by George Siamandas


1996 was the 100th anniversary of the mass production of the automobile. In Winnipeg the first individual to own a car was Prof J. Kenrick in 1899. He and a group of fellow enthusiasts would go out on runs to far away places like Silver Heights. His car was a three wheeler called a velocipede at the time. In 1904 at Kenrick's Assiniboine Ave home the Winnipeg Automobile Club was born.

Steam cars did not prove to be popular. It simply took too long to fire it up to get going. As long as an hour if things went well. Electric cars were also used for a time but the same problems that hold them back now: short range and the need to charge them up stalled their initial popularity with the rich and women who appreciated the quietness. It was the gasoline powered cars that ended up ruling the day.

A shop on Marion Street assembled cars built with parts from a Sidney New York company called the Hatfield. It was a 4 cylinder car called the Winnipeg. Their slogan was "as good as the wheat" and its radiator was custom built in Winnipeg to be frost proof and it had a distinctive radiator emblem of a sheaf of wheat tied with the word Winnipeg. Only one was built in the early 1920s. Prior to WW2 many cars saw some level of assembly in Winnipeg and at the Fletcher Building which is now home of the Dept of Education, the Ford Motor Co assembled cars during the 1930s.


The oldest building to be associated with the car business is Maw's Garage built by Thomas Maw in 1906. Maw's Garage could hold 145 cars indoors. This building now forms the west part of the Old Spaghetti Factory. The longest running dealership still on its original site was the old Carter Motors now Murray Chev Olds at the corner of Maryland and Portage. It had been there for 60 years but is now demolished.

Fort Street used to have a large cluster of automobile oriented businesses. There was Dominion Motors, Inman Motors etc. and more than a dozen accessory and parts stores which have been demolished or become bars. Even Eatons sold cars in the early part of the century. The Motor League was an outgrowth of this early car club and they joined forces in 1922. In the 1930s their clubhouse headquarters was at Lower Fort Garry.


Ace as he was called is the most distinguished individual in Manitoba motor history. An active member of the car club, Ace offered many ideas for improvement of motorists conditions at the time including the idea of numbers for highways including the Trans Canada Highway No 1. Emmett became the first manager of the Manitoba Motor League in 1922. Emmett and his friends marked roads as volunteers and organized the Good Roads Association. Arthur Coates Emmett was born in England in 1872 and began his love affair with the automobile as a flag boy going ahead of his master's car to warn of its coming which was a requirement in England till 1896.

Ace came to Brandon in 1902 and moved to Winnipeg in 1904 to work at the first automobile garage at the corner of Ellice and Hargrave. He was one of the first 50 men to own a car in Winnipeg. He wrote regular columns on motoring in the free Press. As early as 1913 he began to publish road maps. In 1912 he succeeded in having the Roblin government develop a provincial roads program and the expenditure of 200,00 to aid municipalities in improving their roads.


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