Canadian Hurricanes

Celebrating the Hurricane in Toronto and Canadian Aviation Heritage

In late 1938, as World War II loomed over Europe, Great Britain was concerned over the safety of their aircraft factories.

The Hurricane was regarded as such an important weapon to the British, that early in 1939, the British Air Ministry contracted with the Canadian Car and Foundry Co., Ltd. (sometimes referred to as CCF, or CC&F, or CanCar) of Montreal, Canada to build what would amount to a total of 1,451 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes.

The RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) had received 19 Hurricane I’s built by Hawker Aircraft in England, before the War started. On 2 March 1939 the British Air Ministry released a manufacturing pattern aircraft (L1848) along with complete plans on microfilm; to be shipped to Canada. Production of the Canadian-built Hurricanes took place at the CanCar factory in Fort William (now called Thunder Bay) in the Province of Ontario.

The first Canadian-built Hurricane I (seen below on 8 January 1940) flew its maiden flight at Bishop’s Field, Fort William, Ontario, Canada on 10 January 1940.

The following are excerpts from an article in the Beaver Magazine, June / July 1992 “Hurricane” by David D. Kemp

“…in January, 1940, with World War II only 5 months old, a sleek monoplane fighter aircraft was rolled out at the Fort William Works of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company Limited (CCF). This plane was the first of more than 1,400 such aircraft”

“In November 1938 CCF was awarded a contract to produce Hawker Hurricanes for the RAF at its Fort William plant”

“The initial Hurricane order was for 40 planes, built to Mk 1 specification with British-made Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines and eight .303 Browning machine guns in the wings Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines and eight .303 Browning machine guns in the wings.”

“With the outbreak of war, shipping delays and losses created problems with such a system, and shortages of imported British materials regularly threatened production

“The situation was serious by early 1941, and the later Mk 1 machines were shipped without engines, instruments or armaments”

“In time , with new Canadian sources of supply and the introduction of the Packard Merlin built under licence in the United States, these problems were overcome, and in 1942 Hurricanes were leaving the plant at the rate of 15 per week.”

“… in total 160 Mk 1 Hurricanes were built. Most of these were sent directly to Britain, where they were distributed as the need arose rather than being assigned by batch to any one squadron – this being made possible by the interchangeability of components among the British and Canadian-built planes. Twenty were delivered before the Battle of Britain, and participated in the fierce aerial fighting of August and September 1940.”

“Although Can-Car proved itself with the Hurricane 1, most of the aircraft built at Fort William were Mk X, XI and XII variants. These designations were reserved for the Canadian aircraft, and reflect combinations of power plant and armaments which distinguish them from the British-built equivalents. All were equipped with Packard engines, for example the Merlin 28 in the case of the Mk X and XI, and the Merlin 29 in the Mk XII. Both the Mk X and the XI were built with 8 machine guns, compared to the 12 of the XII, but later specific aircraft were modified to carry cannon and rockets as the Hurricane evolved into its intruder and ground attack role.”

“Most of the Hurricane X’s were initially sent to Britain, but some were later tropicalized and used in India. After many requests from the Canadian Government, 30 of these aircraft were also released for use in Canada. These were followed by a batch of 400 Mk XII’s built specifically for the RCAF, and 50 Hurricane XIIA’s, originally intended as Sea Hurricanes for the Fleet Air Arm, but subsequently released for service in Canada. Other Mk XI’s and Mk XII’s were shipped on the infamous Arctic convoys to Northern Russia as part of the some 3,000 Hurricanes supplied to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944. In all, between January 1940, when the prototype flew, and June 1943, when the last Hurricane left the plant at Fort William, 1,451 aircraft of various marks were built, representing some 10 percent of all Hurricanes produced and almost half of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company’s total production during the war years.”

At the time of writing David Kemp was an Associate Professor of Geography at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Manufacturer: Canadian Car & Foundry Ltd. Thunder Bay (formerly Fort William)

Number produced: 1,451 (All Marks) Period 1940 – 1942
Following the end of Hurricane production the plant built 835 Curtiss Helldiver Dive-Bombers SBW’s from 1943 – 45 It was a much modified single-engined dive-bomber capable of carrying a 1,000 pound bomb load. It was an aircraft that no pilot particularly cared for.
During the period of 1951 – 1955 the plant produced 555 Harvard 4’s for the RCAF, USAF and the West German Air Force. The last complete aircraft built at the plant was the Beech Mentor 45 Basic Military trainer of which 125 were constructed during 1954-55. Twenty-five aircraft went to the RCAF with the balance going to the USAF.
The Canadian Car & Foundry Plant at Thunder Bay is now owned by Bombardier and currently produces railway rolling stock, subway cars and streetcars.

Edited / Adapted by CAHS Toronto Chapter

September 4, 2009

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Information on the restoration of Fort William built Hawker Hurricane AM274 can be obtained at