Affordable Hardtop: 1955 Pontiac Chieftain

Brian BirknerBy Brian Birkner

I think it is hard to not have some level of appreciation for 55-57 Pontiac Chieftains. This weathered hardtop has a great look, and appears to be a very solid car in running condition. With a certain hot rod appeal, this Pontiac needs some work and a fuel tank before hitting the streets once again. Offered for a buy it now price of $6,000 this hardtop warrants a good looking over. Check it out here on ebay out of Eagle, Idaho.

Under the hood there is a well decorated 316 V8 with a 4 barrel carb. Power brakes, Power steering, and even air conditioning is fitted to this Pontiac making it a great candidate to revive and enjoy in comfort. The engine is in running condition, but the original fuel tank was apparently rotted and deemed “no good” hitting the trash pile. Now a fuel tank or some other solution is needed to feed this V8 for driver duty. The seller does not outright say that this Chieftain is or was a driver, but based on its appearance, and condition, I would guess that it has been driven some.

Quite original minus the carpet, the interior of this hardtop needs a little help. Both the front and back bench need to be reupholstered, and the headliner could use some help as well. The dash is in nice shape as are the door panels. A retro air conditioning cabin unit is installed, making the a/c system appear complete with a possibility of being rebuilt. If you look at the driver floor you will see some surface rust, as well as some minimal rot.

Featuring an aftermarket roof rack, this feature seems a bit odd for the time period of the car, but it does add some utility to the car. Obviously scattered with various surface rust, the cream paint has given up the ghost so to speak, and has crazed, cracked, and chipped off. The metallic paint has held on pretty well with little missing. Very straight, the body would be a prime candidate for a repaint, or to be left as is with its current appearance. The hood looks to be a replacement possibly indicating some previous damage or accident that may have occurred. Beyond the obvious surface rust, there is no visible rot in this Pontiac. The current look of this machine is cool, but seeing this hardtop restored would be a treat as well. What would you do with this hardtop?

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Comments

  1. Alan

    I like classic Pontiacs. Last yeat I bought All original 8K miles 1977 Bonneville Landau coupe Non brougham version. Brown with cream landau and beige cloth interior. 350 4B V8 power windows , PS, PB , Factory AC , Factory AM/FM radio , Tilt steering the car is in almost showroom condition with all books & original owners manual. I just put 4 new tires and did engine oil change. I always liked the downsized full size B bodies from GM.

    4+
  2. Howard A Member

    Always liked these. Kind of like a ’55 Chevy, but nicer. If you drove one of these in 1955, you were doing ok ( not Buick salary, yet) It is such a neat car, it should be restored to new.

    4+
  3. Dave Wright

    Not a Chieftan but a Star Chief Catalina……………longer chassis and better equipped car. I have been looking for one, this one is a candidate and it is close. The engine is a 287 (unless it has been changed) I have been watching this car for a while now. Something about it…..price is not great, haven’t been able to get excited enough to go see it. These are great cars, far superior to its cousin the Chevrolet that it shares many parts with.

    13+
    • Howard A Member

      Dave, did you get the Packard?

      0
      • Dave Wright

        No, my last bid was just under 13,000 and it sold for just over that. I am becoming cynical about non government auctions. Many times, (like too many) I an second or third bidder and immediately get a note from the seller offering it to me for my last bid. It seems to me that there is a lot of shill bidding just to get a legitimate bidder to his highest last bid. It insults me a bit. A fair auction that I am bid up or outbid on is fine….but if I am the 3rd bidder and getting a note within 20 min of the close, it is suspect to me. I was hoping on the Packard that might happen….but it didn’t. It has happened more times than not in the last year or so.

