S.S. Keewatin

This article was authored by John Smith of Orillia.

The Early Years

In 1854, William Tudhope got his start as a blacksmith near Jarratt in Oro Township where he made iron hardware, harness and wagon parts.  By 1876, he had relocated to a site on Andrew Street in Orillia where he expanded into building horse drawn carriages of all types.    With the advent of the railway across the country, he travelled throughout Canada, setting up a network of sales agents.  This visionary approach resulted in excellent sales and an ongoing expansion of the plant’s capacity.  It is believed that at its peak, the Tudhope Carriage Company was the largest producer of horse drawn vehicles in the country and maybe even the British Empire.

Additionally, the Tudhopes founded several other local companies, including the Orillia Tudhope Anderson Company (later known as OTACO), Standard Chemical, Tools and Hardware, and Canada Wood Specialities, a large woodworking factory.

The Age of the Automobile

With the arrival of the new century, automobile production was the latest thing in manufacturing across North America, with designers and entrepreneurs all wanting to get in on the ground floor.  In Orillia, the Tudhope Carriage Company, now under the leadership of William’s son James, had been producing high quality horse drawn vehicles for more than a generation with a sales network all across Canada. Like many other Canadian businessmen, J.B., as he was known, investigated the possibility of using American expertise in a car built for the Canadian market.  In those years, there were high tariffs on the import of automobiles from the USA, so it was advantageous to produce cars locally.

By September 1908, the Orillia Packet and Times was reporting that a Tudhope automobile was being tested and demonstrated.  Combining mechanical components purchased from the W. H. McIntyre Company of Auburn, Indiana with Tudhope bodies, fenders, wheels and trim, the first Orillia built cars, known as Tudhope McIntyres, were soon available for sale to the automobile-hungry public.  With high, buggy type wheels and simple body design, they closely resembled horse drawn carriages, but their two- cylinder, air-cooled engines, double chain drive and wheel steering meant owners could drive their vehicles down the road without the help of the traditional horse.

Production figures are lost, but in a few months, Tudhopes produced a substantial number of these primitive automobiles, and they were marketed all across the country through the company’s carriage sales agents.  They had some prestigious early customers, including the Bell Telephone Company.   In August of 1909, however, disaster struck when the factory burned to the ground, just as cars were being readied for the CNE automotive show.

Undaunted, J.B. immediately commenced planning the construction of a new factory to produce carriages and automobiles.  Within weeks, the work began, and J.B. sought arrangements with other American automobile companies.  He knew that the McIntyre design was outdated and would quickly lose public appeal. Soon he contracted with the Metzger Motor Car Company of Detroit Michigan to build a Canadian version of their Everitt 30.  William Metzger and Byron Everitt, the principals of the Metzger company, were, in those days, in the same league as Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers.

J.B. was not a man to anything by halves, and this time he intended to build automobiles in their entirety, rather than relying on American parts.  To this end, he established the Tudhope Motor Company as a separate entity, purchased state of the art machinery and looked to build a team of men with experience in the automotive industry.  Using the Everitt design, Tudhopes cast engine blocks, cut gears, stamped out frame components, built bodies, and assembled everything into high quality machines.

1911 Tudhope Catalogue The new models, which began to come off the line for the 1911 model year,  were known as Everitt 30’s, but sales materials pointed out the many special Tudhope features that added to their value.  With four cylinder, water cooled engines, magneto ignition, and three speed transmissions, they represented some of the best ideas in automotive engineering in an era when the automobile was in a constant state of evolution.  By early 1912, a sleek and powerful six cylinder car was added to the line, and in all models body and fender design showed the beginnings of streamlining.

The future looked rosy, but in mid-1912 and without notice, the American parent company was swallowed up by an early automotive conglomerate, designed to compete with the recently formed General Motors and the skyrocketing Ford Motor Company.  The business arrangement with Tudhopes was terminated, and production of the American Everitt 30 ceased.   It also meant the end of research and development, because there was dependence on the Metzger company for those services.  Left on their own, the Orillia operation carried on, with the cars now being known simply as Tudhopes.1912 Tudhope Model 4-36

By 1913, electric lighting and starting became standard equipment, eliminating the need to crank start the engines or fiddle with acetylene and kerosene lamps.  However, sales were slipping, due to competition with lower priced vehicles such as the Model T Ford, and aggravated by aging engineering.  There were also challenges in producing sufficient numbers of cars with a largely inexperienced staff.  Later that year, the Tudhope Motor Company was taken over by Frank Fisher and a group of investors.  The brand was changed to Fisher, and the sales offices were moved to Walkerville, Ontario, but the cars were still built in the Orillia plant.

