Tag Archives: car

Newfoundland Mustang the First

Archival Moment

April 17, 1964

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

There was a bit of excitement at George Parson’s Ford dealership in St. Johns on April 17, 1964, a crowd of people were at the dealership looking at a Wimbledon White convertible with the 260 cubic-inch V-8, it was the first time that any of them had seen a Mustang.

In the crowd was Stanley Tucker, an airline captain with Eastern Provincial Airlines (EPA)  based out of St. Johns.  Tucker, fell in love with the car and told George Parsons dealership agent Harry Philips  he wanted to buy that Mustang. Philips originally hesitated wanting to hold on to the car to get a little more publicity out of it. When Tucker came with a check in hand the next day, Parson’s sold the car to Captain Tucker.

Tucker at the time did not know it but  he had unknowingly purchased Mustang #1, the very first Mustang off the assembly line.  In an interview with Mustang Monthly Magazine years later Tucker said:

 “For a long time, I was the only Mustanger in Newfoundland. It was quite an experience. Many times, other motorists would force me to the side of the road and ask me about the car – what it was, who made it, how did I like it and how much did it cost? The car has been a real joy to own and drive. Getting into it is something like slipping into the cockpit, and I feel as much a part of the machine as I do when I’m flying.”

Not long after Tucker unknowingly purchased the now-historic car, representatives from Ford learned that their Canadian promotional vehicle, the first-ever Mustang, had been let loose. Ford wanted the car back, but Tucker wanted to drive it. Tucker drove the car about St. John’s for nearly two years, putting 10,633 miles on the odometer.

Meanwhile, Mustang sales blossomed. Before Mustang, Falcon held the Ford record of building a million vehicles in two years, 16 days. Mustang broke that record by reaching the million mark in one year, 11 months, and 24 days.

As Ford prepared for the millionth Mustang celebration, a Ford official made Captain Tucker an offer: In exchange for the first Mustang, Ford would trade the millionth Mustang. At the millionth Mustang celebration in Dearborn, Michigan on March 2, 1966, Tucker stood at the end of the assembly line with a Ford executive and accepted his new car.

While Tucker posed with the millionth Mustang, a white convertible, he didn’t actually receive that car. Tucker had earlier placed an order with George Parson’s Ford in St. Johns for a 1966 Silver Frost convertible with a black top.

Meanwhile, the white Mustang #1 with VIN 5F08F100001 once again became property of Ford Motor Company. The Mustang that only knew Newfoundland roads is now at home in the Henry Ford Museum.  In 1987, the car went on permanent display in the “Automobiles in American Life” exhibit, still sporting the 1965 Newfoundland and Labrador license plates.

Archival Hint:  Did you know that when trying to date a photograph  often one of the factors considered is the age of the cars that appear in the photographs.  Most archives have access to car experts  – antique dealers  – that help in the dating process.

“A light sulkey, suitable for an outport clergyman”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 6, 1879

Sulkey for sale

Sulkey for sale

On July 6, 2013, Pope Francis told the Catholic bishops and priests from around the world that it pained him to see clergy driving ‘flashy cars’, and told them to pick something more “humble”.

This observation by the Pope that clergy like “flashy” transportation is nothing new, on July 6, 1879  the local St. John’s newspapers were advertising “the sale of a light sulkey, suitable for an outport Clergyman.”

The sulkey is a lightweight two-wheeled, single-seat cart that was used as a form of rural transport in many parts of the world. The sulkey was the top of the line in transportation. It was not some old slow dray, not some old wagon, not some old cart, the sulkey was sleek and fast and as the advertisers put it in the day “suitable for outport clergymen and doctors.”

They are called “sulkies” because the driver prefers to be alone.

The clergyman’s penchant for the flashy is in short not a new phenomenon. Certainly the advertisers 134 years ago saw the potential for vanity in the clergymen.

The reality in Newfoundland was however that the sulkey might not have been the most practical for the ‘outport clergymen.’ With the poor state of the roads in much of outport Newfoundland the more robust option was the horse and cart.

The advertisement for the ‘light sulkey” appeared in the daily papers in St. John’s for most of the summer. It is not known if it sold!!

Note: There are two variations on the spelling of the word. Newfoundland papers refer to sulkey. American publications use sulky.

Reckless Drivers – Speeding on St. John’s streets

Archival Moment

April 20, 1903

 

H.D. Reid's automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John's, NL, 1908

H.D. Reid’s automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John’s, NL, 1908

It was on April 20, 1903 that the first two cars were imported into Newfoundland by Robert G. and Harold D. Reid. The Reid family was one of the wealthiest in the colony. At the time they owned the Reid fleet of ships, the Newfoundland Railway and were the holders of large land, timber, and mineral concessions in the colony.

A few weeks later on May 4, 1903 , Robert G. Reid’s “Thomas Flyer” became the first gasoline driven automobile  to be operated in Newfoundland, when a Mr. Stewart, one of the Reid staff,  took the car for a short drive  in St. John’s. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported that the car:

 “made its trial trip in the West End this morning and was the object  of curiosity to all who saw  it speeding up the promenade and down the southside.”

The following week the Telegram, on the occasion of Harold D Reid’s initial operation of his vehicle, reported:

“It did not go fast through the city, but got up to a speed of about 12 miles an hour in some places on the road. The vehicle is a four wheeler and cost Mr. Reid landed here $1600.00. It is run by a gasoline motor. It is called a Locomobile…”

Not everyone wanted to share the road with these new “autos.”  In the city cabmen and farmers complained about the noise of the ‘autos’ that tended to make their horses skittish.  It was also true that many of the good citizens of St. John’s were also reluctant to share the streets with autos.

The editorial writer for the St. John’s newspaper, “The Workman”, on August 2, 1918 declared in a bold headline, “Reckless Autoists” that:

“The life of the average pedestrian in the City (St. John’s) these days is one of perpetual peril. Let him attempt to cross a street, in broad daylight, and he is lucky if some auto doesn’t come around  the corner, at a rate of 15 miles an hour, and just miss him by a scant foot, while the chauffeur glowers at him as much to say “Get off the earth you lobster. What right have you to be on the street?”

The newspaper continued that the car was here to stay but that the police should be diligent in convicting those that exceeded eight miles an hour.   He wrote:

 “The auto has come to stay off course. But a lot of haughty daring drivers seem to forget that the pedestrian was here first.  Even he has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” The police should take the number of any auto driver  who goes around the corner faster than eight miles an hour, and the magistrate should soak him the limit every time.”

The number of cars imported into Newfoundland continued to increase; by 1925 there were 952 cars and 102 commercial vehicles. Upon joining Confederation Newfoundland boasted 9,022 cars and 4,743 commercial vehicles. Today in Newfoundland and Labrador there are more vehicles on the roads than there are people living in the province with almost 633,000 cars and trucks. There are about 500,000 people living in the province.

Recommended Reading: Motor Vehicles, Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume Three.

Old Lost  Word: Cabman – The driver of a horse-drawn carriage.

Car words: auto automobile, car, vehicle, locomobile,