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The Switch

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

J.W. McGee received the Plymouth-Chrysler dealership franchise in 1928.

In 1929 his brother Reg., our father expressed interest in buying his small garage on Hamilton Street (which still stands, now as a Winery).

So to start, Reg. was a sub dealer for Jack from 1929-32 and then Chrysler awarded Reg. the Dodge-DeSoto franchise.

The business was fast expanding and Reg. built a stylish new dealership further up Hamilton Street that opened to a great fanfare in April of 1947.

Chrysler made good dependable cars for several years but from 1949-1954 their styling was well behind the hot selling Chevy and Ford products and even some of the independents.

In 1955 they had a major refresh called “the forward look” and built good quality 1955-56 models.

1957 had a beautiful style change and all new products for Chrysler but that’s when their problems for the ’57-’59 model years began. The build quality of these years was just horrible. Engine problems; water leaks everywhere; torsion bars snapping; tail lights would literally fall out of the car while driving!; door handles broke at a touch; seats would split open; rust-out began in 2 years etc.: We paid out of pocket for new carpets and underneath foundation as the water leaks made the cars moldy and smelly. The same applied for so much of the sealant work that we had done, and we were not reimbursed by Chrysler for this.

1957 is the only year we ever lost money running a car dealership.

Thank goodness that the cars were built better in 1958 and substantially better in 1959 except for the old, out of date, flat-head six engine they kept modifying.

At this time our parents had four sons, and were trying to make a living out of the dealership so we applied for the AMC franchise as Ramblers were coming on strong, to help our business survive.

In 1960 Chrysler restyled their car lines again and not only did they look good, but they were good; and with their soon to be famous Slant Six motor. But, the 1962 lines of cars call the “lean breed”, while good mechanically had quite controversial styling.

General Motors had closed down the Pontiac-Buick-Cadillac dealer in our town and as GM had 50% of North Americas car sales, we applied for the franchise.

Reg. had passed away in Feb. of 1960 and we knew he must have rolled over in his grave after us having been a Chrysler product dealer for over 33 years. We actually felt more remorse resigning AMC. They were a good company to deal with and had good products.

GM Canada was controlled by its USA parent and they would not consider our application unless we cancelled both franchises first and even though it took a lot of nerve, we did. We got busy trying to sell off every new Chrysler product and Rambler in the meantime as we sat breathlessly awaiting the word from GM.

Finally weeks later we were told we had the franchise and on Feb. 22, 1962 we went to GM’s Headquarters in London, Ontario and drove home fourteen new Pontiacs and one Buick.

We proudly drove them all round the square before parking them in front of the dealership.

Ken had stayed home and contacted Ken Hutchins Builders who immediately came to the dealership and took down all the wooden signage off the building and the next day had made and installed the GM nameplates for which our franchise was now made up off; that was Pontiac – Buick – Cadillac – GMC – Vauxhall & Bedford Trucks.

With their beautiful style and build quality we had hit the glory years of GM. Pontiac went on to be the best selling car that year.

and over 90 percent of our customers stayed faithful to us and switched to GM.

At the time of this being written, Nov. 1, 2021 McGee Motors is 3 months short of being a GM dealership for 60 years!

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