S.S. Keewatin

This article was authored by John Smith of Orillia.

In the early 20th century, the Canadian automotive industry was in its infancy, with the vast majority of activity in southern Ontario, near the American border. Early on, the Canadian market was targeted by American manufacturers.  At the time, there were high tariffs on automobiles entering Canada from the USA.  In 1904, the Ford Motor Company solved this problem by establishing the Ford Motor Company of Canada in the village of Walkerville, just across the river from Detroit.  In the beginning, mechanical components were imported from the parent company, and, mated with locally sourced bodies, they were assembled into cars and sold throughout Canada, and indeed, the British Empire.

On October 28th, 1909, The Automobile reported that E.-M.-F. was opening a Canadian branch in Walkerville, to be known as the E.-M.-F. Company of Canada.  Walter Flanders was president and Frank Fisher, plant manager, and although there were mostly American investors, F.H. and J.H. Walker, pillars of the Canadian distillery industry contributed significantly by providing a factory building they owned.  It had been formerly occupied by the Globe Furniture Company and was exchanged by the Walkers for $100,000 worth of shares in the fledgling E.-M.-F. company.  The announcement optimistically stated that machinery would be installed to give the factory the capacity of 100 E.-M.-F. “30” and Studebaker-Flanders “20” cars per day.  It went on to say that the company would be entitled to a 99 percent rebate of the import tariffs, plus access to markets in India, New Zealand and Australia.

By 1910, E.-M.-F.’s were rolling out the door of the factory into the hands of willing buyers.  The lower-priced Flanders, intended to compete with Ford’s Model T, appeared in 1911.  In that same year, there were big changes for the parent company when Studebaker took over E.-M.-F.’s American operation and formed the Studebaker Corporation.  In Canada, based on company literature and advertising, it would seem that the transfer of ownership to the Studebaker Corporation of Canada took place in the summer of 1912, perhaps in August.

As was the case in the USA, all Canadian production cars in the 1913 model year were badged as Studebakers, and designs were significantly updated, thus ending the successful run of E.-M.-F. and Flanders.  Canadian Studebaker literature from this period indicates the company had become much more than a rudimentary assembly plant.   A further note about Frank Fisher, the first plant manager: when the Tudhope Motor Company of Orillia, Ontario fell on hard times in late 1913, he and other investors took it over and formed Fisher Motors, with sales headquarters in Walkerville.  The cars, essentially re-badged Tudhopes using the Everitt design, were still built in the Orillia plant.

When we take a look at the cars themselves, the facts are less clear.  I surmise that Flanders may have taken E.-M.-F.’s Walkerville operation down a path similar to that of the Ford Motor Company of Canada.  At the start, probably most, if not all, mechanical components came from Detroit.  However, I believe that bodies, fenders and sheet metal would have been built or sourced locally. Over time more components might have been produced in the Walkerville plant or by other Canadian suppliers.

Very few Canadian E.-M.-F. or Flanders cars are known to exist, although the survivors provide interesting details.  To start with, they each have a serial number plate indicating Walkerville, and the Canadian parts book indicates a “Walkerville” medallion for the top radiator tank on the 1910-12 cars.   Michael McRee of Doylestown, Pennsylvania has the oldest Canadian E.-M.-F. of which I’m aware.  It is a lovely 1910 touring very similar to its American counterparts.  However, it has a brass radiator with an embossed E.-M.-F.  logo on its the top tank, as used on the American production cars in 1909.  This suggests a phenomenon often observed in Canadian built automobiles from those early days.  Components deemed obsolete in American production lines sometimes turned up in Canada later.  Henry Ford, ever thrifty, was well known for this tactic, and I believe Walter Flanders was, too.E-M-F Canada 1911 Roadster

There are two good examples of 1911 E.-M.-F.’s, the first being a marvelous touring, all original except for one old repaint, in the collection of the Western Development Museum at their Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan campus.  The most obvious Canadian feature is its windshield, produced by Chadwick Bros of Hamilton, Ontario.  Chadwicks supplied lights, carbide generators, windshields and even some carburetors to Ford, McLaughlin-Buick, E.-M.-F., Russell and, no doubt, other manufacturers.  McLaughlin probably used Chadwick products the most consistently from about 1909 to 1912.  With the others, it was a bit “hit and miss”.  Also seen on the Western Development car is the use of nickel plating on the E&J lights.  I haven’t seen evidence of nickel plating being used on any 1911 cars from the Detroit factory.  A close examination of this car would probably determine whether or not the dark blue body and gray wheels is a correct colour combination, but I suspect it was.

