Gone Autos Podcast #3 transcript

Stu Chapman talking about the Studebaker collectible All Canadian Car
Todd Ruel
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(00:01) Stu Chapman: It was a real earth-shattering revelation to hear Bob’s voice again after all these years. It was a real time capsule.

[Music Opens]

(00:08) Todd Ruel: You’re listening to a Gone Autos Podcast. OK. Imagine you have this rare collectible, but you have no information about it. You’ve always wondered who made this thing and why. Wouldn't it be great if you could just call someone who helped to make your collectible? Studebaker fans, turn up the volume. We have questions and Stu Chapman of Studebaker Canada has the answer next on the Gone Autos Podcast.

[Music Ends]

(00:31) Ruel: We’re glad you’re here for a special version of the Gone Autos Podcast. I’m Todd Ruel, the top wrench here at Gone Autos. I collect a lot of vintage commercials and movies created by orphan car companies. Recently, I bought a very rare record put out by Studebaker Canada. It’s a comedy record called All Canadian Car. There are a lot of things I didn’t understand about it, so I asked Stu Chapman, Studebaker’s last director of advertising and promotion, to explain it. Stu joins us here on the podcast today.

Thanks for being here with us, Stu.

(01:00) Chapman: Pleasure to be with you, Todd.

(01:02) Ruel: Now, before you and I talk, let’s share this recording with our audience. Here it is, a comedy sketch called All Canadian Car.

[Sketch Begins]

(01:19) Bob Orr: Hi, this is Bob Orr. We at our end of Studebaker thoroughly enjoyed this bit of humor by Rawhide of CBC. We thought it might give you a chuckle too.

(01:34) Executive: Ladies and gentlemen, please. Huh! We’re tickled pink for this tremendous enthusiastic response you are showing here, but in order that every one of you may see and come here and, uh, get in and try out this first truly distinctive car, we’re going to have to ask you to, uh, maintain a little bit of order here and I’ll try to take you one at a time.

This gentleman was here at 6 o’clock this morning. Sir, would you come through first?

(01:56) Nebbish Customer: Thank you very much.

(01:57) Salesman: What do you think of it, fella?

(01:58) Customer: Oh it’s a beauty. Really is. All Canadian?

(02:01) Salesman: All Canadian. The first 100% Canadian operation. It’s just oozing with Canadiana, this car.

(02:07) Customer: Gee! That’s a good looking – what would the horsepower be?

(02:10) Salesman: Well, ha ha! We’re trying to get away from that rather slavish American term ‘horsepower’. It’s a typical American automotive term. We’re rating this thing in, uh, something Canadian and you’re looking here, sir, at an engine that will deliver 250 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

(02:24) Customer: Pardon?

(02:25) Salesman: The car is built right here in Canada and in the city of Hamilton, and so we’re rating all these cars this year in Tiger-Cats. 250 Tiger-Cats under that hood. Of course with the power pack and the dual carburetor system, that car, that engine, we can delivery you, uh, 300 Tiger-Cats.

(02:40) Customer: Wow!

(02:41) Salesman: 300, equivalent of Bernie Faloney under that hood waiting to take you over center. [laughs]

(02:46) Customer: Oh gee! It’s – it’s really nice!

(02:49) Salesman: Yeah, we're very proud of this.

(02:51) Customer: Uh what, uh, what’s the design?

(02:53) Salesman: That’s a Fisher body.

(02:54) Customer: Uh…I thought you were getting away from things American. That sounds very American.

(02:58) Salesman: No. No. No. John Fisher.

(03:00) Customer: Oh I see.

(03:01) Salesman: Yes. John Fisher submitted the design. And if you’ll notice, you probably have noticed already starting here with the grill, these, uh, it’s a top, uh, grill and a bottom grill, it’s never been done before, to simulate the teeth of a beaver.

(03:11) Customer: Oh yes!

(03:12) Salesman: And then you see the bumperettes come out like two little paws.

(03:15) Customer: Oh I see it now.

