Contributed by Sandy and Steve Gray, from Hamilton Ontario, Canada, and Snowbird in Port Charlotte, Florida
We love classic cars and station wagons. We have always had classic cars but our first station wagon purchase was in the spring of 2000 (a 65 Malibu that we still own) and at the time we had many ‘car friends’ question our sanity in buying a wagon. Today wagons have seen a huge resurgence in popularity, and we are still loving them: currently, there are 3 wagons in our barn! Yeeha!
For those who do not know: Acadian Beaumont’s were a Canadian only brand of car built by GM Canada for the Canadian market from 1962 thru 1971 but it is not a Pontiac as often misnamed as. It was sold through the Pontiac/Buick/Vauxhall/GMC dealership and has more in common with its Chevy cousins. Acadians all have exclusive Acadian styled logos, badging and trim: our wagon’s Chevy Malibu style body also sports a Chevrolet drivetrain but just to keep us on our toes it has a Pontiac Tempest dash!
We stumbled upon this wagon by chance! In the fall of 2013, Steve had placed a ‘wanted’ ad looking for 62 Impala wagon. The owner of the Acadian saw our ad and contacted us hoping he could convince us to ‘take a look’. Steve had seen the car a month before: it was actually the first time he had ever seen a 1964 Acadian wagon and thought it was a real nice car, but the owner was asking for more money for the car than what we were looking to spend. The owner dropped his price as he had to sell it due to a pending move: so in a phone conversation, we came to an agreed purchase price just as long as the car was good as Steve remembered. We went armed with cash and our car trailer but when Steve had a chance to sit inside he realized that the car was musty: Steve is highly sensitive to mold. We almost walked away on the deal as we realized we would likely have to replace the headliner: but we came to an agreement on alternate price; and the rest they say is history.
When we purchased the Acadian we were currently without an old car in Florida and decided this would be an interesting car to have there: most southerners would likely have never seen an Acadian. We had our work cut out for ourselves: lots of cleaning, sorting out lots of little bugs: things that were broken and we needed updated wheels and tires. The previous owner had started brake conversion: installing the discs and calipers but had not installed the brake booster so that needed doing. We also added the four-barrel carb, installed a quieter muffler series plus I really wanted power steering as we were going to use the car ‘pretty much' as our daily driver there. We had to get this all done before we left for Florida 4 weeks later. We scrambled to get everything done and arranged transport to Florida by our friend Martin who was hauling an empty trailer south to bring something else home. Martin, who is a real car crazy guy really had fun hauling it. Every time he stopped for gas or food he experienced an ‘instant car show'. He really enjoyed explaining to people what an Acadian was, and he actually slept in the back of the car at a rest stop one night: wagons are great for free accommodations!
History of this car: the GM documentation shows the original build date of the car was October 16, 1963 in Oshawa Ontario and was shipped to Forbes Motors Ltd in Waterloo on October 23, 1963. The most unique thing about the car is that it has a factory red interior: not even shown in the brochures as an available interior color with the Almond Fawn Metallic exterior: but as we know – if it was available at all GM would allow personalized orders. Also notable: it is no wonder we had never seen a 1964 Acadian wagon before: there were only 251 Acadian Beaumont Custom wagons built in 1964!
We are the 4th owners. The fellow we bought it from owned it for around 2 years. He had been ‘out of old cars' for a few years due to family commitments and bought it on a whim but then realized that he really wanted to get back to his previous passion: 32 Ford hot rods. He had done some modifications to the wagon including the incomplete disc brakes, lowered it with Hotchkiss suspension, and modernized the exhaust. He had purchased the car from the second owner who had done the primary restoration of the car. That gentleman had repainted again to its factory color Almond Fawn Metallic, new carpeting & recovered the seats: unfortunately, the unique Acadian seat covers were not available.
