Meteors: Blasting Canada with upscale Fords

F ord of Canada introduced the Meteor for the 1949 season through its Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Badge-engineered from a Ford shell, the Meteor was intended to fill the gap between Ford and Mercury. The upscale Meteor was an instant success with the Canadian consumer.

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The Meteor station wagons started at $3,000 and quickly rose in price. A nine-passenger Country Sedan scraped the price ceiling at $3,325.

    The company introduced its 1957 lineup in the fall of 1956, and hundreds of thousands made the annual fall pilgrimage to their neighborhood Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealer to ogle the latest offerings. The all-new Meteor was advertised as being “all dressed up and everywhere to go.” Meteors were sharp-looking for sure. Longer, lower and wider than their 1956 counterparts, ad copy declared that Meteor was “bold evidence of daring design.”

    dominion-models.gifA lush wraparound bumper with a lower lip started things off. It was jazzed up with a pair of bumper guards. The grille was a swanky wraparound affair replete with five horizontal bars. At the center, the chrome quintet yielded to a massive “V” in which the familiar Meteor symbol floated. Rectangular turn signals graced the corners, positioned directly under the heavily browed, single headlamps. Meteor was spelled out across the face, and a medallion in the standup hood ornament let everyone know that Meteor was a star.

    From the flank, Meteor rode lower than ever before in a “cow belly” frame. Pronounced body creases accented its front and rear wheel wells. Stylists added a smart fin to the envelope. Dogleg wrap-around windshields were de rigeur in 1957, and Meteor was not to be left out. V-8 models carried identifying insignia on the wraparound grille, ahead of the front wheel well.

Fords sold in the United States could be had in a single color or two-tone, but Canadian Meteor Rideau 500’s could be painted in a tri-tone color scheme.

    The most modestly trimmed Niagara four-door models wore a single chrome strip that started at the front fender and dipped down across the body to a smart check at the rear wheel, well before straightening out and running to the trailing edge of the body. Niagara two-door sedans carried a chrome strip that began at the leading edge of the tail fin and streaked rearward to the taillight housing. Dog dish hubcaps were standard, but dressy “deep-disc wheel covers” could be had at extra cost.

   MIStudios_125Button.jpg The Niagara 300s were graced with an additional gold-color strip set in brightwork. The Rideau’s trim started at the trailing edge of the front wheel well and ran mid-flank to the center of the back door ‘ or the rear quarter panel in the case of two-door models ‘ where it kicked upward and flowed to the taillight. The upswing was kissed with a Meteor medallion.

    From behind, Meteor strongly resembled its Ford cousin, though a medallion on the rear deck lid was distinctive; “Meteor” was spelled out in the slightly recessed center cove of the rear bumper.

    Under the hood, buyers had a choice of four engines. The 272-cid and 292-cid V-8 mills were again available, or buyers could choose the 312-cid monster. Thrifty Canadians looked long and hard at the trusty corporate six-banger.

    Tucked into the corporate stable between Ford and Mercury, Meteor fielded 24 models in five series. The car was “priced as low as its silhouette,” crowed advertising. The base Niagara model came as a two-door or four-door sedan costing $2,434 and $2,449 respectively.* The Niagara 300 models were better trimmed and listed at $2,583 for the two-door and $2,647 for the four-door version.

    The Rideau series ‘ named for a Canadian river ‘ moved upscale. It came only with V-8 engines and rode on a longer 118-inch wheelbase. It offered a two-door and four-door sedan and then added a sparkling pair of two-door and four-door Victoria hardtops. The two-door sedan cost $2,882 and only 347 were built. The four-door Victoria hardtop set one back by $3,038 and was the most rare Meteor of the season ‘ only 214 were built.

    The Rideau 500 was Meteor’s top-of-the-line series ‘ it was all sass and flash. It also made use of the longer wheelbase and offered only V-8 engine choices. In this series, one found smartly dressed two- and four-door sedans, two- and four-door Victoria hardtops and a glittering Rideau 500 Sunliner convertible. The ragtop listed for $3,253 and there were orders for only 646 of them.

    To serve everyone from tradesmen to large families, there was a two- and four-door Ranch wagon listing for $2,831 and $2,959, respectively, and a six- or nine-passenger Country Sedan at $3,065 and $3,325. The latter was the most expensive Meteor that money could buy. Although classified as trucks, exactly 300 beautiful Meteor Ranchero pickups were built, too.

    Concerned with safety as much as comfort, Meteors were equipped with a “deep center safety steering wheel” and double-grip safety door latches at no extra cost. The hood hinged from the front for safety.

    The options list included such comforting mid-line niceties as air conditioning, antenna, Arctic wiper blades, automatic transmission, back-up lights, car care chemicals, cigar lighter, clock, curb signals, engine heater, exhaust deflectors, floor saver mats, frost shields, grille-wing guards, handbrake warning signal, license trim frames, locking gas cap, power brakes, power seats, power steering, power windows, radio, spare wheel cover, a fixed or portable spotlight, a tissue dispenser, undercoating, windshield washer and a vanity mirror.

    The federal government of Canada allowed banks to loan money for cars for the first time ever in 1957. Six out of 10 Canadians still preferred to pay cash for their cars in 1957. Of the 376,084 new automobiles sold from St. John’s to Victoria, only 84,055 Canadians made use of credit. Folks in Quebec and Ontario were the most likely to borrow money to purchase a new automobile.

    It was an exciting year for Meteor. There was plenty of hoop-la as the 250,000th one rolled out the doors on July 10. Not a half-bad accomplishment for a brand that was only 9 years old. Folks bought a total of 34,165 Meteors during the model year, and the make owned a comfortable 8.69 percent of the domestic market, making it No. s6 in sales behind Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Dodge and Plymouth.

*Prices in Canadian dollars