Saskatoon

Taking a walk down Regina's car dealership lane

History lovers and car enthusiasts had a chance Saturday night to combine both passions. Dale Edward Johnson, an award-winning automotive journalist and author, led a Heritage Regina walking tour of the early car dealerships in the Queen City.

Walking tour uncovers a number of long-gone dealerships in downtown Regina

The old Regina Motor Products dealership. (Submitted / Dale Edward Johnson)

History lovers and car enthusiasts had a chance Saturday night to combine both passions.

Dale Edward Johnson, an award-winning automotive journalist and author, led a Heritage Regina walking tour of the early car dealerships in the Queen City.

Johnson told Shauna Powers on Saskatchewan Weekend that he has always been interested in where the old car dealerships had been in Regina.

When he would be downtown with friends Johnson said they would say, "'hey, you see that pizza place. That used to be where you could buy MGs and Austins.'"

When someone suggested he lead a tour, Johnson did some more research and found out there were far more dealerships in downtown Regina in the '20s than he'd ever imagined.

He said there were about 20 car dealerships in Regina during that time.

Johnson said many of the dealership owners also became civic leaders.

"A lot came from humble roots and got in on the ground floor in the '20s and '30s," Johnson said. "They became real community leaders and had huge homes on Albert Street near the legislature."

Saskatchewan Motor was a Ford dealership. (Submitted / Dale Edward Johnson)

For instance, Neil Motors was started by the father and son duo of Albert and Bert Neil.

Neil Motors was located where Vintage Vinyl is now on 11th Avenue.

A former car dealership had gone out of business and the Neils took it over in the 1930s and were very successful. 

"They were selling about 300 cars a year in 1933," Johnson said.

There were around 20 car dealerships in downtown Regina during the 1920s. (Submitted / Dale Edward Johnson)

They later expanded and had another location at Albert Street and 12th Avenue.

Both were prominent in the community, with Albert sitting on the Saskatchewan Roughriders board of directors.

And Regina was a car haven during that time.

"From 1915-23 Saskatchewan had the second-most number of licensed drivers in Canada behind only Ontario," Johnson said, "And had the most miles of roads in Canada period."

He said the Model T dominated car sales during that time, but other cars were also popular.

Moynan Motors on Lorne Street. (Submitted / Dale Edward Johnson)

When the Chrysler DeSoto was introduced in 1928 it became the best selling new car, said Johnson. 

"It was sold at Bothwell Motors which was in what is now the Viterra Building at Albert and Victoria," Johnson said, adding they also sold the popular sportscar the Auburn Speedster.

All those dealerships and cars showed just how prosperous Saskatchewan was during the 1920s.

"This was really a boom town," he said. "We were leading consumers when it came to cars and trucks."