This Fargo ain't in North Dakota ;-)
Working-day warriors restored to splendour
by BOB ENGLISH
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
November 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM EST
From the 1930s to the early 1970s, Chrysler's Fargo brand of trucks, in a variety of sizes and configurations, were a familiar sight on Canadian roads, farms and construction sights, but if you want to buy one today you'll have to talk to somebody in Turkey.
Or seek out an example preserved by members of the small band of Fargo enthusiasts who keep the name of these working-day warriors alive, such as Shirley and Alvin White of Caledon East, Ont., who own three — a half-ton, one-ton and 1-1/2-ton — of these distinctly Canadian-flavoured trucks.
The Fargo name originated with the Fargo Motor Car Co. of Chicago, which an expanding Chrysler re-launched as the Fargo Motor Corp. in 1928. The trucks it initially produced were based on Chrysler, Plymouth and DeSoto parts. But Chrysler had also acquired the Dodge Brothers business, which marketed trucks under its own and the Graham Brothers names in the United States and Canada.
That gave Chrysler three truck brands, but it soon dropped Graham, and with the better-known Dodge name outselling Fargo, and the depression reducing its sales further, Fargo truck production was ended in 1930.
Top photo -- Shirley and Alvin White acquired their 1948 Fargo FM1 (above), which was ‘basically a basket case,’ and finished it in 1991 after a 41/2-year restoration.
Lower photo -- As a truck driver by profession, Alvin White wasn’t intimidated by heavy metal, and so wasn’t daunted by chance to restore this 1948 11/2-ton Fargo FM3.
But that, obviously, wasn't the end of the story.
Chrysler continued to use the Fargo name for American-built Dodge trucks in export markets. And in 1935, with a new line of Plymouth trucks about to be launched it decided Canadian Plymouth dealers (who didn't have a truck line) would sell Dodge trucks under the Fargo name.
To give them a somewhat different look, they had Plymouth passenger-car front-end styling and a Fargo globe badge. This decision meant that from 1936-72 Chrysler sold both Dodge- and Fargo-branded trucks here.
When introduced in 1936, Fargos were available in a range that extended from pickups to three-tonners, built in Chrysler's Windsor, Ont., plant, but in relatively low numbers. Production continued through the Second World War, with some 6,000 trucks built for military use, but increased dramatically in the late 1940s as civilian demand took off.
The first new postwar designs arrived in 1948, but the only distinctions between a Dodge and a Fargo were the hubcaps, hood ornaments and the Fargo name embossed on the tailgates.
By the 1960s, Dodge and Fargo trucks sold in Canada were virtually identical. With the Canada-U.S. auto pact of 1965, Fargo pickups were still built in Windsor, but heavier trucks were sourced from south of the border and badged as either Dodge or Fargo here. Chrysler finally dropped the Fargo name in 1972.
While all this was going on, Chrysler was still exporting trucks built in the U.S. to markets around the world, and in many cases building them locally, under the Fargo and DeSoto brands into the late 1970s.
It also, at about this time, sold its interests in Turkey to local investors who still employ the Fargo and DeSoto brand names on a line of commercial vehicles.
Canadian Fargo enthusiast Alvin White was born in Arthur, Ont., (the house he was born in is now the site of the local Chrysler dealership) and his wife Shirley near Varney, Ont. White, now retired, initially worked in construction and moved on to small engine and motorcycle repair before becoming a truck driver.
His first internal-combustion-based hobby was collecting ancient farm stationary engines. At one time, he owned more than 30, but his collection is now down to three, including the "International Famous" purchased by his grandfather in 1912 and used by an uncle to power honey-extracting equipment until 1980.
These (usually) single-cylinder "one-lungers" with exposed connecting rods and large external flywheels, emit a chuff-chuff-chuff-bang sound — internal combustion at its most basic — that is strangely compelling.
You'll find yourself standing for minutes watching the oily bits whiz around while anticipating the intermittent explosions, usually at steam equipment shows.
And it was while exhibiting some of his engines at one of these shows that a friend suggested White's next project should a truck restoration.
As a truck driver by profession he obviously wasn't intimidated by heavy metal, and so wasn't daunted by the 1-1/2-ton Fargo FM3 being sold by a Dunnville, Ont., market gardener in 1986.
While showing it in its restored splendour, someone suggested "why don't you do a pickup?" says Shirley. The couple soon acquired their 1948 Fargo FM1, which was "basically a basket case," and finished it in 1991 after a 4-1/2-year restoration.
Their third Fargo is a 1949 one-ton with a nine-foot open box that had spent its working life in Western Canada. It returned to the road in 1992.
"All three look like they're just fresh off the assembly line," says Shirley, who has been involved in the restoration work on all three and currently serves as the Central Canada representative on the American Historical Truck Society and is founder and president of its Ontario chapter.
All three trucks are driven to shows. "They've got an engine, a transmission and four wheels, let's go," says Shirley, who can double-clutch with the best of them.
The big stake-truck only cruises at under 80 km/h, but the other two are often taken on extended tours into the United States. "We've put 30,000 miles on the pickup," she says.
While the pair didn't set out to become Fargo collectors — "it just sort of happened" — they get a particular kick out of showing their Fargos south of the border.
"People come by and say, 'What in the world kind of name is that,'" says Shirley. "And we're proud to tell them about our Canadian-built Fargo."
SOURCE - The Globe and Mail
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