I have always found that Nikon manual focus lenses for the Nikon were on the whole better made although there is little to compare between them in use. Canon used a lot of plastic in the later FD lenses whilst Nikon was mainly metal. Yes they are considerably cheaper too.
The Nikon F2 has always held the top of the pile as being the finest mechanical 35mm camera ever made and having owned 2, I can vouch that they are bullet proof!. I don't know of anyone who has argued that point.There was an issue with the metering on the F2 models but there is a repairer in UK that can re-manufacture the tracking used to get the meter to respond correctly.
As for no automation on the Canon there was an auto exposure head available for the F1 although how common these are I have no idea. I do know of one UK dealer with one for sale at present and the price is around 170 for the body only.