(03:16) Salesman: And then the whole thing sweeps back over the engine and, uh, up over the body itself just like a – uh, it’s, uh, meant to simulate a sleek, wet beaver. John Fisher, uh, gave us this design and we went with it, because we wanted to be all Canadian.

(03:28) Customer: Oh yes, that is nice.

(03:30) Salesman: You can see the little vents here, uh, just, uh, on the hood, that’s sort of the beady eyes of the beaver.

(03:36) Customer: Oh yes! It, it almost expects to be gnawing at wood.

(03:39) Salesman: Well, as a matter of fact, it will. If you hit a lamp post, uh, there’s a button you press just before impact, and the grill chomp, chomp, chomps, and, uh, gnaws through that and it reduces the impact on the car. Just cuts right through like the teeth.

(03:49) Customer: For heaven’s sake!

(03:50) Salesman: Well it’s Canadian right through from its lovely front bumper to its, uh, to its back, uh.

(03:55) Customer: Yes, I was going to ask you. What is this back here? Well that’s about 20 feet behind the car. It’s like an old deflated inner tube or something.

(04:02) Salesman: Uhm…we’re a little, uhm, ah, a little, uhm, not embarrassed, shall I say, a little squeamish about this, but we wanted to stop at the back bumper with this, uh, Fisher body, but John told us, no, it’s either all or nothing at all. And so we had to put this on it. It might come off in a year or two, but for the time being, to appease John Fisher and his design, we’ve got to leave it on. It’s, it’s really nothing functional. It’s too flat to put any luggage in. It’s meant simply to simulate the, ahem, the tail of the beaver.

(04:29) Customer: Oh.

(04:30) Salesman: It’ll, uh, it won't cause you too much trouble dragging it along through traffic there. It will cut the mileage down by about half a mile, I guess. But, uh, as I say, uhm, unless we took this, we couldn’t get the design until from John. As John pointed out, he said it’d be an insult to our national symbol if we, uh, designed a beaver style body without the tail. So…

(04:47) Customer: It – it looks quite long. This is all flying up there at the back line just, uh, limp and flaccid on the floor.

(04:52) Salesman: Yeah. Well that’s the beaver tail. We’ll try and, uh, get away from this in a year or two.

(04:56) Customer: I see.

(04:57) Salesman: Would ya like to get inside and see the interior?

(04:58) Customer: Oh I would.

(04:59) Salesman: In ya go, fella!

(05:01) Customer: Oh gee! It’s nice in here.

(05:03) Salesman: That radio on the dash there, we got a jamming device, it cuts out all American station. You get nothing but Canadian stations on there.

(05:08) Customer: Oh that’s wonderful. And those are the quietest doors I’ve ever heard in my life. They just – I didn’t hear a sound.

(05:13) Salesman: That’s right. There’re no doors.

(05:15) Customer: No – no doors?

(05:17) Salesman: No. Uh, we here again felt that doors would be confining and this car is meant to symbolize Canada. It’s a big country. It’s a vast country. Expansive. And we thought that wonderful open feeling that, uh, is engendered by the name Canada could be best achieved by leaving the doors off the car.

(05:33) Customer: For heaven’s sake!

(05:36) Salesman: And uh…what else now can we tell you about it?

(05:38) Customer: Well I was wondering about the price?

(05:39) Salesman: Oh the price. Uh, I can't give an exact figure on the price yet, fella. Uhm, we, uh, we’re having a discussion with, uh, Canadian, uh, political figures about this. Uh, there’s a little bit of a hold-up on the price. Uh, Mr., uhm, what’s his name, that, uh, social credit fellow…

(05:53) Customer: Mr. Thompson?

(05:54) Salesman: That’s right. Mr. Robert Thompson is, uh, discussing, uh, currently with our top, uh, board of directors. Uh, he wants this car not sold but given to every Canadian.

(06:03) Customer: Oh.

