I remember it so vividly: it was the summer of 1963 and I had just left the concession stand outside the Iowa City Public Swimming Pool. As I walked in front of the row of cars parked next to the pool with my 15¢ soft ice cream cone, I suddenly saw this: a mutant Chevy II! I was totally flummoxed, even more so by the odd badging: Acadian? Beaumont? What the hell is this?
I walked around it a couple of times, and finally noticed the license plate: Ontario. That sort of explained it. But why would they disguise a Chevy II in Canada?
Well, thanks to my years here at CC, I’m now pretty well versed in the alternate-universe of Canada-specific brands and re-badged, Cheviacs and Plodges. But back then, it was a real stretch for me. Why put a Pontiacesque split grille on a Chevy II, and rebadge it?
In case you missed it here before, the Acadian was created to give Canadian Pontiac-Buick dealers a compact to sell, as the Tempest wasn’t built in Canada, and the whole idea then was to promote local production with pretty stiff import duties on US-made cars. The initial plan was for the Acadian to be a rebadged Corvair, as it was built in GM’s Oshawa plant, but once the Chevy II was getting finalized, the plan changed to make it the Beaumont.
I wonder if they were going to put a split grille on the Corvair? Like this Pontiac Polaris, which was ditched at the last minute in favor of the Tempest. I’ve actually never seen this version of the Polaris before. Now that I think about it, I’m not so sure that’s what it really is, although it does have a little split in the grille. Could this be a mock-up of what was originally planned for the Beaumont? Hmm.
I’ve seen pictures of this Polaris prototype numerous times, and it looks more credible, as there was no way Pontiac was going to sell such a mildly disguised Corvair as the one further up.
I know about the situation with some areas in Canada not having a Chevrolet dealer, but why didn’t they just sell this as a Pontiac Acadian instead of creating a whole new brand?
John DeLorean reportedly shot down the Polaris, bothered by its swing-axle suspension amongst other things, in favor of the Tempest. Did the prototype Tempest have larger tires than the Corvair? Looks like it in that photo.
I’ve seen the car tagged above as a Acadian Beaumont described elsewhere as an Oldsmobile, and it does seem to have Olds-ish styling cues around the would-be grille and headlamp surrounds, as well as the right number of letters on the hood. And the badge on the front fender appears to be something other than Acadian or Beaumont, two words actually. I’ve also seen a proposed Buick version, which also had very little differentiation from the Corvair.
The top picture is barbed as an Oldsmobile Sixty Six.
I’ve never heard of a Corvair-based Oldsmobile before, and Google comes up blank. This certainly seems plausible: It has the right number of letters on the front, and the fender badge has two words that could conceivably spell out “Sixty Six”
Here are some links that mention the Olds badge-engineered Corvair:
and right here on CC:
I learned about the Pontiac, Olds, and Buick variants from an article in (IIRC) Collectible Automobile which had photos of all three. They noted the Pontiac seemed to progress the furthest, and was the only one where half an effort was made to differentiate it from the Corvair. What strikes me as odd about the Corvair clones though is that GM at this time was not into badge engineering at all – this was an era when their different marques each had their own engines, transmissions, and even frames, as well as significant styling differences inside and out. And the small Pontiac, Olds, and Buicks that they actually built in 1961 had substantial styling and engineering differences too.
Thanks for reminding me. I couldn’t quite make out the script letters.
I strongly suspect that the Olds version was just an exercise, some thing to contemplate, but not likely a very serious consideration. For one, I simply refuse to believe that Olds would accept such a mildly face-lifted Corvair. As we can see from the Pontiac Polaris, there was a considerable amount of differentiation.
It raises the question just when the Y-body front-engine compacts (F-85, Special) were committed. It must have been in late ’57 or early ’58, presumably. And at that stage, and for some time yet, Pontiac was not in on that program, but was clearly heading towards the Polaris. The decision to not use the Polaris must have been well later (than the decision to develop the F-85/Special) because as is all-too obvious, the Tempest used the F-85’s body, right down to the key external sheet metal, except for a changed front end.
One more remote possibility was that the Olds 66 was being considered as a lower end car to slot below the F-85, which was ever only available with V8 power, unlike the Special (V6) and Tempest (four). The case for that is that the 66 concept would have been made in mid-late ’58, as the Corvair’s final styling wasn’t fully locked in until about then. By that time, the Y Body program had already been well committed.
In any case, I don’t believe this was ever a very serious consideration.
They did go on to sell a rebadged Chevette as the Pontiac Acadian.
We had a ‘67 Beaumont, but by then it had grown into a re-badged Chevelle. Looking at the Polaris, I’m relieved that it wasn’t put into production. I’m not really a big fan of the earlier Corvair (I prefer the later models) and this version just doesn’t do it for me either.
Woah! Being a casual Corvair admirer, especially one of Gen1 4doors, that Polaris prototype gets me excited in not-quite-healthy ways.
Many of the Canadian rebadges were a little awkward stylistically to my eye (the Frontenac and Meteor come to mind), but I think some of the split-grille Beaumonts were actually crisper and more sophisticated-looking than their very plain Chevy II cousins.
I thought the grille on the initial Canada-only ’73 Pontiac Astre was weak. It looked much like the Vega design, with an awkward vertical bar added to create a modest Pontiac brand appearance.
The ’74 version was a marginal improvement. Still didn’t appear well integrated.
The more distinctive split grille design offered in ’75 for the US and Canada looking much improved.
Before the internet, what was anyone’s first Canadian-only model name?
I didn’t know Canadian model names (or designs) existed when I first went to Canada, at 17, and saw Pontiac Laurentians in quite a number.