However, sales continued to be weak, and by early 1914 the end was near.  The advent of World War One marked the end of automobile production in Orillia, with remaining parts being used for ambulances bound for European battlegrounds.  Meanwhile, Tudhopes were continuing production of horse drawn vehicles, although with declining sales as more and more people made the switch to automobiles.

New Directions

After the war, through a branch called Orillia Bodies, Tudhopes continued with an involvement in the automotive industry through manufacturing bodies for a variety of marques, including Overland, Essex, Yellow Cab, and Brooks.  There was even the occasional custom body designed and built, including one for a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

Fisher Motors, in their part of the plant, made a broad range of automotive accessories and also developed an innovative ice cream scoop which proved to be an excellent seller. It was available in various sizes, for both domestic and commercial use.

By the late 1920’s, Fisher wound up operations, and in the process, Tudhopes assumed production of the ice cream scoops.  They also got into the production of electric stoves, arc welders, heaters, and other wares.  The carriage trade, understandably, faded away to nothing.  J. B. Tudhope died in 1936, and leadership of the company was passed on to his son William (or W. O). Tudhope.

World War Two brought another few years of government contracts.   Tudhope Metal Specialties, as it was then known, entered the post war era building electrical appliances and, of course, the popular ice cream scoops.  Eventually reorganized by Jack Spencer, W.O.’s son in law, Tudhope Specialties found a niche as a sub contract supplier to other manufacturers of products in the sheet metal fields.  The family sold the business to the American Lear Siegler company in 1966, thus ending a long and honourable involvement in Orillia’s industrial community.

Specifications 1909 Tudhope McIntyre

  • 2 cylinder, air cooled “boxer” style engine (ie opposed cylinders)
  • Ca 16 horsepower
  • Fan blades cast into flywheel
  • Battery ignition
  • Mechanical oil pump supplies oil to bearings and pistons
  • Crank start
  • Two speeds forward, one reverse, planetary transmission
  • Double chain drive to rear wheels
  • Mechanical brakes on rear wheels only
  • Rack and pinion steering
  • Hard rubber tires
  • Cruising speed 15-20mph
  • Acetylene headlight, kerosene side and tail lights
  • Brass canister on running board is used to generate acetylene gas for headlight (calcium carbide crystals in bottom, water in top, water drips on crystals, produces acetylene gas)
  • Pedals control brakes, exhaust cutout (bypasses muffler) and low gear
  • Shift lever controls high gear and reverse
  • Two small levers under steering wheel are spark advance and throttle
  • Until the Ford Model T was introduced, virtually all North American cars were right hand drive.  The Model T was left hand drive.  Gradually all cars changed to left hand drive.  The rationale for right hand drive may have been that, with very little traffic on the roads of the day, it was better for the driver to monitor his distance from the ditch.

Specifications 1912 Tudhope 4.36

  • Four cylinder, water cooled engine, ca 220 cubic inches
  • Crank start
  • 36 horsepower
  • Splash oil lubrication
  • Cooling system includes waterpump, radiator and belt driven fan
  • Dual ignition (battery and coil for starting, magneto for running)
  • Gravity fed Holley carburetor
  • Leather faced cone clutch
  • Three speeds and reverse, standard H pattern shift
  • Worm and sector steering
  • Transmission is part of rear end assembly, known as a transaxle
  • Two sets of brakes on rear wheels only
  • Pedals are clutch, brake and throttle
  • Levers on top of steering wheel are spark advance and throttle
  • Tires are pneumatic, and are 36 inches in diameter
  • Design of rims supposedly made it easy and quick to change tires (not really true….)
  • Acetylene headlights, kerosene side and tail lights
  • Acetylene was provided by the silver coloured canister on the right running board.  It was known as a Prestolite tank.
  • Nickel trim (less polishing than brass).  This was a new feature for many 1912 automobiles, including Tudhope
  • Equipment included windshield, top, side curtains, spare tire, tool box, tools and speedometer.  Clock was a period accessory.
  • The gearing on the right front wheel drives the speedometer
  • Upholstery is leather
  • Dashboard and door top trim are mahogany
  • Originally Tudhope cars would have been brush painted, and hand striped
  • Tudhopes built the 1911-13 cars almost in their entirety (cast blocks, forged crankshafts, cut gears, pressed frame rails, made wheels, etc.)  This was actually more than Ford produced in his own factories for his Model T’s in the same years.
  • They purchased things like electrical equipment, carburetors, lights, windshields, horns and radiators.

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.