        13+
      • Howard A Member

        Oh well, the way things are going, don’t sit down yet. I believe you’ll see more and more of those. Quick (personal) shill story. In the 90’s, I worked for a trencher/heavy equipment outfit, and the boss comes up to me one day, and says, “tomorrow, come to work in street clothes, you’re going to an equipment auction with me”. I was the new guy, and everybody( but me) knew what was going on. Next day, on the way to the auction, he says, “ok, you’re going to bid on some machines, and when I take my glasses off, stop bidding”. It became clear what I was there for. I was pissed, but he was the boss, and I helped raise the bids on several machines. I quit shortly after that.

        3+
      • Dave Wright

        I have a similar story, 25 or so years ago, I was in Southern California and had a lot of friends in the buy and sell/auction trade. Hauser equipment sales in the San Fernando Valley was owned by a buddy of mine. Nice guy, we would sit together sometimes at the auctions. I stoped in his office at the yard one day……he was fuming. He had just recovered from the flu and missed a sale. He had sent his son (I think) to cover the bids on the items he had going through the auction……he didn’t go. This was a large sale that claimed to be a no reserve, no buyback auction…… well, all of his stuff at the sale sold, a much of it for a loss. I had never seen him so hot…….

        2+
  4. RicK

    That plastic Indian Head (Chief Pontiac) hood ornament should light up along with the headlites (presuming the wire was re-connected when the hood was changed out) And if it were mine, I’d shoot a clear coat on it to preserve the “patina” and leave the roof rack on it – it looks totally Boss!

    2+
    • Dave Wright

      The early 55 Indian head ornaments were clear, they were recalled and replaced with the amber color ones by the factory. I guess one of the early recalls in automotive history. Yes, they do light up and we’re an option rather than standard equipment. This is a well optioned car, light under the hood, Ps, Pb, leather. I haven’t looked close enough to tell if the A/C is factory but odds are it isn’t. The A/C of this period was incredibly expensive and crude. Many cars had the mechanics of it mounted in the trunk it was so large.

      1+
      • geomechs

        Hi Dave. I don’t think the A-C is factory. I’ve never seen GM use anything other than a Fridgidaire/Delco/Harrison compressor. The A-6 was in use from the early 50s although it was a lot bulkier than the units that came out in the 60s. The evaporator was in the trunk until the late 50s when they managed to shrink it enough to get in the corner of the engine bay. This looks like a York (possibly a Tecumseh?) compressor which was very common with aftermarket kits. I agree with you on the 287 motor although I wasn’t aware that the 287 was available with a 4bbl.

        4+
      • Dave Wright

        That was my thinking on the A/C too……..looked too new. I have seen (and owned one) 287 with a 4bbl….was it called a power PAC? The 287 was the grandfather or most Pontiac V8’s up into the late 70’s.

        2+
      • Bob

        My dad bought a new Pontiac Starchief Custom sedan in 1954 and the A/C unit was totally under the hood. In 1955 he then bought a 1955 Starchief convertible also with factory A/C. In both cases the outlets were incorporated into the dashboard not a hang down unit like the one pictured. I always thought it was unusual that Cadillac was still placing the evaporator in the trunk through 1956. In this case Pontiac beat Cadillac to the punch.

        1+
    • Bob Yeager

      My great uncle had a 53 hdtp, I remember the Indian Head lighting up. For some reason that has stuck with me. The car was always garaged and seldom driven, it was beautiful. when he passed away my great aunt said that I could have the car. 1963, who wants an old tin Indian anyway. What was I thinking?

      1+
      • Dave Wright

        One of the nicest cars I ever owned was a 53 Pontiac Convertible, smooth running straight 8, one piece windshield, leather interior, automatic trans and chrome that looked deeper than a lake. It really was a wonderful car, one of the top 6 that I should have kept.

        2+
  5. Rustytech

    “Like the 55 Chevy but better.” Also more expensive at the time, today a 55 Chevy in this condition is selling for about $15k making this a bargain. I hope someone wifi take this and bring it back to its former glory.

    2+
  6. Dave

    Roof racks were a must back in dads day.
    He never left home without it figuring he would find treasure (junk) along side the road.

