There is no clear way to determine what makes an automobile quintessentially Canadian.
Does the car have to be designed and produced entirely in the country to be considered a Canadian car?
If so, the first car to meet those criteria is a steam buggy unveiled at the Stanstead Fair in 1867 by Henry Seth Taylor, according to Suzanne Beauvais, assistant curator of the In Search of the Canadian Car exhibition, which kicked off yesterday at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
The first successful production line Canadian vehicle, however, said Beauvais, was produced by the Russell Motor Car Company in 1905 in Toronto. Russell later changed its name to the Canadian Cycle and Motor Company. Even though they stopped making automobiles in the 1916, the CCM continues to be major brand for bicycles and hockey equipment.
More recently, there is the Manic GT, which was designed and built in Granby, Que., using engine components from car manufacturer Renault. It was last built in 1971.
Although the company producing the car may not be based in Canada, it could still create The Canadian Car, said Beauvais, using parts and labour entirely from Canada.
GM, Chrysler, Ford and Volvo all have had plants in Canada. Volvo moved into the Canadian Market because they believed their cars were already ideally suited to the Canadian climate.
The parts industry is still very important in this country.
Many of the cars built here were marketed specifically to Canadians, with names chosen for their association with the country, said Beauvais. Ford built the Monarch, Montcalm, Niagara and Rideau.
GM had the Pontiac Laurentian and Acadian.
Finally, the Canadian car may simply be the most popular on the road, said Beauvais.
That would be the Honda Civic, which has been the most popular in Canada since 1998.
Though the Canadian car exhibit doesn’t examine why the Civic has been so successful in Canada, Beauvais said it may be because people are looking for a vehicle that performs well and is reasonably priced.
“It’s always these criteria that Canadians are looking at,” said Beauvais.