My Favorites for Canada Day

2010 Dodge Challenger 3
Imported from Brampton. Photo by Randy Stern

Often we forget that this site has an international following.

Victory & Reseda focuses on products sold in North America. Sometimes, there are some familiar international products on here to read about, but these vehicles usually wind up right in the Twin Cities for review and their time in the spotlight.

This week, two countries on our continent will celebrate their national holidays. On July 4, the United States of America will mark its Independence Day. Yet on July 1, it is Canada Day.

V&R wants to honor our Canadian readers and fans by celebrating you! From British Columbia to Nova Scotia, you logged onto the site, read its contents and engaged in conversations because of what is stated here. From enthusiasts in Edmonton to some of my old friends in Toronto, you promoted the good work on here for the rest of the world to see.

You know that you have a great automotive history in Canada. Though the number of facilities building cars and trucks had been reduced, a center of the industry remains. From Windsor to Oshawa, Canada builds some wonderful vehicles.

To celebrate Canada Day, a Five Favorites is called for. How about the Five Favorite Canadian automobiles? The only criteria will be that these five were/are built in Canada.

So, Canada, here is my Five Faves from your wonderful country!

PONTIAC PARISIENNE: General Motors had an interesting idea. For Canadian consumption, Pontiacs had to ride on Chevrolet chassis in order to run down the Oshawa line. They looked like Pontiacs, but were built on a shorter wheelbase and ran Chevrolet engines and transmissions. It was not because of lack of resources to run the separate divisions on the Oshawa line. It was done to placate Canadian tastes by simplifying the most affordable GM cars sold in that country. Not to mention that it was very expensive to sell US-built Pontiacs in Canada before the enactment of NAFTA. On the top of these Chevy-Pontiacs was the Parisienne – a nameplate right for the Quebecois, but still exuded luxury across the country. It was its own model in 1959 right through the last full-sized Pontiac was produced in 1986. In fact, in 1982, Parisiennes were sold on the USA side of the border, since the Bonneville name went to a smaller car.

DODGE CHALLENGER: In Brampton, Ontario, a special line of automobiles is produced alongside its rear-drive brethren. It took on a retro look – more recent retro, if you consider 1970 as such. The rear-drive LX platform was a worthy successor to the front-drive LH big car developed from Bramlea’s first project – the Renault Premier. You may have remembered badged as an Eagle after Chrysler absorbed AMC. This legacy was squashed, as Chrysler truncated the LX platform for a modern day muscle car. The result is iconic. The Chally is more attainable and livable than its competitors. If you have driven one – you will understand why this Canadian-built badass is revered by Moparians.

SUZUKI SIDEKICK: When GM had a hand in Suzuki, a deal was struck to build Geo-badged cars for the North American market. The purpose was to keep costs down for these inexpensive vehicles. GM and Suzuki jointly built a plant in Ingersoll, Ontario – now fully in GM’s hand. From Ingersoll, CAMI produced this lineup of small SUVs – including a few GM-badged versions – that included Suzuki's own nameplate. Why focus on the Suzuki version. It is their SUV to begin with. Not to mention, it made us forget about the tipsy little Samurai by creating a more stable, more substantial, but lightweight little rock pounder and farmer’s friend. Adding the four-door made the Sidekick worthy for consumption – an efficient small SUV that you took anywhere.

ACURA EL: There had always been the curiosity point when a unique model is sold in the Canadian market – and nowhere else. In this case, Honda had a plant in Alliston, Ontario that built Civics for North America. For Acura to boost sales in Canada, Honda realized that the nation’s mainly urban population would benefit from a sub-Integra sedan that is affordable and luxurious at the same time. Some of the Alliston-built Civics was transformed into EL sedans. ELs sported an exclusive front end, some upgrades in the interior and wheels and the requisite caliper badge. This lasted two generations of Civics, with the next generation sporting the CSX badge. Because the EL (and CSX) served a purpose as the Integra/RSX simply went away, the idea was given new life in the form of today’s ILX compact luxury sedan.

CADILLAC XTS: Until recently, all Cadillacs were built on Clark Avenue in Detroit. No matter where in the world they would go, a Cadillac built in Detroit was indeed the Standard of the World. Now, Cadillacs are built in four countries – including one made right in Oshawa, Ontario. As I found out a couple of weeks ago the XTS is a very good "Big Caddy." Some may argue that my summation of being driver's oriented was a bit enthusiastic. Consider its legacy – big, floaty barges with cushy seats and lazy V8s (no disrespect to the Northstar – I am going back decades) – and understand why the XTS is more focused on driving satisfaction. There is more coming with the adding of the Vsport and the 420 horsepower, twin-turbo version of the 3.6litre V6. Can you say, "O, Canada?"

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