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The 1939 Royal Tour Cars


You might wonder why I wrote this article on the cars provided for the Royal tour of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939,  but I did have a little interaction with a couple of the vehicles.

Four cars were built, a Lincoln, a Chrysler Imperial and two McLaughlin Buicks.

The Lincoln was used for the USA portion of the visit. Like all of the cars, it was painted in Royal maroon. It was a totally custom built automobile. All of these cars were built with special compartments that held rain coats and umbrellas in case they were needed.  The roof on these huge vehicles required time and four strong men to raise them. After its use it was sold to noted car collector Richard Kughn of Detroit Michigan. It was brought out of retirement once and that was for the Queen's visit to Canada in 1959. Eventually it ended up in the Henry Ford Museum.

 



 

The Chrysler Royal model (quite fittingly) was used in the Canadian portion of the tour.  It started out as a seven passenger sedan that was converted to an open convertible. The photo of the car that you see is one that hung in my father’s dealership office for decades. It was sent to him by Chrysler Canada to commemorate the visit. This picture has now been in my possession for at least 40 years and hangs now in my literature shop.

 



 

There were two McLaughlin-Buicks built- How come not Cadillacs? The McLaughlin-Buicks were known as Canada’s car, so fittingly they were chosen. Actual fact was two Buick convertible sedans were sent over from Flint Michigan for renovations needed to make them into tour cars and they were quickly badged as McLaughlin Buicks.  They were enormous at just under 23 feet long which at the time made them the longest cars ever built in the world, and with weighing in at 3.3 tons when finished they sure were huge. All of the cars were toured with windows in the upright position and the windows were built of bullet proof glass. Under the high seating were compartments filled with rifles in case of need for protection.

 



 

In May of 1978 I saw an ad for some McLaughlin Buick cars for sale in Oshawa.  I went to see a Mr. Larry Norton who at this time worked for General Motors and lived with his mother in Oshawa. During this visit I purchased three cars: 1916 and 1921 McLaughlin-Buick touring cars, and a 1923 Durant Touring. When I returned to make arrangements for them to be transported home, Mr. Norton said "I have another car you might be interested in". With that he opened up garage doors and there sat the 1939 McLaughlin-Buick Royal tour car with both bumpers removed as it was so long it would not fit in his garage otherwise. I carefully looked over this so-well-preserved piece of history and went home.  All the while it was stuck in my head- this most famous car that I could possibly own. He sent me a picture of it showing the car on parade and written on the back was his firm price still visible to this day $70,000.00 .  That was a lot of money in 1978.  However, I was still interested and he said he was going to have the car out shortly for a car club tour and I could see it better there.  I had already booked to go on this tour of the Oshawa area with one of my old cars and when I met Larry there, he took me to the Royal tour car.  He let me sit behind the wheel and said- "take it for a drive!"  It was so large and cumbersome and remember, no power steering in those days, I thought I will pass on this car. Also I knew I would be pestered at home for photo shoots, wedding requests and so on. Eventually the car ended up in the Science & technology Museum in Ottawa which is where it rightly belongs.

The other McLaughlin-Buick tour car ended up being purchased directly from General Motors by a lady who worked there. She took it to her home in Victoria B.C. Eventually a man by the name of Verne Bethel who lived nearby bought the car from her and for many years it led an active life under his ownership.  Other Royalty and dignitaries were chauffeured in this car. Eventually it was sold to the Reynolds Auto Museum in Westaskawin Sk. where it sits to this day.

 

So that ends my story of some of the most famous Canadian built cars ever produced by the big three.

 





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