With only a cursory glance you might think that this car is a SS396 Chevelle, one of the classic muscle car era cars, but what’s it doing with a Pontiac grille? That’s because it’s not a Chevy Chevelle, it’s a 1968 SD396 Beaumont, on of the few Canadian muscle cars ever made – and it’s not even really a Pontiac. Chevy dealers in Canada had the Corvair, but Canadian Pontiac-Buick dealers had nothing small since GM headquarters in Detroit for some reason decided not to sell the then compact Pontiac Tempest in Canada. Instead, General Motors of Canada created a sub brand called Acadian based on the Chevy II. Though they had the distinctive split grille of Pontiacs of those days, and today are accepted by Pontiac collectors as Pontiacs, the Acadians never actually carried that brand. The top level was given the Beaumont brand. For the 1964 model year, that trim line on the compact was rebranded Canso, and the Beaumont brand was moved upmarket to the midsized Chevelle platform.
In 1966 Beaumont became it’s own brand separate from Acadian, eventually offering a full line of two-door, four-door, pillar-less coupe, convertible and station wagon models, as you can see in this brochure. They were essentially Chevelles. They had Chevrolet drivetrains and chassis and shared most of their sheetmetal with the Chevelle, with the exception of a Pontiac style grille and horizontal taillights. Interior trim was Chevelle, except for the dashboard and instruments which were equivalent to the American Pontiac intermediates, the Tempest, LeMans and GTO. In 1969 GM of Canada discontinued the Beaumont line, and started to offer the Pontiac Tempest instead. Being made for only three years, and only available in Canada, the Beaumonts are rare cars and attract attention whenever they are shown, whether in Canada or the US.
This particular 1968 Beaumont SD396 convertible was shown at the 2011 Eyes On Design show at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate just north of Grosse Pointe. The SD396 versions were pretty rare, the convertibles are even rarer. In 1968, Oshawa produced 14,420 Beaumonts. Of those, 702 were SD396 coupes, but only 65 convertibles were made. I’s possible that the convertible SD396 Beaumont may have been the rarest muscle car GM has made. Factor in the hard Canadian winters and road salt, there are very few survivors, let alone 100 point show cars and this is a very rare car indeed.
SD stands for Sport Deluxe, not Super Duty, by the way, representing the car’s role as the top trim level besides high performance. The 396 cubic-inch big-block engine was offered in 325 and 350 horsepower versions. The instrument panel was the same as the GTO and it came with Strato-bucket seats, the console and floor shift common to all SS models, plus stripes, trim as well as Beaumont and SD396 emblems.