, images, and the selection and arrangement of information (the “Content”), are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws under both Canadian and foreign laws. Unauthorized use of the Content may violate copyright, trademark, patent, and other laws. You must retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained in the original Content on any copy you make of it. Disclaimer: Information contained within Signals is for general information purposes only and may not be entirely complete or accurate. Use of Signals’ content is done so at your own risk. Canadian Publications Mail Product Sales Agreement No. 40030593.

Car Crazy in 1920 Vancouver’s first auto show was 100 years ago

23 Ford Makes History in Vernon 105-year-old Watkin Motors is Canada’s oldest Ford dealership

CONTRIBUTING WRITER Alyn Edwards—a career journalist and lifelong classic car enthusiast—is the writer behind all the historical pieces contained in this 100th Anniversary Vancouver International Auto Show commemorative edition. After starting his career as a reporter and feature writer for a Toronto newspaper, Alyn spent 25 years working as a reporter with Global BC and CBC Vancouver. He is now a partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company, and freelance journalist specializing in writing about classic cars. Alyn is also an avid car collector and restorer.





Please join me in welcoming the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Vancouver International Auto Show. This special commemorative publication has been created to highlight the unique stories of BC dealerships and their evolution, starting in the early 1900s. It pays tribute to BC’s growing automotive industry, beginning with its humble roots and moving through the decades. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all those whose hard work has resulted in this great anniversary auto show. This includes everyone from the auto show’s planning committee and the New Car Dealers Association’s Board of Directors to Heard Productions and staff. As Western Canada’s best-attended consumer event, the Vancouver International Auto Show draws together industry leaders, auto buffs, inquiring customers

and families—all in one location. I am very proud of our own involvement in the automotive industry. It’s where our company began in 1961, and today, the automotive industry remains at the heart of our organization. I hope you will join me in celebrating the centennial auto show and enjoy this special publication!

On behalf of all of the dealer and associate members of the NCDA, our hardworking auto show committee, our vehicle manufacturer colleagues and our commercial exhibitors and sponsors, we welcome you to the 2020 Vancouver International Auto Show. Through the pages of this commemorative edition, I invite you to read the fascinating stories of BC’s first dealerships and reflect on the many changes the auto sector has undergone over the years. We’re looking forward to sharing with you the

displays of vintage vehicles, celebrating each decade over the past 100 years, while looking to the future. This is a momentous occasion and we’re excited to share it with you.

We’re pleased to provide this complimentary commemorative edition of Signals and we look forward to celebrating with you the momentous milestone of the Vancouver International Auto Show’s 100th anniversary. Through these pages, enjoy a look back at the stories of BC’s auto industry over the last 100 years. The centennial show reflects the rich history of the auto sector and BC’s New Car Dealers, not only as a place where enthusiasts have gathered for generations to see what’s new, but as employers, economic drivers and community supporters throughout our province.

I am immensely proud of the hard work and dedication of our NCDA Board, Staff and Auto Show team. And, as we move into the future, the NCDA is dedicated to continuing its support of members and the auto industry as a robust and vibrant sector. I look forward to celebrating this incredible occasion with you.

Jim Pattison Honourary Chairman and Grand Marshall, Vancouver International Auto Show Chairman and CEO, Jim Pattison Group of Companies

Jeff Hall, Chairman New Car Dealers Association of BC




100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

Blair Qualey President and CEO New Car Dealers Association of BC

THANK YOU With special thanks for their dedication and support for making this special event possible, we recognize the following individuals: NCDA Board of Directors

Jeff Hall

Ryan Jones


James Carter


Blair Qualey


Jim Inskter

President & CEO

Past Chairman

Mark Edmonds

Justin Gebara







Peter Heppner

Ben Lovie

Anthony Lunelli

Peter Sia

John Wynia

Adam Hill

Erik Jensen








Vancouver International Auto Show Committee

Jason Heard

Executive Director

Phil Heard

Senior Consultant

Sarah Close Humayun

Joshua Peters

Mark Edmonds



Heather Headley PACIFIC HONDA

Ryan Jones

Ben Lovie

Blair Upton




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“Congratulations to the New Car Dealers Association of BC on this centennial milestone.”

“We do by these presents proclaim and declare that March 25, 2020, shall be known as ‘BC New Car Dealers Day.’”

A special thank you from the NCDA to Heard Productions Inc. for organizing a fantastic 2020 Vancouver International Auto Show! Jason Heard

Executive Director Vancouver International Auto Show


Phil Heard

Senior Consultant

100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

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Begg Brothers display auto show in 1932. Photo City of Vancouver Archives

Car crazy in

1920 Vancouver’s first auto show was 100 years ago At that time, car sales were exploding in Vancouver with dealers selling now-longforgotten makes like Chandler, Stutz, Overland, Cleveland, Gray-Dort, REO, Rickenbacker, Hupmobile and Packard.


100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

Photo City of Vancouver Archives Photo Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Auto Show in 1920.

