For too long, us Canadians have always been defined vis-à-vis our neighbors in the South: I’ve heard us being described as “Polite Americans” or “the Cool Americans”, and sure, there’s truth to that, but we’re so much more unique, with our own identity, and our own products. Some of which might look familiar to our American counterparts, but trust me, it’s all-Canadian, like maple syrup and mounties.
One thing that bugs me about that “Canadians are just Better Americans” discussion is when we start talking about muscle cars. As a gearhead myself, I loathe it whenever our ‘neighbors’ in the south think that they have a monopoly on muscle cars. “American muscle!”, they yell at their tailgates, not knowing that some of the best muscle cars out there come from the Great White North.
That’s right, some of the most classic, vintage, well-beloved “American” muscle cars you worship actually came from up here in O Canada. In fact, some Americans aren’t even aware that we have a robust automotive manufacturing industry, and that most of their cars were probably assembled oot here in Canada.
A lot of the muscle cars you have over in America probably started their life here under a different name. But before you start shooting your semi-automatic guns in frustration, let me extend an olive branch to our American friends (because that’s what Canadians do): it’s not like we were trying to fool you. There’s a historical reason for it; it has a lot to do with tariffs and economies of scale and such (although I honestly think it’s just to protect Canadian pride, which I’m totally cool with).
The Auto Pact helped Canadian and American manufacturers work hand-in-hand with each other by making auto crossings from here in the north duty-free going to the south. Which is why, if you visited us, you’ll find some classic “American” muscle cars being given a Canadian treatment. Here are some of our All-Canadian Muscle cars that you might not have heard of (or know by a different name):
1960 Pontiac Parisienne
In Canada, Pontiacs were built using Chevy chassis and engines, creating a vehicle that had that highly distinct Pontiac style but without the wide-track underpinnings. They also came with a completely different series of names: the Strato-Chief, the Laurentian, the Parisienne, and the Grande Parisienne, reflecting the Grand Prix influences of the automotive industry in the ‘60s.
The 1960 Pontiac Parisienne came with either an Astro-Flame 348 or the more powerful Super-Flame 409, while the ’65 model came with either the Astro-Ket 396 or the Jet-Flame 427. By 1967, Pontiac Canada released the buckets-and-console Parisienne 2+2 in the Great White North (a model that Pontiac discontinued down south of the same year).
1966 Meteor Montcalm S-33 Ford
Although the Pontiac was definitely the dominant power in the Canadian automotive market in the ‘60s, the Ford company didn’t want to be left behind, with the company releasing the 1966 Montcalm S-33 as an answer to Pontiac’s Acadian. The Montcalm S-33 came in either hardtop or convertible variants and was a sporty redesign of the Ford Meteor.
The Montcalm S-33 came with buckets and console as a standard, with a tepid, small-block 428 4-speed that had a respectable 345 horsepower output. Ford upped the horses with the ’69 redesign, replacing the 428 with a more powerful 429 that churned out 360 horses. Of all the S-33’s, however, the 1970 version was the most distinct, thanks to the rear fenders sporting prominent striping that set it apart from the Mercury or any other Ford brands.
1966 Acadian SS 350
When the L79 327/350 was introduced in ’66 for the Chevy II, it was rebranded as the Super Econoflame V8 for the Acadian. When the Chevy II was redesigned in ’68, their Canadian counterparts released the Acadian SS 350, which strayed slightly from its Canadian Pontiac upbringing to be a little closer to its American relatives, dropping the Pontiac split grille for something closer to a Chevy.
The Acadian SS 350 had an Astro Econoflame that pumped out 295 horsepower (which was upped to 300 for the ’69 model). It came with SS identification, front wheel louvers, special Acadian SS hood ornaments, and top-of-the-line brake, trim, and suspension upgrades.
1968 Beaumont SD 396 Mecum
What Americans might call a Pontiac, we call an “Acadian Beaumont”. This classic started life as a top trim level ’62 Chevy II Acadian. The Chevy Acadian looks a lot like a Chevy, but with a Pontiac-esque split grille, which made sense considering that Pontiac dealerships were the ones peddling this classic when it came out.
When Chevy came out with the Chevelle, General Motors-Canada (a subsidiary of the American automotive giant), introduced the Beaumont as a Canadian counterpart. It was designed to be a brand in and of itself, using the Chevy L79 327/350 (renamed as the Super Econoflame V8, which, in my opinion, sounds cooler) for the 1965 model. While the ’66 Beaumont was called the Sports Deluxe sporting the Econo-jet 396.
The 1967 Beaumont started out with the same mindset, but by 1968, had evolved into the now-distinct 1968 Beaumont SD 396 Mecum, sporting a ventilated hood reminiscent of the Chevelle SS 396 but with lower-body stripes.
Many of these cars were unavailable in the United States for a long time, thanks to the astronomically high tariffs Canada placed on American auto imports, making these cars quite rare in the American market.
Compounding their expensive price points stateside are the fact that these cars were meant to be driven and driven often. Which means that, while finding one of these in America is rare, finding one in great running condition is even rarer.
My advice? If you want to experience some real, homegrown, Canadian muscle, you’re going to have to join us over here in the Great White North.