Simanaitis Says

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SO THERE I was, preparing a remembrance of Quebec City’s Hotel Frontenac, when my research reveals yet more valve orchestrations. The resulting foursome of Frontenacs includes the famed hotel, a Canadian Ford, a French courtier who cavorted with Native Americans, and a trio of Chevrolets who made a name hopping up Fords.

In the late 19th century, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a series of hotels along its transcontinental route. The company chose American Bruce Price (father of etiquette maven Emily Post) to give its Quebec City property architectural themes of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.


The Frontenac, as seen from Quebec City’s Lower Town. Image from Canadian Pacific Archives.

The Château Frontenac opened in 1893 near the Citadelle of Quebec, a fortification started in 1690, on Cap Diamant overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Named for Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau (of whom more anon), the hotel has hosted important events, including the 1943 and 1944 Quebec Conferences, attended by Britain’s Winston Churchill, Canadian prime minister William Mackenzie King and president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


The Hotel Frontenac hosted the 1943 Quebec Conference.

On a personal note, I stayed at the Frontenac where Mazda had a press preview of its second-generation MPV minivan in 1996. As part of my early-retirement program, I borrowed an MPV after the event and did a Quebec mini tour.


The Mazda MPV makes a new friend. Image by the author.

I recall a visit to the fine Musée de l’Abeille/Museum of Bees (everything gets dual language in Québec/Quebec). Also, in Quebec City’s Lower Town, I bought a souvenir rosary for my mother, rest her soul, at a little shop featuring religious goods. Chatting with the nun running the place, I learned her particular order followed Pope John-Gregory XVII, a breakaway pope from the Catholic Church. In rare ecumenicalism, my mom didn’t seem to mind.

Louis de Baude, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau, was a French soldier, courtier and Governor General of New France. In fact, he served twice in this last capacity, from 1672 to 1682 and from 1689 to his death in 1698.


Frontenac avec les amèrindiens/Frontenac with the Natives, ca. 1914, by Canadian Charles William Jefferys.

In the late 1600s, Frontenac got involved in North American battles of the Nine Years’ War, aka King William’s War, aka the Second Indian War, one of which Americans below the border call the French and Indian War. Brits and English-speaking Canadians consider the latter to be part of the Seven Years’ War; French Canadians call it La Guerre de la Conquête (War of Conquest).

It depends who wins, y’ know. American colonists came off best in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. However, Comte de Frontenac got the best hotel.

Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited/Ford du Canada Limitée produced a compact car called the Frontenac. It was a 1960 U.S. Ford Falcon with a different grille and taillights and jaunty red maple leaf insignias. The Ford Frontenac had less legs than any of the French and Indian Wars, only one year.


This Frontenac Motor Company ad and the following images from The Old Motor.

The Frontenac Motor Corporation got off to a great start in 1916. Its three founders were the Chevrolet brothers: Louis, who had founded Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911; Arthur, who had raced in the inaugural Indy 500 that same year; and Gaston, who, like his older brothers, was already an accomplished race driver.

Louis drove his Frontenac to 7th place in the 1919 Indy 500; Gaston was 11th in another Frontenac. Gaston took one to victory in the 1920 Indy 500.

Frontenac’s lasting fame came in 1923 with its Ford Model T speed equipment. The Fronty-Ford engine had a basic (and ubiquitous) Model T block enhanced by custom components including single- or double-overhead-camshaft conversions.

The R engine modifications included a new cylinder head, Zenith carburetor and intake manifold that increased revs to 3600 rpm (a standard Model T revved to perhaps 1700). The R kit was listed at $795 in a 1929 Frontenac catalog; figure around $11,000 in today’s dollars. (Speed never has been cheap.)

S-R mods added an overhead camshaft, twin Zeniths and a 4000-rpm redline; $865 back then ($12,000 today).


The ultimate Fronty-Ford D-O racing engine, dohc, 16 valves; shown here with its front and head aluminum housings removed.

Built to order only, the Model D-O double-overhead-camshaft four-valve-per-cylinder racing engine “receives the personal attention of Mr. Arthur Chevrolet, both during the course of construction and testing.” The D-O could be revved to 5600 rpm; cost was $1400 in 1929 (around $19,200 today).


The Fronty-Ford race car, a turn-key option.

Frontenac also produced a turn-key race car, one of which placed 5th in the 1923 Indy 500. Cost with D-O power was $2700 ($37,000).

How fast do you want your Fronty to go? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015


  1. Gene Herbert
    May 14, 2015

    I enjoy your variety. Here is a fifth – with and interesting valve train. The FRONTENAC steamboat of 1816. Early steamers on this side of the Atlantic relied on Boulton and Watt (that James Watt) engines from England, this pioneer ship was no exception. Mine pumping engines were being adapted to marine use. The Frontenac was short lived, like most early steamboats, and plied its trade on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. There are drawings of the engine found in Boulton and Watt files that are thought to be of the one used in the Frontenac.

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