1950 Kaiser Auto Show.

It has been a full century since new cars first went on display in a show setting in Vancouver. The first automobile show in the city was held at the Pacific International Exhibition when it was an agricultural fair. Photos from 100 years ago show cars and trucks built for the 1920 model year backed into stalls. But Vancouver was about to go car crazy.  A special section in the Vancouver Sunday Sun newspaper, announcing the show would be held from May 24 to 29, 1920 in the PNE Arena, boldly declares: “Yesterday, it was a rich man’s luxury. Today, it is a necessity for every family and well within the means of everyone.”  At that time, car sales were exploding in Vancouver with dealers selling

now-long-forgotten makes like Chandler, Stutz, Overland, Cleveland,  GrayDort, REO, Rickenbacker,  Hupmobile  and Packard, most of which were wiped out by the Depression.  The show would attract more female car buyers  as the electric starter was becoming standard equipment. The concept of the two-car family was being introduced. The show also heralded the era of the closed  “all-weather”  car  with roll-up windows  as, prior to 1924, most automobiles were open with folding landau tops.  A Studebaker seven-passenger sedan cost a whopping $4,035. A Nash touring car with folding top was priced at $1,635. An Oldsmobile Six coupe was on sale for $1,495.  But buyers could drive away in a Ford Model T for half that price at a cost of $755.  Originally, it was dealers themselves

who displayed the cars they were selling on their lots. Begg  Brothers dominated with Chalmers, Chevrolet, Cadillac and Nash cars as well as Republic trucks all lined up to entice buyers to their area of the show. In later shows, manufacturers would introduce their new models every year with great fanfare.  Canada was second only to the United States in its number of privately owned automobiles. Twelve thousand workers produced 200,000 cars in 11 Canadian automobile factories. By the end of the decade, there would be  more than 1.25 million motorized vehicles in the country.   The 2020 Vancouver International Auto Show will celebrate its 100th  anniversary with a procession of vintage vehicles— representing each decade  of auto shows in Vancouver—in a  parade  through the city,  with Grand Marshal  Jimmy Pattison in the lead car.   Pattison’s treasured 1975 Pontiac Granville convertible will be on display, along with other cars  representing a century of growth and change for the automobile. Displays will depict 100 years of North American vehicles, European vehicles and game-changing import vehicles as well as trucks and SUVs.  Industry distinction awards will be  announced at the Roaring ‘20s-themed gala.  By 1938, the automobile show had moved to the Seaforth  Armouries  at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge. The newcardealers.ca


The Vancouver Daily Province special section advertising the 1939 Auto Show held in the Seaforth Armouries published on November 3, 1938.

Auto show at the Seaforth Armoury in 1936.

Vancouver International Auto Show, 1972. Photos City of Vancouver Archives

show heralded many advances made for the 1939 model year.   A special section in the Vancouver Daily Province newspaper, which  cost three cents, said the event  would be held from November 30 to December 5 to showcase Canadian, American and British cars.  Advertising copywriters stretched to their limits in an effort to capture potential buyers, saying the 1939 models had “vital sales appeal.” The headlines tell the story: Nash flashes with spirit! Studebaker’s the standout!  Dodge is  the  leader in luxury!  Plymouth: Prices down—Values up! Hudson: Sensational new air foam ride with auto-poise coils!  The Packard Motor Company announced it was introducing 35 new models for 1939. It would be an exciting automobile show, attracting thousands of visitors.  Innovations for the 1939 model year described in the newspaper special section included Cadillac and LaSalle introducing the industry’s first “sunshine roof.” Buick had new  coil springs and rear turn signals. Pontiac had a “magic carpet ride.” Oldsmobile trumped that with a “new rhythmic ride.”  Almost all new models had hydraulic brakes and had moved  hand brake and gear shift controls from the floor to the steering column to allow comfort for three front-seat passengers.   “Shark nose” Graham cars could be ordered with a supercharger. It was a new age.  After all,  the  Great  Depression was ending and Canadians had purchased millions of cars.  A news clipping announced that all British Columbians


100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

would be required to take a driving test in 1939. Motorists would pass if they correctly answered 25 questions.  Almost all the dealers selling cars displayed in the auto show were lined up along Georgia Street with the epicentre at  Burrard Street. But there were some dealers on Granville Street close to the bridge and scattered along Broadway. People could walk to the showrooms and drive out with a new car.  The average price of a four-door trunk-back sedan such as a Hudson, Plymouth, Dodge or Ford was $1,200. The McLaughlin-Buick cars displayed at the 1939 automobile show had prices starting at $1,535.  An anonymous poet set the tone for the 1939 Vancouver Automobile Show:   Tho’ I guard my meagre budget for some 50 weeks a year  I’m allergic to the virus of the auto engineer  I know I can’t afford it. My present car is fine.  But, boys and girls, I’ve got the urge to own a 39  So I’m very much afraid, in fact it seems assured  I’ve gotta buy a ‘Toney Ten’ to get the fever away  For a full century, Vancouverites have flocked to the auto show to view the latest models and the most modern innovations and styles, while comparing values and prices.  The 2020 Vancouver International Auto Show will be extra special with its celebration of 100 years of showcasing the newest models for people of all ages.  