Neat to have a place which digs into this stuff. Great pic.
I went to Montreal in ’99 and saw Honda Civics rebadged as the Acura EL. That was something I’d had no idea existed.
The Laurentian fascinated me as a teen visitor to Canada. Full size Cheviacs were the top sellers in Canada some years, so they were all over the place.
I first saw Laurentians and Parisiennes when visiting Montreal in the late ’70s as a teen and assumed they were the same as U.S. Catalinas and Bonnevilles respectively (except that the ’75-76 Parisiennes were available in a post sedan body style that Bonnevilles weren’t). Only decades later did I learn they had Chevy drivetrains in them, and prior to 1965 had different frames and sheetmetal too.
Canadian Pontiacs used a Chevrolet chassis up until 1970. They used unique sheet metal during this time and were smaller than US models. They all used the same 119″ wheelbase as Chevrolet, along with the Chevrolet engine line-up. The 1971-76 cars were a mixture of US and Canadian models, but even though the Canadian cars, like the Parisienne you mention, used Chevrolet engines, they no longer shared their chassis with Chevrolets. From 1977-81 the Canadian market Pontiacs, including the Catalina, all used Chevrolet engines, but were otherwise very similar to the US models. From 1982 on, they became rebadged Chevrolets.
As a kid growing up here in Seattle (which is about 100 miles south of the border) we’d see the occasional Acadian or Frontenac or Meteor down here. Presumably it was a Canadian down here on holiday or doing some shopping.
Canadian market only branding wasn’t only confusing to American car spotters, I grew up in the 70s, and wondered the rationale behind these oddball earlier brands/models myself. As most of them were gone already, and collectors seemed the only ones appreciating their importance.
Referencing the Automotive News annual top industry stories list from the other day, the top story for 1965 was record new car sales in the US. In Canada, our biggest news was obviously the ’65 US-Canada Auto Pact which homogenized our unique market with the US.
A little younger than you but I had the same moment seeing a Pontiac Tempest badged Chevy Corsica in the late 80s or early 90s in lovely Cleveland Ohio.
Weird thing was how the originally Pontiac-specific grooved side trim and ribbed taillights later found their way to U.S. Corsicas.
The Chevy II based Acadians were called Canso – the larger Chevelle bodied Acadians were called Beaumont – billchrest
Canadian here. As a car-crazed kid, my perspective was different. The Canadian models were normal to me and the American models seemed odd. Parisienne, Frontenac, Monarch, Meteor, Laurentian and Acadian all seemed normal to me because they were everywhere . When I started reading car magazines, mostly American publications, I noticed they were nowhere to be found.
Instead there were exciting and mysterious models I’d never heard of or seen, like Bonneville, Monterey and Maurader.
Eventually of course, Americans got the Parisienne and we got the Bonneville. I guess GM thought that the city of Paris was more relevant to America than the Laurentian mountains.
I got my introduction to the weird Chevies when I was in College in a town near the Canadian boarder. Canadians frequently come down to get cheap gas, milk, chicken and clothes. So you would see the occasional nice Beaumont or Acadian, and they definitely made me do a double take.
I had one, a 62 Sport Deluxe Acadian convert.
The 194 inch six ran smooth, the PG trans whined as expected, the suspension was weak, the build quality was just ok. All in all a nice bland cruiser. This was in about 1982
Pontiac Acadian Scooter. Pontiac Sunrunner. Pontiac Firefly. Pontiac Parisienne.
I had a early introduction to the Canada-only market nameplates in 1962 at ten years old: we took a family trip to the Canadian National Exhibition at Toronto. Being the car-crazed youth I was, the minute we crossed the Peace Bridge at Buffalo began seeing all those cars that looked familiar but not quite. Different grilles, taillights, side trim and nameplates, what was that all about? It was great finding out!
Another Canadian market oddity (for Americans anyway) was Mercury trucks – not just pickup trucks but also Econoline vans and big medium-duty haulers. To this Yank, a Mercury school bus is just wrong…
Pontiac Acadian, Pontiac Firefly & Pontiac Sunburst – we Canadians loved our small cheap cars.
I went on a family trip in maybe 1973. We crossed into Canada at Detroit and then came back to the US via a ferry that docked around Sandusky, Ohio. There were quite a few of these Canadian-branded cars running around at the time and I was intrigued by them. I don’t specifically recall seeing these, but am sure that I did – not even a foreign-language Chevy II could get me excited about them back then. 🙂 I was more into the Rideau 500s or Meteor Montcalms.
Growing up in Central Florida, we would have Canadian snowbirds show up in these occasionally. They were just a smidge different, not enough for most to notice, but to a young enthusiast, they were fascinating. For some reason, I don’t really recall any Plodges (which may have been due to not noticing the difference) nor many Meteors/Monarchs/Frontenacs, but they were surely around, at least during the winter.I think the GM models were mostly seen due to our area getting a lot of folks from around the Oshawa area wintering here.
A grille or trim change is pretty simple, but the one thing I failed to comprehend about the Cheviacs, for example, is why go to all that expense to graft a full Pontiac body onto a Chevy chassis in the first place? Canada is larger than the United States but historically has had only ten percent of the population. These days, there are more people in California than in Canada.
You’ll notice two things about this 1966 Laurentian, taken on a street in Montreal. One is the wiper pattern, two is the narrow track. I guess they didn’t advertise “Wide-Track” Pontiacs up there.
The Beaumont is still alive and well. I snapped it yesterday on a sunny spring bike ride, having forgotten that it had already been written up. 🙁
Have we reached peak CC? Or have I passed peak memory?
acadian is its own brand….their is no badging of Pontiac anywhere on the vechile