    1+
  7. Kevin W

    I’ve never heard of a Chieftain hardtop, Chieftains were at the bottom of the totem pole, no pun intended, I believe they were all pillared sedans.

    1+
    • Dave Wright

      There is a Chieftan hard top on eBay right now…….can’t be many built or left.

      0
  8. redwagon

    @Dave – i understand your frustration with being 2nd or 3rd bidder and then asked if you will take it for your last bid. that seems like a clear case of shill bidding.

    my question for you (or anyone who has experienced this) is if you make a decision on the max you want to pay and you win the auction with a 2nd or 3rd place finish, do you complete the transaction anyway? it is after all the max you were willing to pay regardless of where the auction “ended”.

    4+
    • Dave Wright

      That is always the question. It depends on the price and how much you want the item. The decision is different every time but i always weight it against completing the transaction. I have many times rebid an item when re auctioned and purchased it for less money but money isn’t always the most important part of the decision.

      3+
      • 63Comet

        I happen to agree. Integrity first. Must be weighed against the perceived need for the the item.

        0
  9. Doug

    Many of the 55-57 Pontiac body parts would interchange with the Chevy of the same year, although they would not match perfectly due to trim lines, etc. I have seen a 55 Pontiac front clip replaced by a 55 Chevy front clip because the Pontiac hood was unavailable at the time. Some of the lower line 55 Pontiacs had taillight bezels that could be changed over to 55 Chevy tail lights in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a Phillips head screwdriver.
    It may well be that a 55 Chevy gas tank would fit perfectly in this car, and they are readily available new – Check out ” Street Rodder” magazine.

    1+
    • Dave Wright

      And the Star Chiefs were 4 inches longer than the Chev. That along with superior suspension design made for a great riding car. Every thing from the engine, transmission, brakes fit and finish is higher quality.

      0
  10. Al

    The great part of this car is the roof racks. These racks only work on cars with window drips, and I cannot think of any cars made in the last 20 years that can still use them.

    4+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      It’s a shame that today’s so-called designs do not include drip rails, or as we used to call them…rain gutters. We did fine with wing windows and gutters. Now we are forced to buy cheap stick-on smoked deflectors to accomplish what was previously standard. There was a time when Europe clambered for American automobiles…Now it’s the opposite.
      What went wrong ?? Something to think about. I’m so tired of jellybeans with wheels.

      2+
    • Graywolf

      If this was “AlohaRacks” and in decent shape it would bring between $300-$500. Just think, we used to throw them in the trash when the rubber coating wore thru and bought another for $35.00! Just bought a pristine pair for $225 and got a deal! Looks good on the ’66 Imp wagon!

      2+
  11. Bill Speller

    I agree about the Chieftain HT.
    I would bet my life this is a Star Chief.

    0
  12. lawrence

    They had dash air if factory – hey what’s up with those “Texas” plates ?

    0
  13. Bob

    Definitely a Star Chief and a Custom at that. The Custom had leather interior.

    2+
  14. rough diamond

    What a cool car and that look out over the dash and hood and seeing that Chief’s head hood ornament is awesome. Hard to believe that Chief’s head has survived all those years and it must be something to behold when driving at night.

    0
  15. Mike Cobb

    On my computer, your site is ‘frozen’ on this 9/14/17 post. All the other elements seem to be working. Is this just my system, or is there a problem with your system … or, I hope not, with your personal situation?

    5+
    • Chuck Farley

      Mine too! I open it and I’m still seeing this ’55 “Tin Indian”!

      2+
  16. Nrg8

    A friend of mine bought a Starchief with this color combo off ebay. It was modernized with a 350, disc brakes, 4le60, yet it remained stock on the outside. Nice reliable, comfortable and safe. Went down to back to the 50’s car show, came out of the hotel in the morning and it was gone. No trace until the x-wife sold it, and the new owner was registering it. Something something bitter divorce. She had the key and drove it away. By the time the car made it back to Canada the insurer paid him out and he moved into a 55 Pontiac convert.

    1+

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