(06:05) Salesman: Ah, apparently you can get that 20-buck thing through but he’s on this kick again now, and he wants this car. It’s quite a…I’ve seen the, uh, manifesto that he sent out. Uh, it’s quite an effective argument. Apparently, uh, if every Canadian gets one of these cars free, naturally we have to hire a lot of chaps here in Hamilton and a lot of manpower is hired, a lot of money put into the community and so on and so on, and it reads pretty well. The only thing we haven’t seen yet is just, you know, where, where we get a profit out of it. I haven’t found that, I, I don't know what page it’s on, but, uh, uh-h-h, we’re just still discussing that, so we’re still on the price thing. It’s a little indefinite at the moment.

(06:32) Customer: I see.

(06:33) Salesman: Um, and that’s our little car now. Hope you like it. Uh, awright, uh, next?

(06:36) Customer: Thank you very much!

(06:37) Salesman: Sir, alright, that’s all. Alright. Come on. Next, comin’ through here. All Canadian…

[Sketch fades out]

[Music Bumper]

(06:49) Ruel: OK. I’m back now with Stu Chapman. Stu, be honest, do you remember this recording at all?

(06:55) Chapman: Just vaguely, Todd. When you first brought it to my attention after you acquired it, my first reaction was, no I don't recall that. Then once I heard it, the voice on it certainly was Bob Orr, who was our vice president of marketing. Bob unfortunately passed away about 10 years ago. And my recollection now comes back to our ad agency at the time. I think it had some connections with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the different characters that were used. and that’s where it was developed. My only vagueness is I’m not sure what distribution it got. It probably only went to Studebaker dealers in Canada.

(07:30) Ruel: Let me ask you this. You mentioned that Bob Orr was your vice president of marketing. Why would he be introducing this record and, say, why not Gordon Grundy or maybe even you, especially if it was going to be distributed to the public or not?

(07:43) Chapman: Well, the Marketing Department, of course, was headed up by Bob and he was sort of the individual that had the dealer contact. My department, of course, came under Bob’s supervision, and we’re all part of the senior marketing team, of course. But Bob was well known and well liked, and it was a promotional thing. I suspect that’s the reason why it went that way.

(08:03) Ruel: When do you think this record was released, and why?

(08:06) Chapman: When we took over manufacturing for the world from South Bend, that was the early part of December. I think if my memory is correct, the announcement was made December the Ninth of 1963. And the early part of 1964, we were working like crazy to get everything organized and all of the necessary mechanical and engine parts brought in to Canada. This of course before we went into a General Motors Engine. So I think we did this probably in around October of 1964 probably to coincide with the new General Motors engine that we were buying, which was built in St. Catherines, Ontario.

(08:44) Ruel: Got ya. OK. There are many satirical points in this sketch, and one of them was all the pride that Canada must have felt in being the sole manufacturer of an automobile.

Take us back to those days in October 1964. Was Canada really excited about having its own car manufacturer?

(09:01) Chapman: Well certainly most Hamilton was. I wouldn't want to say for certain that all of Canada was excited, although we did our best to promote it as best as we could. Much of the car was sourced in Canada. So it really was an All Canadian Car. Although the engines were General Motors and that engine was of course available in the United States in General Motors cars, it was built in Canada. The frames were sourced in Canada. Interiors were all sourced in Canada. So I think you get the message, we were pretty proud of it. It was as all Canadian as you were gonna find at that time.

(09:34) Ruel: OK. The man mentioned as the designer in the sketch was John Fisher. Who was John Fisher, and why was it funny to cast him as a designer in that sketch?

(09:44) Chapman: [laughs] Actually, I did know John Fisher casually well prior to my days at Studebaker. John Fisher was a well-known Canadian historian, journalist, and broadcaster, and he did travel, and history shows on the Canadian Broadcasting Incorporation, as well as CFRB in Toronto, the largest audience radio station at the time. John also was head of Dominion Government or Federal Government’s Travel Bureau, which was a federal government-sponsored organization. He was sort of Mr. Canada to a lot of people.

(10:20) Ruel: Ah, now I get it. OK, so Mr. Canada designed a beaver-shaped car basically. I think that’s pretty good. Who was Robert Thompson?

(10:29) Chapman: Robert Thompson was the founder of the Social Credit Party of the time, which was conceived in British Columbia, Far West Coast Canada, and had a certain amount of representation in Alberta as well. Probably the best way to describe it is an extreme “right-winged” conservative political party. And they did very well in the Early 60’s but they also drifted away from popularity he has, that decade moved on. But the best way to describe it is very right-wing government. That’s who Robert Thompson was.

