5 Canadian automotive failures

A list of weird and wonderful ‘Made in Canada’ cars that didn’t quite make it

Bricklin SV1 (mstcweb/Flickr)

1. Le Roy: Designed by Nelson and Milton Good, the Le Roy was built in 1903 in Berlin, Ont., now Kitchener. No more than 20 were built before the company went bankrupt. Why? The purchase price of a new Le Roy in 1903 was $650, while the average annual income in Canada was only $275. The brake pedal on the Le Roy was also the same pedal that put the vehicle into reverse, which caused confusion among drivers.

2. Frontenac: In 1931, with the U.S.-based automaker Durant Motors near collapse, a group of investors acquired the company’s Canadian operations in Toronto and established Dominion Motors. Dominion released the Frontenac, a six-cylinder car, but it didn’t sell well. The next year Dominion rolled out a restyled Frontenac. But as the Depression deepened, Dominion shut down and the Frontenac’s brief run was over.

3. Manic GT: The Manic GT was the brainchild of Montreal native Jacques About. Despite keen demand—there was a two-month waiting list for new buyers—the factory based in Granby, Que., produced only 160 cars. The problem, a dependence on parts from Renault, proved to be the company’s downfall. The supply of parts could not meet the demand and the Granby factory closed in May 1971.

4. Bricklin: American millionaire Malcolm Bricklin’s idea was to develop a “high-performance safety car” in Saint John, N.B. He hired Herb Grasse, who created the original Batmobile. The car was designed without an ashtray because Bricklin believed it was unsafe to drive and smoke. That, combined with design and engineering flaws, lead to the collapse of the company in 1976.

5. Ballard fuel-cell car: There was never a single car from Ballard Power. Rather the company teamed with Ford and Daimler to develop experimental models using its hydrogen fuel-cell technology. In 2000 investors were convinced fuel cells would replace the internal combustion engine, and Ballard stock soared to $180. But steep costs, technological challenges and a lack of refuelling stations brought Ballard’s aspirations back to Earth (along with the stock price; today the shares are worth about $1.) In 2007, Ballard abandoned the hydrogen vehicle market.

Sources: Canada Science and Technology Museum; news reports

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5 Canadian automotive failures

  1. I saw a white Bricklin driving in Regina SK the other day! I thought it looked like a pointier corvette, so drove faster to see what it was, and indeed, was excited to see a Bricklin; I don’t recall ever seeing one on the road before.

    • From the profile pic above, it could be confused with a DeLorean…

      • Thats because it is… sort of… maybe. Malcom Bricklin claims that the DeLorean was a failed concept for the Bricklin, though he is a bit… untrustworthy and he said it after John DeLorean died

  2. I don’t understand what happened to fuel cell technology. There has been a Baptists and bootleggers coalition between environmentalists/oil companies to focus on oil production and ineffective windmills and solar panels. Fuel cells work – I attended a three day junket held by GM to promote their technology over a decade ago, I think we drove minivans with joysticks if I recall correctly – but it is very expensive.

    I will never understand why governments have put so much $$$ into useless solar panels and windmills over the past decade when a new, game changing technology had been created and needed funding to make it more affordable for hoi polloi.

    • There are different fuel cells. POMCs. LIthium ones. It is anybody’s guess which will scalably bank wind and solar in the near future.
      Proton Exchange Membranes, PEMs like Ballard’s, operate near room temperature. An advantage over high temperature battery/cell types. Don’t handle cold well. A local disadvantage. They need really distilled water; the now more expensive platinum and/or palladium components foul up more easily than expected.
      I’m big on B.Gate’s tri-layer molten salt utility-scale battery. Finally a rich American who doesn’t tell lies for a living.

  3. Shouldn’t the bailout recipients make the list? They may have repaid their cash but in the teeth of the recession it wasn’t worth the distraction for companies fighting against transitioning to the correct (middle classless North America) small car models for decades.
    But taking an even bigger pic the earthquake killed Japanese cars for a few years…
    Hydrogen is a tough gas to handle. The hope of PEMs was that a sustainable and cheap source of hydrogen would be made from water. Even blowing a few billion for a few hundreds millions $ company wasn’t too bad considering there was basically another industrial revolution awaiting if hydrogen could be made on demand. That is a big potential petrochemicals advantage natural gas enjoys over coal: methane has hydrogen atoms which are needed to make plastics.
    We need at least, a cdn E-ARPA. Thin film polymer solar cells didn’t in 2011, have a cheap long-lasting encapsulation process. They used cheap lamination. Spending $1.5M a pop for five different tries at universities across the country would be money well spent. CPC is treating marketing tar to Asia as a diversification. But this ignores the systemic risk/fact, eventually there will be no demand for carbon-intensive materials/electricity.

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