Canada’s Unique Autoscape, Part 1
However, in the ‘30s, Canadian consumers started to see uniquely Canadian products emerge from the big American brands, starting with Chrysler and its Dodge brand. In 1932, they introduced the Dodge DM—essentially a Dodge powered by a Plymouth four-cylinder instead of the typical Dodge six, in order to provide a lower priced car for Dodge/DeSoto dealerships. This may seem redundant, but you have to realize that Canada, with its greater land mass and smaller population, didn’t have a dealer network like that in the US. Towns often had only one dealer, and it was either a Chrysler/Plymouth dealership or a Dodge/DeSoto dealership. The company didn’t want to lose customers at Dodge/DeSoto dealers looking for a low priced car—and Plymouth at that time was their value oriented brand.
They followed the DM in 1933 with the Dodge DQ and DP—this time affixing Dodge grilles and ornamentation onto what were otherwise Plymouth cars. Tooling a new, unique car made in Canada for the Canadian market based off existing models made sense as the cars had to be built in Canada anyway to avoid tariffs; this made the launch of the uniquely Canadian models an easier pill to swallow. They followed these Dodges with a Plymouth-based DeSoto for the Canadian market, starting in 1937.
It was also during this time that the Fargo truck brand was introduced to Canada as a way to sell rebadged Dodge trucks at Chrysler/Plymouth dealerships. The Fargo brand allowed every dealer to have a truck to sell—an issue because, as mentioned above, some towns had no Dodge/DeSoto dealer. Fargo had previously been a commercial truck brand in the US, although it disappeared from that scene in the 1930s as Dodge trucks gained in popularity. Fargo branded trucks were sold in Canada and export markets from 1933 to 1972.
GM was the next manufacturer to see the potential of introducing a car specifically for Canuks. In Canada, GM was having much success with its Pontiac brand. In 1937, GM introduced the Pontiac 224, a Pontiac with the smaller 224 cubic inch Chevrolet engine. GM also saw that Canadians, in general, prefer smaller cars and in 1938 began producing Pontiacs that used the shorter wheelbase of GM’s related Chevrolet models—but with Pontiac sheetmetal ahead of the A-pillars and Pontiac engines.
After the war Chrysler continued its practise of converting Plymouths into Canadian Dodges, starting with the 1946 Dodge Kingsway and DeSoto Diplomat. They were followed by the Dodge Regent and Crusader which, again, were Plymouth bodies with Dodge grilles and detailing. When Chrysler Corporation’s lineup was revised in 1953, the fender shape of American Dodge and Plymouths differed greatly. From this point on, the Canadian models were basically stock Plymouth bodies aft of the A-pillar, with modified Dodge front clips attached.
For 1953, Dodge introduced yet another Plymouth based model, called the Mayfair. Previously a trim package on the Regent; it was sold an upscale Dodge offering. The DeSoto Diplomat was again revised in 1957, essentially combining the front end of the DeSoto Firesweep to a Plymouth body. Chrysler’s Canadian models were often referred to as “Plodges”, due to their combination of Plymouth and Dodge parts.
The Kingsway, Regent, Crusader and Mayfair all remained in production until 1959, when they were replaced by the Dodge Dart for 1960. The DeSoto Diplomat carried on after this period as a rebadged Dodge Dart, until the DeSoto brand disappeared completely in 1961.
Continue this story on page 3.