Wheels: The Car in Canada


96 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895642-03-5
DDC 388.3'42'0971





Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


In the early part of the 20th century, Calgary businessman Richard
Bedford Bennett climbed aboard his new-fangled automobile machine, one
of the first in Alberta. Seconds after the machine began to move, the
hapless millionaire crashed it into a telephone pole. Although Bennett
went on to become Canada’s prime minister, he never again sat behind
the driver’s wheel of a car. Across the country, a Quebec lawyer named
Charlie Trudeau opened up a chain of gas stations to serve the growing
demand by working-class car owners. The service-station chain would
found the fortune that helped launch another Canadian millionaire,
Pierre Trudeau, into the PMO.

Since the coining of the word “stone age,” historians have used
human artifacts to define their subject. In this book, Desmond Morton
uses Canada’s love affair with the automobile as a way of examining
Canadian history over the past 100 years. The book’s 10
chapters—each of which spans a decade—trace the evolution of the
automobile in Canada from a “rich man’s toy” to an absolute
“necessity” for the average Canadian. As usual, Morton manages to
find unique and entertaining ways to interpret dull statistics. He uses
comparisons of regions and social classes to explain how cars were both
a boon and a bane to the Canadian lifestyle. Scores of unusual ( and
sometimes hilarious) photos round out the text. This is a terrific book
for car enthusiasts and Canadian history lovers. Highly recommended.


Morton, Desmond., “Wheels: The Car in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/21125.