They were way ahead in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was the mid-50s and imported cars, still a novelty in most of North America, were already common in Canada's most beautiful province. There were several reasons for this. First, the end of WW2 had brought a large number of new immigrants, mostly English. Second, the combination of mild winter weather and great driving roads was an attraction. Third, Canada's link to Britain made it easier for Commonwealth residents to emigrate and find jobs. And finally, those New Canadians, as we called them then, were accustomed to European cars.
Today's blog is a look back at those times thanks to some fascinating photos unearthed by our associate, Nigel Matthews. Up top is a view of the Lions Gate Bridge at rush hour (the bridge has been much modified since then but the backups still remain). Most of the cars in this shot are Detroit products but if you look closely you can spot the intruders, just beginning to make themselves known thanks to motorcycle dealer Fred Dealey, who'd obtained an Austin franchise to sell cars.
This is the Dealey showroom and service center on West Broadway, with a nice selection of Austins parked alongside. Look closely and you'll see an A90 Atlantic hardtop.
The actual showroom wasn't very large but neither were the cars, which included an Austin A40 pickup and an Austin A40 sedan, with a curvaceous Austin A70 Hereford "woodie" in the background. Very few Herefords were imported and it's unlikely any survived, at least not in North America. (The kids would have loved that racing pedal car.)
I'm not quite certain about the car Fred Deeley is driving as a promotion in a local parade. It could be an Austin or an MG, or even a one-off from Deeley's shop but if it still exists, this two-seater would be eligible for vintage racing.
There's no doubt about the car in a crate, obviously a Morris Minor newly arrived from the factory in Cowley, just outside Oxford. Other makes sold at the dealership included Morris, MG, Triumph, Austin Healey sports cars, and Jaguar. Fred Deeley acquired much of the foreign car business in Western Canada but when offered the distributorship of a certain odd-looking German import he turned it down. Deeley had no lack of foresight but even he could make a mistake.
I can't conclude this blog without mentioning the Deeley family motorcycle business. Fred Deeley began selling Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 1917, making it one of the oldest dealerships in the world. His son, Trevor, who took over the motorcycle division, had a distinguished record. He became the only civilian to ride with the Vancouver City Police Drill Team, was invited to serve on the board of directors for Harley-Davidson, becoming one of just three non-Americans on the board.
Trevor Deeley was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall Of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and the American Motorcycle Association Heritage Hall of Fame Museum. He also created his own museum in Vancouver featuring Trev's collection of vintage & antique motorcycles, with over 250 classic bikes from different manufacturers.