1 of 1,294! 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Safari

Pontiac’s sporty two-door wagon hit the show rooms in 1955, General Motors’ practical application of 1954’s well-received Corvette Nomad show car. Named after an 18th-century Detroit-area Ottawa Chieftain, Pontiac leveraged the Native American theme, including the stylish “arrow” side trim. The Safari and Chevrolet’s wagons shared a chassis and more, foreshadowing a time in the ’80s when many General Motors cars barely differed from brand to brand except in grille and tail light treatments. This never-restored classic can be yours with the high bid here on eBay, where at least 10 bidders can picture themselves restoring this sporty two-door hauler. Bidding above $16,500 falls short of the seller’s Reserve. Thanks to reader Larry D. for spotting this neat old wagon.

Blinding chrome and myriad gauges, knobs, and switches adorn the Star Chief Safari dashboard, all color-coordinated with the two-tone interior. Only the high-rolling Bonneville boasted a higher base price in the Pontiac lineup for ’57, according to Wikipedia.

Interesting styling elements abound at the cargo loading zone, including de rigueur ’50s fins, nautical-style tailgate trim, and twin rocket thruster towers. From bumper to fin tip, these bookends visually connect the bumper-integrated exhaust, tail lights, and reverse lights into the stylistic notch of the side trim arrow. Where do I sign? Wraparound windows echo the futuristic curved windshield.

Someone kept this ’57 rolling with a transplanted Pontiac 389 cid (6.4L) V8. Though not original, the 389 wears an air conditioning compressor mated to the wagon’s (apparently) original system. Interestingly, the Safari would have come with GM’s advanced four-speed automatic transmission. Later 389s used the BOP (Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac) bellhousing, and the seller’s assertion that only the engine has been swapped would pin this as an early 389, an engine that made its debut in 1959, according to EngineFacts.

With high style, more power, and a much higher price tag than Chevy’s Nomad, the Star Chief Safari would have been a rare site when new, let alone today. Take a seat when your chroming vendor gives you the estimate to restore this monster maw. Have you seen a two-door Pontiac Star Chief Safari in person?

Comments

  1. Raymond L Saunders

    Ďosent need plated just polished out

    Like 4
  2. Joe

    Just, WOW!

    Like 2
  3. Vince Scalera

    What a great car! I’d like to know why Pontiac is misspelled on the tailgate

    Like 5
  4. Todd Fitch Staff

    Also I meant to mention in the piece… what’s with the Christmas color scheme? I’m guessing this car did not leave the factory in this shade of green. I could maybe see the red and white interior with a lighter green / sage paint, but that’s a stretch. I’m picturing the car painted white, cream, or burgundy. Maybe silver or gray. Thoughts?

    • Phipps

      That’s a great point and probably was a lighter shade. Then again Ponchos in green is a personal favorite of mine and is live with it haha

      Like 1
  5. Glenn Reynolds

    What a cool car! A select few Pontiac’s had fuel injection in 1957. Wonder if there was ever a F.I. Safari?

    • Tom Young

      Hey Glen. Pontiac never produced a factory fuel injected 1957 Safari Star Chief 2 door wagon but over the last 30+ years that I have collected Safari wagons, two ’57s have been fitted with FI by collectors. Tom Young, Editor, 1955-57 Custom Safari Chapter, POCI.

      Like 1
      • Glenn Reynolds

        We had a rich kid in college who showed up in a 57 Pontiac with “fuel injection” signs on the front fenders (slightly different than the 57 Chevy
        if I remember correctly) We accused him of being a “poser” until he opened the hood…… WOW

  6. John C.

    A Pontiac “nomad” I can see it with big rims, windows tinted, modern drivetrain, rare original car. good find!

    Like 1
    • joe

      Oh no….. This car is so rare, that would be an unfortunate move. Are you one of the “LS it” lurkers on here?

      Like 10
      • John C.

        No, not an LS, how about a newer Pontiac/GM engine, unless the one in it can be made to run like a champ.

        Like 2
  7. BrianT BrianT Member

    There was a gas station just off the Tacoma Parkway in “upstate” NY where 3 of these sat for many years. They weren’t for sale but they all disappeared at the same time. My guess is that someone was in the right place at the right time with a pocket full of cash. That’s just a guess hiwever. That was way before Gas Monkey.

    Like 1
  8. mainlymuscle

    These are absolute STUNNERS done , and one of the few that can match my 59 El Camino for “over the top ” styling touches that somehow meld together to become rolling art.

    Like 1
  9. pwtiger

    I think that Bonnevilles had the 4 speed Hydromatics up to 1964, the smaller Catalinas and GP’s used the Slim-Jim. looking at the color of the engine and the old AC compressor I’m thinking it’s an early 60’s engine.

  10. Darren

    Hot Wheels collectors will see an “error card” 😄 A 1 of 1 Pontaic.

    Like 1
  11. Phipps

    I didn’t realize the 389 started that early. This would be a fun one here

  12. Vince H

    Yes I have seen these in person. I would much rather have one of these than a Nomad. I think this needs too much work for the asking price whatever it is.
    Whoever put the letter on the tailgate just could not spell without spellcheck.

    Like 2
  13. Stan Kaminski

    The misspelled “Pontiac” may be a factory mistake. Just like this 1966 GTO. It has the C backwards. I was a vendor for the Pontiac solstice. I’ve seen solstice misspelled as well. Never say never. https://www.classiccarstodayonline.com/2013/04/30/when-classics-were-born-a-collection-of-assembly-line-pictures/1966-pontiac-gto-assembly-line/

    Like 1
  14. That AMC Guy

    I don’t know if I’d call the 4-speed automatic transmission in this car “advanced”. The 4-speed Hydramatic was the first fully automatic transmission and the original design dates back to the late 1930s though I think a ’59 Pontiac would have the redesigned “controlled coupling” Hydramatic with smoother shifting.

    This transmission does not use a torque converter, rather it has a fluid coupling. Fourth gear is not an overdrive. Instead, first is ultra-low to make up for the lack of torque multiplication in the fluid coupling.

    Like 5
  15. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    In 1971 I found a beautiful and original 1956 Safari that had spent most of it’s life in Phoenix, AZ, it was light gold and white, and had factory A/C just like this car. Paid $250 for it. In 1972 Uncle Sam had decided he wanted me, so the Safari had to go. Sold it to a kid up the street who promised to restore it.

    When I came back on leave a year later, the drive line had been replaced with a SBC & 4-speed, and the entire factory A/C was junked. I heard later he totaled the car by wrapping it around a concrete bridge abutment. He survived because he was passed out drunk.

    Like 1
  16. Ronald Pringle Member

    When I was in high school my baseball coach had one of these, it was dark pink(I think it was called sunset coral) but the top was ivory, he was very protective of it. All the equipment that we used for practice was payed on the ground behind his car . He was the only person to take out the stuff and he was the only one to place it carefully in the back. He probably still had it when I left for boot camp in ‘66 . I grew up in Chicago and I do remember that in winter he put snow tires on all 4 wheels,never saw chains on it.

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