The list of Canadian automobile manufacturers is unfortunately rather short. The Oshawa-based McLaughlin Motor Car Company was the first Canadian automaker, though it eventually partnered with the very American General Motors and became GM Canada. Bricklin saw some relative success in the mid-1970s with its SV-1 sports car, churning out about 3,000 cars in total from its New Brunswick factory, but the company was short-lived and shut down shop after just two years.
The latest car company to call Canada home is Montreal-based manufacturer Felino, which was founded by ex-open wheel racer Antoine Bessette. Felino first arrived on the scene back in 2014, when it showed a track-only prototype for its CB7 supercar. It has spent the last five years or so making further enhancements to the car and is now ready to show the world the revamped 2020 model year CB7R, which is currently on display at the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto.
Speaking to autoTRADER.ca on the floor of the show, Bessette said he and his team were focused on fine-tuning the CB7 platform for use on the road in recent years following its initial development on the track.
“We were idling a lot in the past three years to finish developing all the bells and whistles on the car and now we're happy to showcase a Canadian-made supercar," he said. “In between 2014 and now, we developed a complete road-legal car and a new model also, that’s with the interior finish and with those kind of things. So (there was) a lot of development in the past five years to be able to have it (at CIAS) today.”
The CB7R is offered with two naturally aspirated General Motors LS-based engines: a 525-horsepower 6.2L V8 and a 700-horsepower 7.0L V8. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a race-derived six-speed sequential gearbox is available as an option. It also features a composite chassis made of carbon fibre, kevlar, and metal that was built entirely in-house by Felino in Montreal. The chassis was originally designed around Bessette's old formula car racing seat, giving the driver an F1-style seating position.
“The first picture that we have of this car, it's me in my formula seat and we started to build the car around that driving position, he said. "So you're laying down a lot in the car, the position that you have is the position that I had when I was driving formula cars."
It's not just the CB7R's chassis that's made by Felino in Montreal, either. The car itself is bolted together at the company's facility in the Quebec city and it was also developed and crash tested at PMG Technologies in nearby Blainville, QC. Additionally, Bessette said he tries to source as many components from Canadian suppliers as he can, though he admits this is hard for certain parts of the car, such as the engine/powertrain.
“Yeah (there are) some (parts from Canadian suppliers), I’m trying to keep that from Canada, it’s not always easy, to be honest. Like the engine is from the U.S., of course. But, yeah, we’re trying to keep that here."
As for his customer base, Bessette says he has received interest in the CB7R from all over the globe, though he mainly wants his Canadian-bred supercar to go to Canadian customers.
"We sold a few in Canada already and we want to keep that here in the beginning especially," he explained. "So that’s why we do such a small limit on the production that we have. There’s a lot of opportunity in Dubai, places like that. China a lot, they want the car over there. But I’m trying to keep that (in Canada) for now.”
Production of the CB7R will be limited to just 10 units, and with three having already been sold, it seems Bessette is well on his way to selling every unit he's capable of building. He will soon turn his attention to the high-downforce CB7+ track car (above), which is planned to arrive sometime later this year. Felino is also looking beyond the CB7 platform and already has some ideas for a potential successor. It looks like the Canadian automotive history books are set to get a little bit thicker.