Every July 1st the United States’ neighbor to the North celebrates a patriotic national holiday known as Canada Day. To mark the occasion, check out this rundown of our favorite Canadian classics.
Known as the Volvo Amazon in Sweden, the Volvo 120 series was produced from 1956 to 1970 in three body styles: four-door sedan, four-door wagon and two-door sedan. Volvo was the first post-WWI foreign car company to actually assemble cars in North America, only for Canada, where the 120 series was introduced in the mid 1960s and rebadged as the “Canadian.” Built by Canadians for Canadians, the 120 series (which eventually included the “Canadian GT”) was the first model/line produced at the Volvo Halifax Assembly Plant in Nova Scotia.
A lot of vehicles billed as Canadian are simply rebadged American automobiles with metric dashboards and just enough cosmetic alterations to justify the rebranding. Not the Bricklin SV-1.
When American billionaire and original founder of Subaru of America, Malcolm Bricklin, decided to build the safest sports car in the world, a pretty sweet financial deal from the New Brunswick provincial government led him to set up shop in Canada in 1973. Full of clever innovations and uniquely styled (Love those gullwing doors!), the SV-1 was built in Canada but was never actually sold there. A year into the project, Bricklin ran into a little problem: He couldn’t build cars fast enough. Creditors soon began clamoring for a ROI and the operation was scuttled in 1975. Fewer than 500 SV-1 are currently known to exist.
Lada Niva 4×4
While this one is definitely not a Canadian creation, the Lada line of inexpensive SUV/4x4s is definitely a Canada thing. One of the more quirky imports Canada got and America didn’t from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, the Russian made Lada Niva dropped on Canada about the same time Japanese 4x4s, like the Suzuki Samurai, hit the U.S. market. According to Autoweek‘s Dave Saunders, the Russian-built Niva offered the dimensions and the interior of a passenger car along with relatively simple maintenance and good “off-roadability.”
Manufactured in Quebec from 1969 until 1971, the Manic GT was a rear-engine, Renault-powered, fiberglass bodied two-seat sports car that has been described as “the best Canadian sports car nobody’s ever heard of.” According to Hemmings Daily writer Mark McCourt—who penned a great historical retrospective of the Manic GT (click here to see it)—the car was conceived as a homegrown alternative to the Alpine A110 and was sold in very small numbers at Renault dealers across Canada.
Carmakers don’t get anymore Canadian than the McLaughlin Motor Car Company. Originally a maker of horse-drawn carriages that founded operations in 1869, the company transitioned to making cars in 1907 and based operations in Oshawa, Ontario. In a partnership with Buick (which supplied engine and various parts from GM’s home base in Flint, Michigan), McLaughlin Motor Car Company produced roughly 1,100 luxury touring cars by 1914. Deepening connections with GM paved the wave for another company name change a year later; McLaughlin became Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada in 1915 then morphed into General Motors of Canada. But the McLaughlin held until 1923 when the name of the Canadian-built touring cars was officially changed to McLaughlin-Buick. This name had cache and continued until 1942 until they became known simply as Buicks.
We told you our favorite Canadian classics. Now you share yours. Drop your favorite model or memory of a great Canadian car into the comments section below.