Slick Black Rocket: 1948 Pontiac Torpedo

By Andrew Tanner

This style of fastback is very characteristic of 1940s General Motors. Reader Peter R. sent us the link to this one, and I’m sure glad he did! We featured a 1950 Oldsmobile fastback recently that was very similarly styled, and equally as cool as this Pontiac Torpedo Eight. One thing that is unique about these vehicles is the way the roofline starts at a relatively normal height, and sweeps down in the back. Headroom was very important during this period of time, as men typically wore hats and you certainly didn’t want to remove your hat when you climbed into a car. Keeping the headroom while giving the car a sporty style created this unique design that started before World War II, and carried into the early 1950s. Find this 1948 Pontiac here on craigslist in Boston, Massachusetts with an asking price of $4,800. 

This Pontiac has a 249 cubic inch “Silver-Streak” inline 8-cylinder engine. If you’ve ever wondered why a car like this is longer in the front than the rear, now you know! An engine with a removed carburetor is often a cause for concern, let alone an engine with the head removed. Although it clearly needs a rebuild, based on valve and piston condition alone, I hope the seller includes the missing head. I can imagine parts for this engine might be challenging to track down, as this isn’t exactly a Chevrolet 350. Nonetheless, a determined individual could certainly pull the parts together and pull off a rebuild!

What a rear! The styling on these ’40s fastbacks will always be stunning to look at. The amount of thought and designing that went into this car is surely unmatched by many of this Pontiac’s contemporaries. The exterior appears to be in excellent condition, free of rust, and complete. All the exterior trim looks to be there and in usable condition. If parts were readily available for the engine, this project would be a breeze!

For an extra $700, bringing the total to $5,500, the seller will include a 1947 Buick Roadmaster with a running 320 cubic inch “Fireball” inline 8-cylinder engine. The seller intended to swap this engine into the Pontiac, but is abandoning the project to make way for a new one. I would be curious if this is a somewhat direct swap, as they are different engines. Though very tempting, I think both of these cars would be better off if restored independently. If it were me, I would probably sell the Buick or purchase the Pontiac by itself and keep the Pontiac as original as possible by rebuilding the original straight-8. What would you do?

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Comments

  1. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Sweet ’40s fastback Andrew! My buddy has a ’49 Cad Sedanette he bought as a roller and we dropped a 455 Buick in it a few months ago. We’ve joked about buying one of each of these GM fastbacks so you can have one Pro-Street, one stock, one low-rider, and one racer setup for La Carerra Panamericana.

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    • Andrew Tanner Staff

      That would be cool!

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  2. nessy

    Boy these sure were good looking cars. Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Olds and Cadillac all offered this same body style. This basic body style ran from 41 to 48. Did you guys know, this model fastback Pontiac was offered with a rear window wiper? He should have posted more photos. There are only photos of one side of the car. What does the other side look like? Is he hiding something? The price does seems pretty fair….

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    • David C Pyatt

      The body style ran from 42 (no 43-45) then 46-48 for everyone but Cadillac (they got their new body in 48 where the others got it in… 49 was the first year Pontiac offered 4-speed Hydramatic transmission.

      This picture shows two Streamliners (the B-body to the Torpedo’s A-Body) a 42 with 8,000 miles on the left along with our 48 back in 93 that has been in the family since the early 50s.

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      • David C Pyatt

        Our 48 is a Streamliner 4 door Sedan Deluxe… it had factory rear wiper, fog lights, power antenna and first-year automatic transmission.

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      • David C Pyatt

        This picture was used to create the dash plaque for the following year’s car show in 1994.

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      • David C Pyatt

        48 was the first year for the automatic… editing got some words out of order. B-O-P got the new body in 49, Cadillac in 48.

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      • David C Pyatt

        1994 June Auto Show dash plaque – Alliance, Ohio

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    • Andrew Tanner Staff

      Very cool! Did not know about the rear wiper. Cutting-edge stuff for the time I bet!