CONGRATULATIONS The 10 Franchised Dealerships of the Fraser Valley Auto Mall in Abbotsford wish to Congratulate the NCDA for reaching such a great milestone and for the immense contribution to the Auto industry in the region. From all of our 450+ employees at the:

Murray GM • Murray Kia • Abbotsford Chrysler • Abbotsford Hyundai Abbotsford Nissan • Abbotsford Volkswagen • Open Road Toyota Abbotsford MSA Ford • VIP Mazda • The Honda Way

A very special

100 YEARS Of the Vancouver Auto Show

Come Out And Visit Us In


www.fvautomall.com Toll Free: 604-359-1304 Automall Drive, Abbotsford, BC

100 years in the biz The car business was no easy sell in Vancouver a century ago BC Motors—one of the first Vancouver dealerships.

There was a lot of confusion on the streets of Vancouver and elsewhere in the province 100 years ago. The horse and buggy was still a major form of transportation, along with horse-drawn wagons. Horse dung was a significant road obstacle. For many, the horseless carriage was still a novelty. Prior to BC government Public Works legislation that came into effect on July 15, 1920, motorists drove and parked on either side of the road. Many of Vancouver’s first cars were right-hand-drive models imported from England. US-built vehicles were left-hand drive. The general practice was for drivers to stay in the left-hand lane until the government ordered drivers to the right in mid-1920. Vancouver’s population was 120,000 at that time. There was a confusing array of vehicles being offered for sale when the first car show was held in the livestock barns at the Pacific National Exhibition 100 years ago. Many of the city’s 18 dealerships displayed their vehicles: Lexington, Gray-Dort, Roamer, Stanley Steamer, REO, Maxwell, Nash, Studebaker, Chalmers, Columbia, Briscoe, Hupmobile, Haynes, Oldsmobile, Elgin, Franklin, Cole, Liberty, Marmon, Packard and Paige as well as the more common Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet cars and National, Republic, Garford, Standard, Commercial, Commer and Stewart trucks. The majority of dealerships were lined up along Georgia Street in the downtown core or in the 1200 block of Granville Street at the north foot of the Granville Street Bridge.


100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

Vancouver auto dealers took out a newspaper ad to publish the current prices of their new car offerings to inform customers who might be confused about prices that had changed dramatically over the past two years and to encourage sales. A Chevrolet roadster could be driven off the lot at Begg Motors on Georgia Street for $885. A Maxwell touring car cost $1,819 at Western Motors in the next block, a Franklin touring cost $3,450 at Granville and Pacific and a Packard touring cost $4,175 at Consolidated Motors on Georgia. The Packard sold for less than the Cadillacs being sold next door at Begg’s for $4,415. In 1920, the big issue for auto dealers was getting a refund for their wartime tax on cars that remained unsold in stock with the tax already paid at the manufacturer’s point of shipment. Car salesmen of the day had to not only sell the vehicles, they had to convince a buyer that they should have a car. Often, the salesman would have to teach the buyer how to drive the car, along with some of the family members. If there was a trade-in, the salesman had to figure out how much that was worth and how to re-sell it. Salesmen earned their commissions. In one case, an electric car was traded in without the batteries. The owner told the dealership that he had rented the batteries and had to return them. In the early days, Vancouver auto dealers also sold bicycles or operated stables. The first recorded dealerships in 1906 included the BC Automobile Company, Western Automobile & Real Estate, both on Georgia Street, and Vancouver Cycle and Motor Company

Photo City of Vancouver Archives

operated by the Begg Brothers selling Oldsmobile and Ford automobiles at 108 East Hastings Street. Imperial Oil opened Canada’s first gas station at the corner of Cambie and Smythe streets in June 1908. Vancouver was a city without paved roads in the early days. Deep ruts and mud were a constant challenge to motorists. There was no car manufacturing in British Columbia, or west of Ontario, in those days. The automobile business in America was centred around Detroit and in Windsor on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Cars were rail shipped to Vancouver from Ontario. Some were knocked-down models which were reassembled in barns near the railway’s roundhouse near Vancouver’s False Creek. Because much of Canada was snow-bound in winter, eastern manufacturers worked hard to offload new cars on dealers in Vancouver and Victoria, and very often these cars were stockpiled on land and in buildings near the rail yards. By 1924, the industry had organized under the Vancouver Motor Dealers Association, the precursor for the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Vancouver and now the New Car Dealers Association of BC. Car sales continued to boom throughout the 1920s as almost every family wanted the convenience of a car and many women began to drive.

