The story behind the McLaughlin car collection in Elkhorn

McLaughlin cars were once so popular in these parts that the Manitoba Antique Auto Museum in Elkhorn has seven of them on display.

Their story began when Samuel McLaughlin apprenticed in his father's carriage works, the largest carriage company in the British Empire.

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By the time young Sam was named the chief designer for all McLaughlin carriages and sleighs, the family firm had achieved sales of over $1 million a year.

With the advent of the motorcar, Sam turned his interest to developing a McLaughlin line of cars and in 1907 the McLaughlin Motor Car Company was established.

The company failed in its first attempt to produce a completely original motorcar but the next attempt was a winner. The McLaughlin-Buick Model F went into production in 1908 with 154 made that year.

Buick help

It was designed and built in Canada using an engine supplied by the American car maker Buick. This agreement was made with Sam McLaughlin's friend William Durant, one of the original architects of General Motors. The promise of a thriving horseless carriage industry overtook the fading carriage works.

But with intense competition from many newcomers to the auto industry, it was survival of the fittest. The lucrative agreement with Buick was drawing to a close and with no immediate family to carry on the firm, McLaughlin decided to join forces with the new General Motors Corporation. This would ensure long term success and increased production in Oshawa, so the business was sold and the McLaughlin brand came to an end in 1918.

The 1909

The 1909 McLaughlin Model 8 Touring car (see photo) first belonged to D.A. Nichol of Alexander, Man. and was later sold to J.W. Husband, a pioneer business man also of Alexander.

Husband wrote his name in pencil inside the speedometer and it’s still legible. On the inside of the filler cap is a landscape scene!

This car had a road speed of about 35 mph with the throttle close to wide open, more than sufficient for the roads at that time.

Also, it has real leather upholstery, a luxury in this day and age but standard on all but the cheapest cars of the first decade of the last century.

The steering is right-handed with outboard gear change and brake levers. The license plate is a piece of leather with the number 210 tacked on it.

The museum’s six other McLaughlins are Touring cars and Roadsters dating from 1910 to 1917, each with its own story you can learn more about by visiting the collection.

These McLaughlin cars were all donated by Ike Clarkson when the Auto Museum opened in 1967. Clarkson had undertaken to preserve a part of Manitoba's history which would have otherwise continued to rust away in scrap heaps.

Sadly, he passed away at the age of 58 and much knowledge and history went with him.

Submitted by Lillian Jackson. The Manitoba Antique Auto Museum in Elkhorn is open to the public seven days a week until the end of September.

© 2018 Virden Empire-Advance

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