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  3. Dt 1

    It’s amazing all these beautiful cars that just fading away now all you got is rice burners

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  4. Ken Carney

    My earliest memories of my mom owning
    a car centers on one of these. Mom’s was a 2-tone Blue with a gray mohair interior. It was powered by a straight 8
    mated to a 3-speed stick. It also had
    many accessories such as fog lamps,
    curb feelers, spotlight, and those massive
    GM bumper guards front and rear. And
    yes, it had chrome speed lines on the fenders too. My grandpa bought it for her
    after she and dad split up in ’58. I seem
    to recall that she drove the car for two
    years before trading it for a ’50 Chrysler
    New Yorker 4-door sedan with fluid drive
    and a working radio. The New Yorker was a nice car, but I thought back then
    the Pontiac was way cooler and I even
    recall seeing the head of chief Pontiac
    lighting up in the dark at night! Like I
    said, pretty cool huh!

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  5. PoPPaPork

    Wasn’t the fastback style popular among among other brands? Or is it just gm?

    Here is an either Polish or Soviet car from the same era….

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  6. Greg

    Beautiful Pontiac Andrew! Thank you for the article. If it was me, I’d try to keep it fairly original, only updating certain systems where parts can’t be found. She’s a beautiful Pontiac!

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    • Andrew Tanner Staff

      You got it Greg! Thanks for reading!

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  7. Pete

    Nice project. I have a 47 Pontiac torpedo myself i just acquired recently. If anyone has both seats for a 2 door, shoot me an email at pjgarc22@yahoo.com. I’m in the ft worth Texas area and getting excited about my first restore. I have the original motor and tranny if anyone interested

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  8. RoughDiamond

    This is one beautifully designed automobile and I would not change a thing from stock. You can still see that the Pontiac Chief head is present. If only this were closer.

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  9. GaryEvans

    The parts for the flathead 8 are readily available and there is great support from the Pontiac Oakland club. A couple of years ago I had my 51 Pontiac flathead 6 rebuilt without any issues. I suspect that all mechanical parts are available and most trim pieces.
    The attached photo shows my parents 48 Pontiac, possibly on a trip to Yellowstone in the very early 50s. Ours did have the rear window wiper. I was born in 48, so I don’t recall a lot about this car, but I do recall the (used) 52 Pontiac station wagon (the first year for the Dual Range hydramatic) that replaced the 48 and which we had until the early 60s. Somewhere I have another picture or two of the 48 and at least one showing the rear wiper.

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  10. charlie

    The engine swap might have failed since the Buick and Caddy shared the same frame and many body parts, and the Pontiac shared with the Chevy, and maybe they don’t really line up, things like motor mounts and clearances, etc. In my opinion the Caddy/Buick version was far better looking, until the new ’49 Chevy version, especially the 2 door, but they did not sell well, but are in great demand in a part of Latino LA, most now low riders but with the Chevy 6 and a farty sounding exhaust; To each his own.

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  11. Dan Koch

    My Parents had a ’48 Chevy Master DeLuxe Fleetline in two tone blue l wish l knew where it is! Myself l have a ’49 Pontiac 2dr Fastback Silver Streak & l’m putting the Running gear outa a ’95 Camaro SS/RS in & under it Car sat in a machine she’d/barn since ’67 & l bought from Original Owner’s Grandson for a song Shud be a very sweet Ratrod

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  12. Ben T. Spanner

    The Pontiac is listed as an automatic which should be a 4 speed Hydromatic with no torque converter. The Buick is either stick,(unlikely) or Dynaflow. I would doubt that the engines would interchange.

    Drop in a 350 and a Turbo Hydramatic. Keep the old drive train in case a future owner wants it. Convert to front disks and a dual master cylinder and drive it.

    1+
  13. Chuck Pierce

    I love the fact that the stainless accent starts on the hood and ends on the trunk. A neat touch. Such a large, heavy car with a ride as expected from a boat. Thanks for sharing this! Chuck in Kansas

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  14. Arjan

    Nice cars! I prefer the original approach. I own a 48 Streamliner with the straight 8 and hydramatic. Even the rear wiper is there! I rebuild both the engine and tranny. Parts were eays to come by.

    1+

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