The Beaumont SD Is the Chevelle SS Americans Never Got to Drive
Import/export laws have been responsible for all manner of unusual situations in the automotive world, from the Chicken Tax keeping much of the world's compact pickups out of the U.S. market for decades (and inadvertently creating the Subaru Brat), to China slowly creating an EV-only market within its borders.
One of the more unusual footnotes in muscle car history was also the result of trade tariffs, this time between Canada and the United States. Levies and fees imposed on automobiles built outside of the Great White North had forced some automakers to get creative, with both Ford and General Motors creating Canada-only brands that mixed and matched drivetrains, styling and features from many of their American models to suit buyer needs and keep pricing reasonable.
The ultimate manifestation of this strange automotive genesis was the Beaumont SD, a high powered Canuck interpretation of the Chevrolet Chevelle SS that is one of the rarest examples of V8 supremacy from the classic muscle era.
Mixing the Breeds
First, a little more history. The Beaumont name dates back to the early-'60s when it was a sub-model of the Acadian, another Canada-only GM brand that was sold at stand-alone dealerships or those that had been "twinned" with Buick-Pontiac. The Acadian was itself based largely on the Chevy II, but the Acadian Beaumont eventually stepped up to the mid-size A-body platform that was used to underpin the Chevelle.
For the most part, the cars were similar, but by the time the A-body rolled around, the Beaumont had a distinct personality separating it from its American cousin, including a unique grille and tail lights, an interior borrowed mostly from the Pontiac LeMans and a few other Pontiac-specific trim bits sprinkled throughout.
The cross-pollination continued under the hood, where the Chevy engines plied their trade. Due to existing Canadian regulations at the time, a number of other small changes from the standard Pontiac/Chevrolet playbook were baked in to satisfy rules about how much Canada-specific content had to be included with the car.
Out on Its Own
It wasn't long—1966, in fact—before the Beaumont had shed its Acadian moniker and was a full-on brand of its own. It was at this point that things began to get interesting for high performance fans, as the Beaumont Sport Deluxe, or SD, coupes added the 396 ci Chevy big block V8 to the order sheet.
It's important to make a distinction here, because while the very first year of Acadian Beaumont production (1962) also offered a Sport Deluxe, they were more luxury than speed-oriented, and could only be had with a six-cylinder engine.
The later examples, after the move to the A-body, were based on the Beaumont Custom Sport Coupe trim, originally as a package called the Sports Option and then later as its own Sport Deluxe model. In addition to its 350hp motor, the SD 396 offered bucket seats and a number of other interior upgrades, along with graphics similar to what one might find on a Chevelle SS 396.
The Beaumont was, of course, offered with a full range of six and eight-cylinder engines between '66 and '68, including the 327 ci and 350 ci V8s. By the end of the decade, however, the SD396 was the only Sport Coupe Beaumont money could buy, and the Beaumont had disappeared from the market completely by 1970 (after the adoption of the APTA agreement had erased automotive trade tariffs between the two nations).
Only 72,000 Beaumonts were built across its roughly eight-year production span, and far, far fewer than that were big-block SDs, making the Beaumont Sport Deluxe one of the rarest muscle cars ever to leave a GM factory (with under 2,000 coupes and convertibles thought to have been produced).
For those seeking the rarest of the rare, there's also the Conroy Cheetah, a 10-unit run of Beaumont SDs featuring L72 427 ci V8s rated at 450hp (matched with four-speed manual transmissions and 12-bolt Positraction rear ends) that were put together by Conroy Pontiac-Buick, which could be thought of as Vancouver, British Columbia's answer to Yenko.
Still, almost any Beaumont is bound to raise eyebrows south of the border, where its oddball mix of Pontiac and Chevy styling stand out from the Chevelle SS pack.