But the Dirty Thirties hit the car business in Vancouver and elsewhere very hard. A wartime luxury tax imposed by the federal government in the next decade hurt the business further, along with a three-year hiatus in domestic production as mainly military vehicles were being built between 1942 and 1945. But the pent-up demand for automobiles following the end of hostilities prompted unprecedented sales beginning with the 1946 model years. Many new dealerships opened their doors in Vancouver and elsewhere. The 1950s were prosperous times, as cars were evolving into highly styled art forms offered in a palette of pastel colours. The 1960s brought bigger, lower and wider cars with increasing horsepower, which led to the muscle-car era. Gas shortages in the 1970s brought more attention to compact automobiles and an increasing emphasis on the more fuel-efficient import models. Recessions in the 1980s and 1990s would mean more challenges for Vancouver’s auto dealers, with some major dealers selling their downtown and midtown properties and either going out of business or moving to more outward locations. Today, the automobile business in Vancouver once again comprises many brands of domestic and import autos in an ever-evolving landscape of tastes and needs.

Often, the salesman would have to teach the buyer how to drive the car, along with some of the family members.




Photos City of Vancouver Archives

Downtown Georgia Street

West Georgia Street is Vancouver’s major east-west downtown thoroughfare and is lined with office towers and high-rise condominium buildings. But this was once where Vancouverites came to buy their cars. Car sales companies on Georgia Street date back to 1906 with the Western Automobile & Real Estate Company located at Granville Street where the Pacific Centre mall and tower is today. For more than half a century, the epicentre for automotive sales activity was the intersection of Georgia and Burrard streets with Bowell-McLean selling Cadillacs, Empire Motors selling

Ford products and Oxford Motors selling British cars right next to Christ Church Cathedral. A.W. Carter Motors had the Hudson franchise at 845 Burrard where the Sutton Place Hotel is today. Through the years at new model introduction time in the fall, showrooms were blanked out with paper, searchlights lit up the sky and hordes of people crowded downtown to see the new models. In the past 100 years, panelled showrooms facing Georgia Street had ornate furnishings and fresh flowers alongside the newest car models. There were new Studebakers at J.M. Brown Motors, the new Nash at the Dan McLean Motor Co., Packards at Consolidated Motors, Plymouth, Chrysler, Dodge and DeSoto newcardealers.ca


Photos City of Vancouver Archives

West Georgia Street “Automobile Row” cars at Begg Motors along with Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles at Collier’s Ltd. One of the first dealerships to locate on Georgia Street west of Burrard was the McLaughlin Carriage Company, selling McLaughlin cars manufactured in Ontario and rail shipped right to downtown Vancouver. Pierce-Arrow of Canada would later sell its luxury cars from this location. Dominion Motors was alongside selling Fords first and then

representing forgotten makes, including Moon, Paige and Jewett automobiles. Bowell McDonald Motor Company started nearby selling Oldsmobile and Oakland cars. The dealership would later move several blocks to Burrard Street as Bowell-McLean, specializing in Cadillacs. In the same block on the north side between Bute and Jervis streets, Consolidated Motors sold Packard and Hupmobile cars as well as White trucks. Next door was Walmsley Motors offer-

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100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020


ing a line of British cars. A modern condo building called Venus occupies the prime site today. Who remembers Willis-Kingsley Motors on the southeast corner of Georgia and Bute streets? This company sold Pierce-Arrow motor cars in the 1920s and 1930s until the Depression ended production of these luxury cars. Then the dealership began selling Willys cars and trucks, and finally Studebaker products. In 1912, Begg Brothers had moved their dealership from Seymour Street across from the Hudson’s Bay department store to a new building on the south side of Georgia Street just east of Burrard where the Grosvenor office tower is today. Begg Motors sold Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Hudson, Chalmers and Dodge Bros. cars, along with Republic and National trucks. The company later extended its buildings through to Alberni Street, ending up as a full-line Chrysler dealership also selling Fargo trucks. Across the street on property now occupied by the Royal Centre mall and tower, Nash Motor Sales sold cars and trucks bearing that name. At the east end of Georgia near today’s entrance to the viaduct, Stonehouse Motors was selling Ford products and Day-Smith Motors was selling Studebaker cars and trucks. Collier’s Motors sold Chevrolet and Oldsmobile cars right through the 1950s on Georgia Street at Homer, kitty-corner to the main Vancouver post office. Right up to 1970, Docksteader Volvo had a dealership on the southeast corner of Georgia and Thurlow streets, where the 1090 West Georgia office tower is located today. One of the last of the great Georgia Street dealerships was operated by wartime Ford of Canada vice-president Clarke Simpkins.

