HERITAGE > Pre-War Fords > Meteor (Phase 1)

 

All Ford products shed their old prewar styling for a postwar new look. Of course, Ford of Canada's unique models also embraced the new styling.

 

A June 25, 1948 press release stated: "The Mercury and Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited announced today that it would shortly introduce a brand new automobile in the low-priced field, to be known as the 'Meteor.' It will be exclusive to the Canadian market and will be distributed by the Mercury and Lincoln dealers across the Dominion."

 

Meteor followed the Mercury 114 format, which was to use the Ford body with a Mercury grille. Instead of Ford's "propeller" grille, Meteor used a Mercury style grille. In addition, a wide chrome border surrounded the upper part of the grille cavity. At each end of the grille was a small arrow-shaped point which contained Ford-like parking lights.

 

Meteor spelled in chrome block letters above the grille identified this new car. The name also appeared across Mercury shaped hubcaps. On the deck lid, a round Meteor medallion appeared above the trunk handle. Otherwise, Meteor's exterior was about identical to Ford's.

 

Inside, the Ford style instrument panel added a chrome star with a tail on the right end. Under the hood was Ford's 239 cid V-8, now rated at 100 hp.

Meteor offered two versions. DeLuxe included a Tudor sedan, Fordor sedan, Club coupe and Business coupe. More deluxe than the DeLuxe was the Custom which offered the same body types, less the Business coupe. Prices were about $65 more than the same Ford models.

 

A popular option was a two-tone paint scheme. The fenders and lower sides were one colour and the rest a complementary shade. This was a Ford of Canada exclusive, because U.S. Ford plants could not handle two-toning then.

 

The new Meteor sold exceptionally well. It ranked fourth in sales, accounting for nearly 11% of the total Canadian market. To meet the public's demand, just over 23,000 Meteors came off the Windsor assembly line in the 1949 model year.

 

That was a long model year, because production began in the spring of 1948 and ran till the fall of 1949. Still, the normal length 1950 model year saw over 26,000 Meteors built, while it held its fourth rank in sales.

 

Both a convertible and station wagon joined the top series, now called Custom DeLuxe. Partially finished bodies for each of these were imported from the States, then assembly was finished on this side of the border with all the Meteor items.

 

A few minor styling changes appeared for 1950. The chrome border above the grille was gone. New parking lights were outward slanting with chrome trim something like Ford's new parking lights.

On the rear deck immediately above the new Ford-style trunk handle was the Meteor name. Right above that was a chrome star with trailing streaks.

More styling revisions appeared on the 1951 Meteor. Most obvious was its new and unique grille. The big bold Mercury grille was not easily adaptable to the smaller Meteor front. So, Meteor sported its own grille, which had no resemblance to any other. It was a horizontal rectangle containing five vertical bars.

Also new was the chrome rub strip along the side. It began on the front fender and had a star on a circular overlay. The strip itself ran straight back almost the full length of the front door. It went no further, in contrast to Ford's narrower strip which encircled the whole back of the car. At the back, Meteor had a new chrome nameplate with a diagonal shooting star.

Meteor now offered an automatic transmission--the "Merc-O-matic."

Ford's Crestliner American model was neither built nor sold in Canada in the 1950 and '51 model years. So of course, there was no Meteor equivalent. Crestliner was a fancy 2-door sedan offered to compete with the stylish hardtop models some competitors offered. When Ford introduced its first real hardtop, Meteor had one as well. Both were called Victoria, and Meteor's was a Custom DeLuxe.

All 1952 Ford lines came out with new styling. Meteor had a thick, single bar grille with three bulges near the centre. The Meteor name continued above the grille.

Side trim reverted to Ford's style, but the back was a bit different. Tail-light lenses, instead of being completely round like Ford's, had four small points within the normal round rim. The chrome deck handle was a broad four-point star. Meteors with Merc-O-matic had the word "Automatic" in chrome script below the lower right corner of the deck lid.

Meteor used Ford's new model names Mainline, Customline, and Crestline. These appeared in chrome script on the front fenders, like Ford's did.

Meteor's Mainline series continued to use Ford's 239 cid V-8, which was up to 110 hp for 1952. However, in the Customline, Meteor used a larger more powerful motor. It was a 120-hp version of the 255 V-8, like Mercury's engine but a little less potent. Actually, it was a truck engine Ford of Canada was already using.