(11:03) Ruel: Well that’s very interesting because in the sketch, the joke is about redistributing the wealth to everyone in the public – in other words, giving away a free car to everybody. That doesn’t sound very conservative to me. That – that sounds left-leaning, if anything.

(11:17) Chapman: But don't forget, this whole thing was a great spoof. They really had fun with that.

(11:22) Ruel: OK. Finally, Stu, who or what was Rawhide on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation?

(11:29) Chapman: OK. Rawhide was the nom de plume, if you will, of a gentleman by the name of Max Ferguson, who was the one of the well-known and popular comics of the day along with people like Wayne and Shuster who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and for all I can recall, Max may have been on the Sullivan Show at that time.

Anyway, he came up with this non de plume of Rawhide, and that’s what he was really well-known by. He was the sort of character in this spoof.

(11:57) Ruel: OK. Why do you think Studebaker put out this private issue record? Do you think it was for employees only, or was it for the press or for a limited audience?

(12:06) Chapman: Well I’m not sure and that’s where my recollection is not as good as it should be. The conception of it, I believe, or in my recollection, is it’s from our advertising agency at the time. And shortly after that, we switched to a Detroit agency from the Toronto agency but this was conceived - I’m quite certain - by the agency in Toronto. And the distribution, I feel certain, was to dealers. I don't think it was available on the general market. It’s possible the dealers could buy it. I just don't recall specifically, but I think it was just a little bit of fun.

(12:41) Ruel: OK. This recording is kind of like digging up an audio time capsule. How did you feel hearing this recording after all these years?

(12:50) Chapman: Well when you first contacted me about it, my first reaction was I don't really recall it, and then I started thinking. And then when I heard it, and obviously, Bob Orr having passed away some years ago, I maintained a contact with Bob Orr for several years after Studebaker, and it was a real earth-shattering revelation to hear Bob’s voice again after all these years. And I probably played that mp3 file 4 or 5 times just to make sure that this really is Bob Orr. and it started coming back to me at that point. But yeah, you’re right, it is a real time capsule factor.

(13:25) Ruel: Stu, you’ve written a book about your years at Studebaker. I understand it’s almost sold out. Tell us what the title is, and tell us how readers can get their hands on one of the few remaining copies.

(13:36) Chapman: Well thank you for the opportunity, Todd. It’s called My Father the Car: Memoirs of My Years at Studebaker. It’s published by MT Publishing of Evansville, Indiana. The last that I heard, there probably were less than a couple of dozen copies left at the publisher. Their website is www.MTPublishing.com. The Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, I believe, has a small stock. And in Canada, the book is sold through Framing Warehouse and Gallery in Downtown Hamilton, and they have 2 or 3 dozens in stock, but I’m really pleased with the way the book has gone.

We’re looking now when the book is really no more, so to speak, we have to start looking at re-printing. We’re also looking at iBooks, as well as some on-demand publishing which might allow us to do a few hardback copies. So, it depends on what the future potential is, but I’m very pleased with the result so far. I guess it’s just a little over two years since I started to work on it, and it was published in October of ‘09.

(14:39) Ruel: Studebaker continues to be a good source of income after all these years.

(14:44) Chapman: Well, it’s not a great source of income. The royalties are minimal, but it was more a labor of love, but there’s a few dollars still coming in, and Studebaker has been a part of my life since 1963 officially and probably unofficially before that. So we still go to Studebaker meets and keep active in the fraternity, and I’m a lifetime trustee of the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana. So, it’s a real honor.

(15:10) Ruel: Fantastic! OK. Well that is a very rare recording, we’ve been talking about it. It was All Canadian Car produced by Max Ferguson who was Rawhide at CBC. To talk about it here with me was Stu Chapman, Studebaker’s last director of advertising and promotion.

Stu, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

(15:26) Chapman: You’re more than welcome, Todd. It’s a pleasure being with you again.

[Music Close]

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