1909 Model T
Walkerville native Gordon Morton McGregor negotiated an historic agreement with the Ford Motor Co. on August 14, 1904, to obtain the Canadian franchise to assemble Ford cars with the parent company holding 51 per cent of the shares.
American John Grey, head of the Detroit Firm, became president; Henry Ford was vice-president and McGregor became the secretary and general manager. Although McGregor founded and ran the company, he never became its president.
The first car to roll off the Walkerville assembly line was a 1905 Model C (similar to the one pictured left) on October 10. The Model C was a two-cylinder, lightweight vehicle with its engine under the seat and a fake hood out front.
Over the first few years there was little manufacturing going on in the Canadian plant with most parts brought over by ferry from Detroit. Soon after production, however, McGregor started buying bodies from Wm. Gray & Sons of Chatham. Robert Gray had subscribed $500 toward the new company during its organization.
During the first few years, McGregor had to fight to keep the Ford Motor Co. of Canada alive. It wasn't until the 1909 model year, when Ford introduced the model T, that things began to look promising.
There were differences between the Canadian Ts and their American cousins. For one thing, the driver's door on the Canadian model was real, as opposed to the fake one on US models. Also, Canadian models were built with both left and right hand drive for many years, given that driving preferences differed from province to province.
In 1910 the Walkerville plant experienced a major expansion when the factory grew to include a four-story factory and office building. The company was recapitalized at $10 million dollars and received a federal charter in 1911.
In 1913 the Canadian company started producing its own engines, and in 1914 the Ford Motor Company of Canada introduced the assembly line--a first in Canada. At this point, twenty-seven cars were being manufactured every day.
It is interesting to note that around this time the area surrounding the factory was incorporated as Ford Village, with it's own post office. A tram line connected Ford with the residential area of Walkerville. The town was taken over by the City of Windsor in September, 1929.
Canadian Model T production continued to climb well into the 1920s, even after US sales began to dwindle. The best year for the Canadian Model T was in 1926 when 100,611 units were produced. At this point in time, the cost of a Model T was at its cheapest ever--only $395 for a basic car (without starter.)
An improved 1926 model was introduced, coinciding with Ford's 21st birthday. As part of the celebration, photographer Edward Flickenger and Dr. Perry Doolittle (the Father of the Trans-Canada highway) were sent on a coast-to-coast trip in one of the new touring cars. This Ford was the first car to ever cross Canada entirely on its own power. Where road didn't exist, flanged wheels were used on railway track.
Mechanically, the 1926 models were virtually unchanged from its predecessor although the bodies were made entirely from steel, with smoother lines. However, the Model T had run its course and production ended in the final months of 1926 during the manufacture of 1927 models.
A few months later, Ford introduced the Model A, which gained public favour almost instantly. The Model A had a new, up-to-date body, four wheel brakes, and a four-cylinder, 40 h.p. engine. Demand for the new vehicle quickly became extreme. Like the Model T, it was conceived as a basic transportation machine.
In 1932 Ford introduced its V-8 in direct competition with Chevrolet's V-6, which had overpowered the model A a few years before. The V-8 sold for the same low price consumers had come to expect from Ford and the model stuck right through the Thirties and after the Second World War.
In 1939 Ford entered the mid-range price market with the introduction of the Mercury (pictured at bottom left), a car with a 95 h.p., V-8 engine. It also built a variety of military vehicles during the Second World War. In fact, the Ford Motor Company of Canada built over half of all the military vehicles produced in Canada. And of course, Ford trucks were being manufactured since the start of its history.
In 1953, all Ford production was moved to a new large plant in Oakville, Ontario and in 1968 another plant opened near St. Thomas, Ontario. Ford of Canada is still heavily engaged in Windsor with its engine plant (est. 1978) and casting plant (est.1934).