He opened his dealership in 1946 to take advantage of a four-year wartime production hiatus that created a frantic demand for vehicles. The first location was in the 1200 block of West Georgia Street where the buildings that housed some of the city’s earliest dealerships still stood. Understandably, Simpkins sold Ford products, including Meteor, Mercury and Lincoln cars, along with Mercury trucks. In 1953, Simpkins opened a new ultra-modern dealership in the next block at 1345 West Georgia. This featured a showroom facing the thoroughfare, the most up-to-date service department in the city and beautiful offices looking down on the cars for sale. Simpkins was a brilliant business strategist and he seized the opportunity to sell small fuel-efficient British Fords to motorists seeking more economical transportation. That was so successful that Simpkins became the largest-volume English Ford dealer in North America. That didn’t make Ford of Canada very happy because their cars weren’t moving. Ford fought back in 1958 by setting up Zephyr Motors to sell their English cars and Simpkins responded by dropping the Ford franchise. Soon, Clarke Simpkins Motors on Georgia Street was displaying a wide range of cars, from small imports to racy Ferraris. The dealership stored 300 to 400 vehicles on vacant property now occupied by one of Vancouver’s best known hotels: the Bayshore Inn. By the late 1960s, real estate prices were skyrocketing as office towers being built were spreading west down Georgia Street from the city centre. Simpkins sold out the New York Rockefeller Group and moved his operation as the era of the colourful car dealerships that once dominated West Georgia Street came to an end.



The Orphans Single-brand “orphan” cars sold for decades

had just graduated from university and, along with a friend, decided to enter the contest. Stevens’ friend’s father drove for Owl Taxi and, in his spare time, would watch the wheel turn with power from an electric motor to determine revolutions per minute. His friend entered the contest at 10 miles over the 2,500-mile estimate while Stevens went 10 miles under and won the car.  “It was metallic green with a white top,” Stevens recalls. “It had a sweet-running six-cylinder engine and, although it was a small car, it had more interior room than a Cadillac because of thin doors and other design features.”  The car was worth $3,200, but Stevens noted you could buy a new Chevrolet BelAir for $2,300. He drove the car for a few months and then traded down for a 1950 Austin A40 and $1,500 cash.  This underscores the pricing problems experienced by dealers for independent manufacturers like Willys. With only a single brand, manufacturing costs couldn’t be spread across a wide range of car offerings.  Willys ceased car production in 1955, although the company continued building four-wheel-drive Jeep products  under the American Motors Corporation (AMC) banner.  Hudson had been building automobiles since 1909 and hung on until 1954 when it merged  with Nash  to form AMC. The last Hudson-branded automobile rolled off the assembly line in 1957, which would be a pivotal year for the industry.  Studebaker and Packard would merge in 1957 in a vain attempt to continue building cars. Production would stop forever in the 1960s. The Nash nameplate disappeared after 1957, although the parent company AMC would carry on until 1987 when it was sold to the Chrysler Corporation.  The era of single-brand Hudson, Nash, Packard, Studebaker and Willys cars that would become orphans ended in Vancouver and elsewhere during the 1950s, with dealerships dropping the lines in favour of more stable brands or going out of business forever. 

The companies producing only one make of car had an uphill battle with the big three: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. These manufacturers could offer a full product range through a multitude of dealerships.  


100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

Photo City of Vancouver Archives

Hudson, Nash, Packard, Studebaker and Willys. These were great cars in their day. But they were destined to become orphans. The term “orphan car” refers to a marque of motor vehicle built by a manufacturer that has gone out of business entirely. These makes differ from brands like Oldsmobile and Plymouth, which are no longer made but the companies that made them are still in business. Over the past century, up to 2,000 cars built would become orphans. But only the five independent manufacturers would get through the Great Depression with dealerships open in Vancouver and continuing to do business into the 1950s.  The companies producing only one make of car had an uphill battle with the big three: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. These  manufacturers could offer a full product range through a multitude of dealerships.   Ford  of Canada’s sales  network Packard automobile could have a dealership selling Ford and Monarch cars as well as  Ford trucks alongside another dealership selling Meteor, Mercury and Lincoln automobiles and Mercury-branded trucks. Ford and Meteor were basically the same cars with different badging. The situation was similar with Ford and Mercury trucks.  General Motors did the same with its broad range of Chevrolet,  Pontiac,  Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac cars coupled with Chevrolet and GMC trucks. Chrysler Corporation offered Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler cars as well as Dodge and Fargo trucks. The big three had the edge with multiple dealerships coupled with lower production costs.  In Vancouver, dealers selling only one brand of automobiles included A.W. Carter offering Hudson cars and trucks at 845 Burrard Street. Around the corner on West Georgia Street, Consolidated Motors sold Packard cars. McLeod-Rae Motors sold Nash cars and J.M. Brown Motors sold Studebakers nearby.  Sherwood Motors was selling Willys cars at 868 Burrard Street in the spring of 1953 when they held a contest to guess how far the wheel on a 1953 Aero sedan would turn in a month. Don Stevens


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Ford makes history in Vernon 105-year-old Watkin Motors is Canada’s oldest Ford dealership

Watkin’s Garage sold Model T Fords in the Okanagan when it opened in 1915.