In another switch, the Customline and Crestline Meteor used Mercury's instrument panel. All previous Meteors, and the 1952 Mainline models had Ford's instrument panel.

The 1952 model lineup did not include a business coupe in the Mainline series. But the remarkable 2-door Ranch Wagon was a highly desired newcomer. Though it was a Mainline model, it replaced the Custom DeLuxe Country Squire wagon.

For 1952 and 1953, the Ranch Wagon was the only station wagon Meteor offered. For that matter, it was also the only station wagon Ford had available in Canada. In the States though, Ford had Customline and Crestline wagons as well.

Appearance changes for the 1953 Meteor included a new grille. It was a single bar which dropped some at the middle--a sort of gullwing shape. Above this lower centre section was a broad chrome four-point star.

Chrome trim on the Customline and Crestline rear fender was different. Over the Ford style chrome, Meteor added a chrome windsplit above and below the long chrome strip.

The star shaped handle remained on the trunk, but the Meteor nameplate and shooting star was a variation of the one used on the 1951 trunk lids.

In its gradual move away from Ford, the 1954 Meteor came with new names. As a Canadian car, it seemed reasonable it should have Canadian model names. Customline and Crestline became Niagara and Rideau, respectively. The Mainline name was deleted but not replaced. This base series, often called Meteor, lacked an official name.

Meteor chrome script on the front fenders identified the base series. Similarly, Meteor Niagara and Meteor Rideau script marked the middle and upper series.

For 1954, the Meteor grille changed in the centre. It curved down to form a V at the middle. Above the V was a four-point star, but not nearly as broad as before. This bar and star arrangement predated a similar design on the grille of the 6-cylinder 1955 Ford trucks.

On the sides, Meteor combined Ford's full-length rub strip with Mercury's rear fender trim. At the back, there was a new deck handle using a Meteor medallion with an orbiting tail.

It was in the 1954 models that Ford introduced its new, modern overhead valve V-8. Unfortunately for Canadians, this engine was a year late arriving. So, the faithful flat-head V-8 continued an extra year here. However, the Niagara and Rideau Meteors were driven by the full-powered former 125 hp Mercury V-8. (Mercury got its new V-8.)

Meteor added three new models for 1954--two were station wagons. A second Ranch Wagon came in the Niagara series, along with a Country Sedan. The latter was Meteor's first 4-door wagon.

The Rideau series added the Skyliner. It had a green tinted plexiglas panel over the front seat, as did Ford's model with the see-through roof.

Niagaras and Rideaus still used Mercury's instrument panel. However, in mid year, some had Ford's instrument panel at a $67 price drop. These models had Special Niagara and Special Rideau chrome script on the front fenders.

A totally new design came with the 1955 Fords and Meteors. As usual, Meteor used the Ford body with a different grille. It had concave vertical bars between the big Ford-style parking lights. But at the centre, it was cut in two by a bold V. Above the V was Meteor's familiar four-point star.

Niagara side trim consisted of a chrome strip running from the headlight and gently curving down toward the rear wheel. Suddenly a forward slanting, broad chrome plate reached up to near the belt line. There, a chrome strip went straight back to the tail-light assembly.

Rideau, however, added a narrow chrome strip. Where the main strip bent down, this piece ran back to the broad chrome plate. This formed a triangle which usually had a contrasting colour. So, various two- and three-tone paint combinations were possible.

The business coupe was back, but just for one year. In the base series, it was really a 2-door sedan with no rear seat. New was the Crown Victoria in the Rideau series. Though technically not a hardtop, it looked like the Victoria hardtop, but with a broad chrome band over the roof like Ford's new Crown Victoria.

Thunderbird made its debut for 1955. However, it was not built in Canada, so there was no Meteor equivalent.

Just as exciting as the new styling was the new short-stroke V-8 engine. Displacing 272 cubic inches, it developed 162 hp with 2-barrel carburetion in the base series. The other models had a 4-barrel 175 hp edition. Curiously, these 4-barrel Canadian engines had a seven horsepower lower rating than the American engines.

An entirely new grille greeted 1956 Meteor buyers. It had thin horizontal bars behind a thick chrome bar, which rose from the outer end of each parking light pod and reaching a peak just below the headlights. Then it curved down to the bumper at the middle where it formed a very wide angled V. The lip of the hood had a very broad four-point star.

