M u s e u m  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

In Search of the Canadian Car

CanSciTec Add to My Content  Add this lesson to My Content  
Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario

In Search of the Canadian Car
Cars have shaped Canadian landscapes, cities, and communities. They have impacted Canadians’ lifestyles and even influenced popular culture. This learning collection is based on In Search of the Canadian Car, a Virtual Museum of Canada exhibition created by the Canada Science and Technology Museum. In Search of the Canadian Car explores historical, cultural and social ideas about what might make a car Canadian.

Have your students explore each of the Learning Objects below, and complete the activities that follow.
Designed in Canada
Every car starts as an idea, formed through a process that we call design. How important is design in telling if a car is Canadian? Is there something about the way a car looks—its form—that we recognize as Canadian? Or is it a car’s pistons and gears—its function—that truly matters?

Meet a couple of Canadian car designers, see how they work, and learn about the process of car design.
The Designer’s Role in Creating Cars
In this video, Paul Deutschman talks about the designer’s role in creating cars. Paul Deutschman was born in 1954 in Arvida, Quebec. He studied automotive engineering at Hatfield Polytechnic in England, and honed his design skills at Jaguar and Rover. Today, designs emerging from Paul’s Montreal studio, Deutschman Design, are internationally acclaimed.
Canada Science and Technology Museum
© 2011, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Play the Video File

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Design concept rendering of the Porsche Spexter, 1987
Design concept rendering of the Porsche Spexter, 1987
Paul Deutschman gained recognition as a car designer for his work on the Porsche Spexter—a car that would influence Porsche’s later designs.

Deutschman Design Inc.




© Deutschman Design Inc. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
The Main Steps in Designing Today’s Cars
In this video, Jacques Ostiguy outlines the steps involved in designing a car. Jacques Ostiguy was born in 1947 in Montreal. In 1975, he graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Jacques has worked with Chrysler, Ford and Bombardier, as well as for renowned designer Raymond Loewy. He also taught industrial design at Carleton University in Ottawa for 20 years.
Canada Science and Technology Museum
© 2011, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Play the Video File

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Full-Size design concept rendering of the Plymouth Volaré, 1975
Full-Size design concept rendering of the Plymouth Volaré by Jacques S. Ostiguy, 1975
Jacques Ostiguy presented this full-size drawing of the Plymouth Volaré in a 1975 design competition. His was the winning design, beating out 175 others in the competition.

Jacques S. Ostiguy




© Jacques S. Ostiguy. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Activity 1: Is there such a thing as “Canadian” design?
There are many considerations that automakers take into account when designing a car for the Canadian market. Can you imagine what these might be? How would these influences impact cars designed for the Canadian market?

Break into groups and take a position on the following topic: Is there such a thing as “Canadian car design”? Why or why not? Be prepared to support your position with research notes.
Activity 2: Designing a Car
Work in groups and follow the steps below (view Jacques Ostiguy’s video):
1. Create a design brief. Your design brief should indicate the price range for your car, your target market, the main features that your car will have, and sales potential (where in Canada your car might be sold).
2. Brainstorm ways in which your car could fulfill the requirements of your design brief.
3. Break into groups of three to design a car.
4. As a large group, select one car design for further development.
5. Work as a large group to finalize any remaining details. Make decisions about comfort features, colours, and materials. Sketch out the winning design, and discuss options for a public unveiling strategy (how will you announce and market your new car).
6. Present your ‘finished product’ to the class. Get creative!
Made in Canada
Canada has long been a major player in the auto industry—it was the world’s second largest producer of cars in the 1920s and ’30s.

In the early days of car-making, every vehicle was hand-crafted by individual craftsmen in small shops. As time passed, car companies employed tradesmen in ever-larger factories to increase production. Today, cars pour off of highly-mechanized assembly lines—a system pioneered by Henry Ford in 1908.