There was a big celebration in the Watkin Motors showroom in 2015 as the dealership achieved 100 years of continuous operation as the country’s oldest Ford dealership. People from the community were encouraged to bring photos of their experiences with the dealership over the previous century. Jamie LeBlanc brought photographs of the family’s 1919 Ford Model T touring car, purchased new at Watkin’s garage by Alec Wilson of Cherryville. The car was restored by Watkin’s personnel in 1969. Another customer brought in an Okanagan Cooking Book from 1917 produced by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and featuring an ad placed by “J.H. Watkin Garage – Ford dealer.” A letter from Ford of Canada’s branch sales manager sent May 30, 1924 says 72 per cent of new cars registered in the territory were Fords. In congratulating Watkin’s garage, the letter states: “I trust the figure reached will be maintained through the balance of the year.” The photo history of the dealership shows the delivery of a 1934 Ford ladder truck cab and chassis that cost the Vernon Fire Department $2,227. It was traded in on a new 1990 Ford pickup truck at Watkin Ford and subsequently sold to the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association, who restored the truck to new condition. It is used in local parades. Watkin’s mechanic Fred Little is photographed with the compa-

Watkin’s general manager Ben Carson arrives at the dealership with the first Edsel in 1958. Photos courtesy Watkin Ford ny’s wrecker hooked to a new 1934 Ford that had gone off the road south of Vernon. The first Ford Thunderbird is photographed arriving at the dealership in 1955. Watkin’s manager Ben Carson had driven the car from Vancouver. He also brought in the first Edsel in 1958, which was entered in a local parade. Bruce Carpenter photographed his wife Carole on Christmas morning of 1975 receiving the gift of a new all-white 1976 Ford Elite delivered by then-dealer principal Budd Blankley dressed in a Santa suit. Local resident Martin Ploegman produced a photo of his new red 2005 Mustang purchased at Watkin Ford. It was a dream purnewcardealers.ca


chase made long after Ploegman wanted a Mustang when they A full-size tank created by Watkin Motors was a float in local were first introduced in 1964. His son bought a similar Mustang. parades during the First World War. Watkin Ford has been a contributing member of the community After Joe Watkin passed away in the late 1960s, the family made since first signing an agreement with Ford of Canada in February an unsuccessful attempt to continue the business. But Ford of 1915. Over the past year, the Canada soon realized the company donated to apdealership required new proximately 90 local events ownership. and charities. Jack Blankley was apJoe Watkin opened Watproached to buy the dealkin’s garage to sell Ford cars ership. He had been hired and trucks along with tracon with the General Motors tors. It wasn’t uncommon dealer — Vernon Motor for Joe or a member of his Products — in 1931 when he three-person sales staff to was 14 years old. He swept deliver a new truck to a farm the floors, pumped gas and or ranch and come back repaired tires. He earned $28 with the trade-in truck cara week with $7.50 of that gorying a cow in the back as ing for room and board. part payment. He stayed with the Vernon The dealership thrived garage for 30 years, gaining in the Okanagan Valley as experience as parts man, This fire ladder truck sold new at Watkin’s Ford in 1934 was restored by Vernon Ford cars, trucks and tractors Volunteer Firefighters. Photo courtesy Watkin Ford salesman and sales managbuilt in Walkerville, Ontario, er. In 1962, Jack and his wife and now Windsor, were rail-shipped to the Okanagan partially Fern sold everything they had, borrowed money from the bank disassembled. Joe and his staff would unload the vehicles, put the and family and purchased Watkin Motors. His son, Budd Blankley, wheels on them and take them to the garage for pre-sales prep. joined the business in 1966 and Jack’s brother Bruce bought the A photo history shows a 1915 Ford Model T touring car that was business in 1976. one of the first cars sold new at the dealership, the arrival in 1925 of Budd Blankley’s son Ross is now a third-generation dealer printhe first Ford touring car to be driven coast to coast in Canada and cipal and runs a thriving business. the much heralded introduction of the new 1932 Ford in the Wat“Our history is important to us. But we are very much focused kin Motors showroom. That was Ford’s first car with a V8 engine on the future with technology and other advancements,” he says, and it was an instant hit. about guiding the business in its second century of operation.

Congratulations to the

Vancouver International Auto Show

on celebrating your 100th Anniversary!

All of us at West Coast Auto Group are proud to have been a part of your history and your future. We wish you all the best from our family to yours.