On the sides, the 1956 Niagara took on the same trim as the 1955 Rideau. So this year, on the Rideau, the forward slanting chrome plate was shorter. From its top, a wide ribbed chrome piece, like that used on the Ford Fairlane, ran back to the tail-light. The former thin chrome strip ran back part way, curved up and around the other chrome, then went straight back to the end. Between the upper and lower chrome pieces was an area usually reserved for a different colour.

One more model joined the lineup in mid year. It was a 4-door Victoria--Meteor's first 4-door hardtop.

The horsepower race was going full gallop. So the base and Niagara series engine got a boost to 173 hp. Station wagons and Rideaus got a 292-cid engine rated at 200 hp. Cars with automatic received two or three more horses.

In mid year, Ford of Canada introduced its first ohv 6- cylinder cars. The 223 cid 137 ohv six was available as a delete option in any 1956 Meteor.

Ford's 1957 cars had brand new styling. The new grille wasquite low and had thin horizontal bars running all across the front and around the front fenders to the wheel openings. In a throwback to 1955, a V and star cut the grille at the middle.

Side trim was vaguely like Ford's. On the upper series, the two chrome strips provided space for two- or three-tone finishes.

Exactly like Ford, Meteor came in five series. They were Niagara, Niagara 300, the longer Rideau and Rideau 500, and the four station wagons made up their own series. Meteor buyers had a choice of 17 models.

The 250,000th Meteor was built in 1957. That was probably the year it had its most unique look, but for 1958 it retrenched some.

It looked very little different from Ford, except in the grille. Slightly concave vertical bars within a floating frame formed the 1958 Meteor grille. Across this grillwork was a very wide four-point star. The side and back trim was like Ford, except the Meteor nameplates, of course.

Not long after introduction, the entry level Niagara series was deleted. It had offered only 2- and 4-door sedans.

Despite its lack of distinction, and poor sales in the 1958 recession year, Meteor production remained relatively high. It ranked fourth, its traditional position, and kept it during 1959.

For that year, the Ford and Meteor body was more squarish. The new grille was made up of rows of tiny squares. Much like Mercury's grille that year, but the squares were smaller.

Side trim was much like Ford's but not identical. The emphasis was on a rocket-shaped bulge along the top of the rear fenders, which was often a different colour.

In the spring of 1959, a new top-line debuted to match Ford's new Galaxie. It had the popular Thunderbird roof line and went by the name Montcalm.

That brings up an irony. Montcalm chrome script was on the rear fenders. Yet the deck lid bore Rideau 500 in the lock area. Ridding that name was probably too complicated to tackle. (Ford had a similar problem with the Galaxie.)

Montcalm offered four body types: 4-door sedan, 2- and 4-door hardtops, and convertible. The same body styles emerged in the entirely redesigned 1960 Meteor range. Now however, there were only 12 models available. The Niagara 500 was gone, and there were only 2- and 4-door sedans in the Rideau and Rideau 500 lines.

The new styling gave Meteor a convex grille with vertical bars. But it was split across the middle. In this gap were three four-point stars.

Side trim was similar to Ford's but with the rub strip coming forward into the front fender. Near the front of it was a four-point star on a small backward slanted plate.

Ford's half moon tail-lights were each replaced by a set of three small, round lights. Two were red, but the inner ones were backup lights.

Model year production fell sharply to 18,356--just about half the record 1956 model total. The public was swinging sharply to compact cars. Ford of Canada produced a compact for Meteor-Mercury dealers to sell. As compacts gained popularity, production fell again for the full-size 1961 Meteor.

Its grille was simple yet attractive with thin horizontal bars. Each pair of dual headlights on the grillwork had them separated widely by Meteor's four-point star.

A chrome strip ran from the grille's upper corners along each side to the door, where it turned up then curved back. It went along the top crease of the fin, and angled down to the tail-light. There it became a diagonal bulge, crossing the tail-light lens then went horizontally toward the centre of the panel below the deck lid. It ended as a backup light. An unusual arrangement.

It should be noted here that there was a Meteor model in the 1961 American Mercury lineup. Unlike Ford of Canada's Meteor, it was based on the full-size Mercury and not available in Canada.

The 1962 and 1963 mid-size Meteor built in Canada and the U.S. and was essentially the same in both countries. So, 1961 was the final year for the Ford-based Meteor. Ford of Canada did revive it, but in a much different form.

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