It’s increasingly difficult to classify cars as ‘domestic’ or ‘foreign.’ Many so-called foreign cars are actually produced—in whole or in part—in Canada. Might a car’s method of production—whether it is handcrafted or mass-produced—affect how Canadian it truly is?
Henry Seth Taylor Steam Buggy, 1867
Henry Seth Taylor Steam Buggy, 1867
Henry Seth Taylor designed and built his Steam Buggy in Stanstead, Quebec. It was the very first car to be designed and constructed in Canada. Henry Seth Taylor, a jeweller and clockmaker, designed the whole machine—steam engine, working parts, frame and body. He created many of the working parts himself. Construction of the Steam Buggy is believed to have started in 1865, and it was unveiled at the Stanstead Fall Fair in 1867.

Canada Science and Technology Museum


CSTM 1983.0423

© 2011, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Dofasco-ArcelorMittal basic oxygen steelmaking facility, 2004
Dofasco-ArcelorMittal basic oxygen steelmaking facility, 2004
This image shows the control pulpit of a crane. The worker is loading molten iron into the oxygen furnace, in which scrap steel and iron are combined to make steel.

Photo: Vytas Beniusis




© Dofasco-ArcelorMittal. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Champion Spark Plug Co. of Canada Ltd., 1935
Champion Spark Plug Co. of Canada Ltd., 1935
This image shows the Champion Spark Plug Company’s Assembly and Inspection Department. What can you learn about auto parts production in the early twentieth century from this photograph? How have work environments changed since this time?

National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada PA-176477




© Library and Archives Canada. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Activity 3: Autoworker’s Journal
On your own, write two fictitious journal entries from the point of view of an auto worker. The first entry should depict a worker making the transition from hand crafting to assembly line production in the early 20th century. The second entry should reflect a current viewpoint.
Activity 4: World Events and the Automotive Sector
Choose an event from the list below and write a newspaper article revealing how it impacted Canada’s car industry. Use your class history resources and the In Search of the Canadian Car virtual exhibition to help you in your investigation. Write your article as if you were a reporter at the time of the event. Be sure to explain how your chosen events impacted primary, secondary and tertiary industries related to the automotive sector.

• Industrial Revolution
• First World War
• Second World War
• Auto Pact
• World Oil Crisis
Marketed to Canadians
Can advertising make a car Canadian? Marketing experts know that when Canadians go shopping, they look for reflections of themselves in what they buy. Companies spend money on promotional campaigns that present their cars in the glow of Canadian images, history and culture—using Canadian celebrities and images of ‘typical’ Canadian life to sell cars. Companies also brand cars as Canadian by choosing names and adding features designed to appeal specifically to the Canadian market.
Brochure Cover, Toyota Camry 1999
Brochure Cover, Toyota Camry 1999
The background for this advertising brochure depicts the work of iconic Canadian landscape painter Tom Thomson (1877-1917).

Toyota Canada, Inc.




© Toyota Canada, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
General Motors advertisement featuring the Dionne quintuplets, 1940
General Motors advertisement featuring the Dionne quintuplets, 1940
The world-renowned Dionne quintuplets were born in 1934 near North Bay, Ontario. They were a popular sensation and their image was used to sell many products.

National Home Monthly, April 1940




© General Motors of Canada Limited. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Activity 5: The Canadian Brand
Visit the In Search of the Canadian Car virtual exhibition’s gallery and familiarize yourself with the advertisements presented.

As a class, examine and discuss three to five advertisements, each containing different imagery and ideas.

• What do the ads convey about Canada?
• To what degree do these messages reflect realities about Canadian life and identity?
• How does each advertisement try to appeal to Canadian identity?

Working on your own, select a household item and ‘re-brand’ it as Canadian. Draw from the concepts and imagery discussed in class. Pitch your Canadian product to the class.
Chosen by Canadians
Canadian consumers’ choices are influenced by many things including patriotism, practicality, and the preferences of other Canadians. Canada’s consumers state their preferences whenever they buy a car—their choices determine which cars will dominate Canadian roads. If the car becomes widely popular across Canada, is it somehow ‘more’ Canadian?