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CONGRATULATIONS To the Vancouver International Auto Show 100 th Anniversary

Boom Years Demand exceeded supply after WW2 There was an enormous pent-up demand for new cars following a three-year hiatus when domestic automobile production was shut down to allow for war material supply between 1942 and 1946.   Auto manufacturers had stopped building civilian passenger cars on February 9, 1942 to begin production of war products that included Jeeps, combat cars, anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, aircraft engines, tanks, shells, helmets and many other products.  Only the military, or physicians, nurses and others employed in special categories, could buy a new car. Existing new cars were stockpiled with dealers under strict guidance about who could buy a new car.  It wasn’t until January 1946 that Canadian dealers started getting new cars. Most were warmed-over 1942 models.   The post-war economy was red-hot with almost zero unemployment. The Canadian automotive industry rebounded spectacularly as pent-up consumer demand, population growth and post-war prosperity fuelled sales, while government policies encouraged consumer spending and car-oriented suburbanization. The demand for cars far exceeded supply.  Vancouver dealers were at the end of the line for getting new cars . . . literally. Most domestic cars were manufactured in Ontario and rail-shipped to the West Coast. Rail cars filled with vehicles came right into Vancouver and were offloaded in the rail yards.


100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

Buyers eagerly awaiting their new vehicles would often go to the rail yards to see if their vehicle had arrived. Studebaker was the first to introduce a completely new design for the 1947 model year. Vancouver Archives photos show people crowding into the J.M. Brown Studebaker showroom to see the new models in the summer of 1947.  My father was among thousands of Canadians wanting a new car. He ordered a new 1946 Mercury, which never came into the dealership. You had to know somebody to get a new car and dealerships couldn’t come close to filling the orders.  It wasn’t until the following year that my father got a call from the local GM dealer saying a fancy U.S.-built Pontiac fastback was available. It had been ordered by a doctor who had managed to get a new Cadillac and didn’t want the two-tone green Pontiac.  Dad had waited 18 months to get his new car and, even though the Pontiac was more car than he had budgeted for, it wasn’t going to get away. My father grabbed it and it would be the family car for the next seven years.  By the mid-1950s, Canada’s automotive industry was booming with new plants and facilities, increased employment and a return to export sales as Canadian manufacturers took advantage of the fact that European makers were still recovering from the war.  Dueck on Broadway had so many orders for cars in 1957 that Canadian National Railway organized a special express trainload of new Chevrolet and Oldsmobile cars direct from the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa to Vancouver.  The shortage of new cars was over and a deep recession in 1958 would further curtail demand. 






VW On The Rise A deep recession in 1958 created the need for compact cars Vancouver motorists had embraced small

Of all cars, Austin received the most

Claridge determined the largest share

economical British cars available for sale

favourable comments, with Volkswagen

of the sale of imports from England went

in the city since the late 1930s. But postwar

coming in second.

to British Motor Corporation, which built

domestic cars were getting progressively

The first shipment of the German com-

bigger and more powerful. That meant

pact wonder-car Volkswagen arrived in

declining fuel economy for cars built in

Toronto in December 1952. Sales of the

the 1950s.

The findings in 1959 would accurately

inexpensive and reliable German vehicle

predict the trend to smaller, less expen-

soon spread to Vancouver where sales

sive and more fuel-efficient foreign cars

took off.

that would dominate new car sales in the

In 1959, University of British Columbia commerce student Barry Claridge chose new-car-buying habits in Vancouver as the subject of his thesis. A deep depression had hit the economy in 1958 and new car purchase trends were changing. People didn’t want the bigfinned gas guzzlers being built by North American manufacturers. Less than two per cent of domestic car buyers had favourable comments about them. Complaints listed for domestic cars included: style too extreme, too big, too powerful, too long, price too high, too much chrome, not economical and too low. Twenty-one per cent of buyers respond-

The Docksteader family introduced the first Volvo cars to Vancouver in 1958. Of the 360 new cars bought in Vancouver during December 1958, 196 were domestic automobiles and 165 were foreign makes. Eighty-six per cent of those surveyed who bought new cars outright without a trade-in chose foreign-built models. “The general public is offered a bewildering and growing display of makes and models of motor cars. The present interest in the functional styling of the European makes will probably bring

Austin, Healey, MG, Morris and Wolseley vehicles.

1960s, in the process forcing North American manufacturers to scramble together compact car offerings. The thesis Claridge submitted 60 years ago




manufacturers produce a smaller car to supplement their large models, and concentrate less on elaborate styling with more emphasis on mechanical improvements, economy of operation and quality of workmanship rather than increased horsepower.

ing to a survey conducted by Claridge said

about many changes in the offerings

For the 1960 model year, Vancouver

they wanted a small car for economy.

of American manufacturers,” Claridge

Chrysler dealers had the compact Plym-

Seventeen per cent of respondents who

wrote in his thesis.

outh Valiant to sell. Ford dealers soon got

bought domestic cars were dissatisfied,

“Probably the greatest success story of

the new Falcon and Comet cars and Gen-

while only eight per cent of import car

the post-war automobile era is the Ger-

eral Motors was supplying dealers with the

buyers were unhappy with their purchase.

man import Volkswagen. This automo-

new Chevrolet Corvair.