My 1911 roadster is another representative.  It, too, features a Chadwick windshield, but also came from the factory with Chadwick lights.  Otherwise, my car seems to be much the same as the American roadsters, although the turtle deck, or locker, as LeRoy Pelletier called it, may be constructed a little differently.  There is no evidence of nickel plating on my car.  My dad painted our E.-M.-F. white, which is definitely not a factory colour, but we have visual evidence that it originally had a dark green, almost black, body and medium green wheels.  American 1911 roadsters came off the line with dark blue bodies and yellow chassis and wheels.  Sadly, the unique radiator medallion is missing on both these 1911 cars.

 E-M-F Canada 1912 Sales FolderThe Antique Auto Museum of Elkhorn, Manitoba has a wonderful 1912 E.-M.-F. and a Flanders of the same year, both fine original cars.  The former has some interesting details.  The lights, windshield, steering column mast, horn, and other small parts are nickel plated.  I have learned that nickel plating was an option on American 1912 E.-M.-F.’s and Flanders, but I wonder if it was standard on the Walkerville E.-M.-F.’s.  The hubcaps are unplated brass, and it also has a brass radiator with the logo embossed in the top tank, just like Michael McRee’s car.  If this was original equipment, it would have been painted black, but it is remarkable to find a radiator deemed obsolete by the parent company three years previously.  Another carryover is the use of the 1909-11 style wheels which employ a system of three removable rings.  All American 1912 E.-M.-F.’s that I’ve seen have been equipped with demountable split rims. I have a Canadian 1912 sales folder.  In one illustration it shows the ringed wheel system, and on the other, the demountable split rims. 

As for the Flanders, I can’t see any obvious differences from its Detroit counterparts.  There seems to be no nickel plating. Neither of these examples has any Chadwick components.

In conclusion, the E.-M.-F. Company of Canada and later the Studebaker Corporation of Canada were quite successful.  They assembled and marketed cars that were almost identical to their American cousins with a sprinkling of unique Canadian details.  It appears they led the way with nickel plating, yet conveniently used up some obsolete pieces.

I am indebted to a number of people who helped me document this article.  First on the list is my good friend and mentor, Glenn Baechler, the dean of Canadian automotive historians.  Cars of Canada, which he co-authored with Hugh Durnford, remains the definitive source of information on automobiles built in this country prior to World War Two.  In addition, Glenn copied everything in his E.-M.-F. file for me, and helped with editing.  Ruth Bitner, Collections Curator of the Western Development Museum, generously had a set of pictures taken of their 1911 E.-M.-F. and was patient with my numerous questions.  Richard Hainer, Curator of the Antique Auto Museum of Elkhorn, cooperated in a similar fashion, providing me with pictures and details of the two cars in his care.  Michael McRee contributed pictures and other details concerning his 1910 touring, and Kathy and Daryl Kemerer have helped in countless ways.   Recently, I was pleased to find that John Daly has a summary of Walkerville serial numbers on his excellent website at  www.emfauto.org .  Finally, the late Walter Grove, who drove his 1910 touring many thousands of miles on tours over three decades, showed me what great cars E.-M.-F.’s can be.

I know there have been other interpretations, but I think E.-M.-F. stands for Ever More Fascinating.  It seems there is always something further for me to learn about these wonderful cars.

About John Smith:
I grew up in Orillia in an old car family.  My father was one of the first antique car collectors in the province. He found my 1911 E.M.F. roadster in a chicken coop in Thornhill about 1952, and had it fixed up and on the road by 1957.  When my wife and I were first married we bought the car from Dad. I made some upgrades, including the rebuilding of the engine and transaxle, and we used it in antique car events for a few years.  After our kids came along, we couldn’t all get in it, even to go for an ice cream cone, so we traded it back in to Dad for a touring car that could accommodate us.  A few years later, Dad sold it to a collector who never used it much.  A few years ago, I purchased it from his estate, and since that time I’ve been making mechanical and cosmetic improvements. To my knowledge, there are only about four authentic 1911 roadsters, and mine is the only one known to be built in E.M.F.’s Canadian plant in Walkerville, Ontario.