Canadians also express their relationships with cars through images, and music. When a car reflects its owner’s personality, or becomes part of the culture, does that make it Canadian?
Volkswagen Beetle, 1958
Volkswagen Beetle, 1958
Canadians loved the Beetle for its reliability, simplicity and low gas consumption. They also liked its low price. The Beetle was first sold in Canada in 1952. Its popularity grew as consumers looked for alternatives to North America’s large, gas-guzzling cars. By 1960, the Beetle was Canada’s third best-selling car.

Volkswagenwerk GMBH


CSTM 1983.0425

© 2011, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Activity 6: The Beetle, and Conflicting Symbolism
The Beetle was a best-selling car in 1960s Canada—so much so that it became an icon of this era. However, the Beetle has an infamous past—it was Hitler’s “Car of the People.”

Visit the In Search of the Canadian Car virtual exhibition to research the history of the Beetle. Learn more about the Second World War, as well as the 1960s.

Working in small groups, use the questions below to compare and contrast perceptions of the Volkswagen Beetle. Record your answers.

• How was the Beetle perceived by consumers in the 1960s? How was the car perceived by youth?
• What did the Beetle represent in Second World War Germany?
• How are these perceptions different? How might they be similar?
Cars in our Lives
Cars have become a defining feature in our culture. Love them or hate them, all Canadians have been deeply affected by the automobile. Cars have changed our lifestyles, altered our landscapes, and captured our imaginations. For some, cars are truly ‘more than a machine.’
“Just Married,” 1942
“Just Married,” 1942
This photograph was taken three years before the end of the Second World War. During the war years (1939 to 1945), industry focused on the war effort. The production of personal vehicles ceased, and gasoline was rationed.

City of Edmonton Archives, EA-160-898




© City of Edmonton Archives. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Park Royal Shopping Center, 1952
Park Royal Shopping Center, 1952
The Park Royal shopping center in British Columbia was Canada’s first park and shop mall.

Photo: Art Jones




© Vancouver Public Library. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Copeland Park Suburbs, 1959
Copeland Park Suburbs, 1959
This image gives an impression of what early suburbs looked like from the air. The first suburban development in North America was in Levittown, New York in 1951.

Photo: Alex Onoszko




© City of Ottawa Archives. All Rights Reserved.
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: In Search of the Canadian Car
Activity 7: Cars and Where We Live
Focusing on your community, examine maps from different time periods (spanning at least 20 yrs). Write a five-page report that addresses the following points.
• How has your community changed over time? Has the population increased or decreased? Why?
• What developments have impacted your community or city? Would these developments have been possible without cars?
• Are the same core services (schools, stores) available in your community? Are they located in the same places? Why?
• How has the need to accommodate cars changed the landscape? Are there more or fewer green spaces? Have waterways moved to make way for roads?
• How do you think your community will look in the next twenty years? What role do you believe that automobiles will play in this change?

Learning Objectives

• Students will identify and expand upon the various environmental and social influences that might impact on the design and development of a Canadian product.
• Students will identify the various steps required to bring an idea from concept to execution.
• Students will identify how the manufacturing sector has changed over time.
• Students will identify and understand the impacts of major world events on the automotive industry in Canada, including related primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
• Students will identify Canadian images and icons used in advertisements through history, and will apply their knowledge in the development of new images and promoting new products.
• Students will identify major events that had an impact on the depiction of Canada and Canadian values and icons.
• Students will describe and summarize various events and processes that might lead to the success or failure of a particular Canadian car.
• Students will describe and analyze historical information related to cars, and draw conclusions about the development of perceptions about certain cars.
• Students will understand and describe the impact and influence of cars on their current lives, and on the development of their communities over time.
• Students will summarize and analyze the various impacts that cars have had on the landscape and urban development of Canada.