The car was truly the perfect car for Florida. Everywhere we went it was an ‘instant car show': run into a grocery store – come out to someone looking her over. At car shows we had discussions about the history of Acadians, trying to convince “those guys” that know it all that it was not a Pontiac. We certainly had lots of people try to buy it from us, but it really is not for sale. While in Florida refinements continued: we replaced the factory AM radio with a classic styled AM/FM unit, added kick panel speakers, and a custom build speaker enclosure built from a Coleman cooler (I build them for all our wagons). The vintage picnic basket in the back contains cleaning and detailing products for use at car shows. We found a better steering wheel to replace the badly cracked one, re-painted it red, and reinstalled the original Acadian horn ring. We also had to finally give in and replace the front windshield: since we ‘winter' in Florida, we were often out in the late afternoon/early evening and if stuck driving home with the sun low in the sky it was quite frankly dangerous, trying to see through the badly etched windshield. I sadly had to say goodbye to my coveted Canadian Dominion Auto Club decal that had been stuck on the car’s windshield to commemorate Canada's 100th year Confederation in 1967.
The car spent three winters in Florida and was great fun having her there. We are not big on competing for trophies but on the occasions when it was included as part of the show, the Acadian very often won awards. We decided that we want to do some Canadian touring in our Canadian Acadian so we decided to bring it home in the spring of 2017 as Steve had wanted to do some upgrades to the car. I have always wanted to drive a cross country trip in a classic car so I decided: why not – I would drive the Acadian from Florida to our Canadian home in southern Ontario!
The trip home was great and the old girl ran flawlessly. With only a 2 speed transmission it revs at around 2900 rpm at 70 mph it is not easy to keep at a constant speed so Steve led the way in our regular car and set his cruise control at 70 to keep the pace constant. As always, every gas or rest stop became an ‘instant car show' and it was fun explaining about Acadians to those who were interested. We took 3 days to drive back and Steve really enjoyed the relaxation of driving the speed limit. The only time she complained was first thing in the morning in Ohio. It had gotten down to the high 30's/low 40's F overnight and I did not let it warm up enough. As soon as I would try to pull away it would stall – but she started right back up again. They say ‘three times the charm' and so was it true for the Acadian that chilly morning!
As usual, when crossing at the US/Canada border, it was all about the ‘instant car show'. We are NEXUS pass holders, a ‘trusted traveler' program and once you answer a few quick questions you are generally on your way: except when you are traveling in a classic car and it is followed by a few questions about your cool ride! It certainly felt good to get the Canadian born Acadian back on home soil. The total trip was 1400 miles and I enjoyed every minute of it.
So, in the spring/summer of 2017, we replaced the tired original 283 with a 350/300 hp crate engine however we ‘badged' it as a 327 as that ‘was' an available option for the vehicle in 1964. We had a nice set of aluminum valve covers that had a ‘crossed flag style logo’ which I thought was wrong for the Acadian, so I designed an ‘Acadian inspired’ graphic to replace that. We also installed a FiTech fuel injection system and installed a Wizard aluminum radiator among other refinements. The transmission choice was a 200R4 Monster transmission with a mild shift kit: which shifts a bit too briskly for my liking, but it does a great job otherwise. We also installed a tilt steering column, Vintage A/C and Dynamat sound deadening material over the entire floor under the carpet. I purchased an original dash pad from another local Beaumont enthusiast which we had recovered in red which gave the old gal a much nicer finished look inside. Suffice to say the drive train changes made a huge difference in the driveability of the car. Unfortunately, by the time the car was done our time was too short to distance tour that year, but its reliability was proven on lots of day trips.
The next summer of 2018 we took it on a long road trip to the Atlantic Nationals car show in Moncton New Brunswick! After spending 3 days at the Nationals show the trip also included a visit to friends in PEI then down the coast to the Portland Maine area to visit more friends before heading home. The trip total was 2,557 miles round trip! The next big trip planned for the Acadian will be heading to western Canada: hopefully in the summer of 2021!
We would love to bring the Acadian back to Florida again sometime as it was so much fun having a Canadian only car in the sunny south!