Performance was listed as the most

bile, without a major body or mechanical

The era of the compact car was here and

important factor in buying domestic

change in the last eight years, is still the

soon the small and fuel-efficient Japanese

automobiles, while foreign car buyers

leading contender for supremacy in the

imports would become the car of choice

favoured economy.

small car import market in North America.”

for many buyers. newcardealers.ca


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100 Years: Vancouver International Auto Show – 1920–2020

It’s All About the Experience:

The Future of Automobile Trade Shows Responding to a reporter’s question about rumours of his demise, the celebrated American humorist Mark Twain once said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Like Twain, the imminent death of traditional auto shows in North America has been predicted time and again, but the shows simply refuse to go quietly into the night, remaining popular among consumers. “Motor shows are dead,” exclaimed VW’s global chairman Herbert Diess in 2018 when asked about his company’s absence from major shows that year. Yet even within VW, opinions vary. In fact, the American spokesperson for the company praised auto shows as a great way to interact with a large number of people in the “purchase funnel.” It’s true that some major automakers have cut back their investment in auto shows. Volvo didn’t show a vehicle in its booth at the recent Detroit auto show, opting instead to feature LIDAR technology. Industry analysts say the reluctance among some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to spend heavily on traditional automobile trade shows is a reaction to financial pressures felt by carmakers in the face of huge technological challenges. But meanwhile, attendance at major auto shows remains strong despite the disruptions caused by digital delivery of information and the rising costs of staging consumer exhibits. Robert Yeager, writing for the New York Times in early 2019, estimated that in the USA alone, over 11 million people attended 55 major auto shows that year. Here in BC, the Vancouver International Auto Show is going strong, and expectations for the 100th anniversary event are high. But to remain strong and relevant, auto shows are changing too. “The auto industry is being reshaped by new technologies and nimble companies that have raced ahead of many traditional carmakers,” wrote Neal Boudette in the New York Times. An increasing number of exhibitors at auto shows are software companies displaying interactive apps. For example, some brands have chosen to feature the infotainment aspects of their cars’ interiors.

Photo NCDA Files


For those anticipating the demise of traditional auto shows, hundreds of thousand of consumers in the process of actively choosing a vehicle keep proving them wrong. New channels for selling vehicles include digital customization and the emergence of “satellite stores,” where a customer can see, touch, learn about, customize and testdrive vehicles, and then have the vehicle they purchase delivered to their home. This move toward “experiential customization” combined with new technology to present ideas and concepts, holds incredible promise for future auto shows. Vancouver is celebrating a century of presenting autos to the public, and the excitement and optimism among dealerships is readily apparent. A recent survey of dealerships in BC indicates that over seven in 10 decision makers think auto shows are an ideal way to present a new vehicle to the media and public. If the future of auto shows lies in engaging the public, opportunities are numerous right here in BC to also showcase local tech talent and innovation—from the pioneering work of Ballard Power Systems to the success of companies like Mojio, a Vancouver-based tech company that integrates and shares all sorts of driver data seamlessly.

According to the BC Technology Report Card there are over 10,000 high tech companies in the province generating over $30 billion in revenue. While many of those companies may have a small footprint at the moment (about 8,000 have 10 employees or less), the application of high tech to mobility and automobiles is only just beginning. With an expected return rate of past Vancouver International Auto Show attendees of over 90 per cent, clearly the show is delivering what consumers want: a mixture of automotive experiences, eye-catching displays and interactive features to keep people engaged. And for those naysayers anticipating the demise of traditional auto shows, hundreds of thousand of consumers in the process of actively choosing a vehicle keep proving them wrong. Auto shows have proven they can and will respond to the challenges of shifting digital technology and the growing pressure OEMs are feeling on marketing budgets. So like Twain, it may be time to turn an obituary into an opportunity. Marketing and mobility innovators are sure to find new ways of presenting experiences for consumers, to captivate them and accompany them on their path to buying a new vehicle. Bruce Cameron has been identifying trends for over 30 years. His company Return On Insight (ROI) advises leaders in the public and private sectors on brand reputation, stakeholder research and message management. newcardealers.ca


Dilawri presents the electric line at the Vancouver Autoshow

For more details, please visit bc.dilawri.ca

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Combined type graphics (Vertical)

Honda Red

Advocacy | Tailored Insurance Solutions | Peace of Mind

It’s been an incredible journey and honour for all of us at HUB International to work with the New Car Dealers of BC.

We’re excited

to celebrate the Vancouver Auto Show’s 100 year milestone with you, and look forward to growing with your industry in the decades to come. As an avid car enthusiast, I believe road safety and coverage is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see HUB’s dedication to our dealer partners and mutual clients in action every day. Whether it’s your new vehicle, home, business, or family’s health while travelling, our experts at HUB put you first.

Dave Terry President and CEO HUB International Insurance Brokers

Contact us today t: 604.269.1000 e: tos.info@hubinternational.com www.hubinternational.com

Profile for Signals Magazine NCDA

Special Commemorative Signals Edition—Celebrating 100 Years of the Vancouver Auto Show  

Special Commemorative Signals Edition—Celebrating 100 Years of the Vancouver Auto Show  

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