Now, your intrepid reporter doesn’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, so his burning desire to investigate the Ford Falcons of Argentina and the Willys Aero’s second life in Brazil will have to wait for another day, but Canadian brochures are readily accessible and usually in English, so it’s a relatively simple matter to dig into the special vehicles produced for the Great White North.
Setting aside the independents leaves the Big Three. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all had manufacturing plants in Canada as early as the 1910s. The big reason at that time was that it gave them tariff-free access to the whole of the British Empire by virtue of being Canadian-, rather than U.S.-built vehicles.
Simultaneously, some diversity was demanded by the fact that many small towns only warranted one dealership from each corporation. Thus, a town with a Pontiac dealer might not have a Chevrolet dealer; a town with a Ford dealer might not have a Mercury franchise; and a town with a Plymouth dealer might not have a Dodge outlet.
The answer for the corporations was to offer more breadth within their brands. Thus were born Canada-only models that were different only superficially from U.S. models. Canadian Pontiac dealers tended to offer both a line of imported U.S. Pontiacs and a line of domestic Pontiacs built with a large percentage of Chevrolet components but with special Pontiac sheet metal (and, prior to 1955, Pontiac six-cylinder engines). As time wore on, the Chevrolet content in Canadian Pontiacs steadily increased.
Beginning in 1932, Chrysler Corporation was perhaps the earliest creator of Canada-only models, creating “Plodges” by combining Plymouth vehicles with Dodge trim to create a junior-series Dodge to compete with Ford, Chevrolet and Pontiac at the low-priced end of the Canadian market. Another uniquely Canadian aspect of both Dodge and Plymouth brands in Canada was their use of the longer, Chrysler- and DeSoto-style engine. These engines, identified by their 25-inch-long cylinder head versus the 23-inch head used on U.S.-market Plymouth and Dodge engines, allowed Chrysler Corporation to rationalize its casting facilities in Canada around a single engine family. Similar displacements to U.S.-market cars were attained by appropriately varying the bore and stroke—although hot rodders would later discover that it was a simple matter to shoehorn in a large 251- or 265-cu.in. Chrysler six where once a 201-cu.in. Plymouth engine had resided by using the Canadian-spec motor-mount and radiator positions!
All of this fascinating variation would wind down quite quickly after the mid-1960s, however, with the signing of the Canada-United States Automotive Products Agreement, commonly known as the “Auto Pact” in 1965. The Auto Pact, which was a precursor free-trade agreement to NAFTA, abolished tariffs on automobiles and automotive components between the United States and Canada. That would open the door to the full variety of U.S. models being sold through Canadian dealerships and eliminate the necessity of producing badge-engineered brands or models for Canadian consumption. A few vestiges, like the Pontiac Parisienne, would hang on through the 1980s, but the U.S. / Canada automotive scene is fairly well homogenized today.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by David Conwill.