Leaside—car manufacturing mecca? It was during our 60th anniversary as a Dominion, when Durant Motors of Canada called it home.
William Crapo “Billy” Durant was the main force behind the formation of General Motors in 1908, when he brought together manufacturers such as Oldsmobile and Buick. After being forced out of GM twice, he founded Durant Motors in 1921. The company established itself as a full-line automaker, with economy (Star), mid-range (Durant, Flint) and luxury (Princeton, Locomobile) lines.
A Canadian branch was quickly established, using a former munitions factory at Laird Drive and Commercial Road. Operations in Leaside proved to be healthier than the American parent, thanks to the export of its vehicles to Great Britain, touted in this ad.
The Star line was introduced in 1922 to compete with Ford’s venerable Model T. Neither make outlasted this ad very long—Model T production wound down in 1927 after a 20-year run, while the Star was phased out the next year.
After Durant’s American headquarters defaulted on a loan, the Leaside plant reorganized itself as Dominion Motors. The decision to focus on a new luxury line, Frontenac, proved disastrous. With the Great Depression reaching its depths, the company called it a day by the end of 1933. The property was split between its neighbour to the north, Canada Wire and Cable, and Fridgidaire. The latter left in the late 1950s, with Canada Wire and Cable claiming the rest of the site. Operations continued until 1996, with the land cleared away a few years later to make way for the Leaside SmartCentre big box complex.
As for Durant? Wiped out by the Depression, he ran a bowling alley in Flint, Michigan in the early 1940s, with plans for a national chain before suffering a stroke.
Source: Official Souvenir Program, City of Toronto Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Celebration, which was published 80 years ago this week.