Disclosure: This site may receive compensation when you click on some links and make purchases.

Cadillac V8 Powered: 1953 Pontiac Chieftain

The Chieftain was all-new for Pontiac in 1949, their first newly-designed vehicle since World War II had ended. This 1953 Pontiac Chieftain can be found here on craigslist in the Mile High City: Denver, Colorado. The seller is asking $3,400 for this sedan and it has a surprise hiding under that big hood. Thanks to Ikey H. for submitting this tip!

I think that this may have been a white car originally but I could be wrong. Whatever color it is or was, I love it. We had a 1956 Pontiac Chieftain when I was a kid, like one that I wrote about three years ago here on Barn Finds. I’ve always had a thing for 1950s Pontiacs.

I can’t imagine that this car will be nut-and-bolt restored but if it is, the interior shouldn’t be crazy expensive to redo. It would be nice if the next owner has experience in work like this but I would have to farm it out. It looks like there’s a CB radio in there which is pretty cool, it makes me think of Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford, except that was a ’55 two-door Buick Century… “21-50 to headquarters..”

There is a Cadillac V8 in this car in place of what should have been a straight-six or straight-eight engine. I believe this is Cadillac’s 331 cubic-inch V8 although the 365 V8 was new for 1956 and the seller says that a powertrain out of a 1956 Cadillac is in this car. It sure looks like a 331 to me given the location of the generator and oil filler. Any thoughts on this Pontiac with a Cadillac heart transplant, and whether this a 331 or 365 V8?


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Cadiac or Pontiliac? Either way, a nice old custom. Fix the interior, clean up the outside (hopefully just a rub or two), tune up the drivetrain and drive! Yes, I know, 2 doors 2 many” and “leave the patina” (isn’t that a model of English Ford? Oh, CORtina..).
    Whatever; drive it ‘til you can’t fix it then drop in a Hellcat setup or LS whatever or Roush tuned Superzippogofastwaybitchin’ motor-or do like Bill Harrah did to his two Jeep Wagoners with Ferrari engines!
    Smile and Just enjoy the ride…….

    Like 2
  2. Queequeg

    I may have to drive across town to pick that up. Demnition cool.

    Like 1
  3. TimM

    Big old Pontiac with wall to wall motor!!! Kinda like wall to wall carpet!!! They both get the job done!!! Get her running and have a blast!!!

    Like 2
  4. Will Fox

    Yes, based on the white door jambs, this Chief’s been painted at some point. Interesting that someone went to the troucle of shoe-horning in the Caddy OHV V8 in a blah sedan, rather than say, a Catalina hardtop. I bet in it’s day, this pooch would get up & run!

    Moonshine runner maybe? The history on this would be interesting to know.

    Like 1
  5. luke arnott

    Apropos “Highway Patrol”, most of the episodes were shot before noon and a lot of Broderick Crawford’s driving scenes were done on private roads.Appparently he was a bit of a toper.Have all the series on DVD – great fun!

    Like 2
    • Gary

      I’ve been watching Highway Patrol too. Broderick Crawford had a DUI and wasn’t allowed to drive on public roads. He is usually driven by one of his deputies or if he is getting behind the wheel the scene changes before he drives off.
      Always wondered what that car is at the beginning of each episode. It is a white convertible driving down the highway toward a Highway Patrol roadblock. Couldn’t figure it out in the 50s and still can’t.

      Like 0
  6. william OBrien

    Love the tow bar hooked to the front bumper. Whats the thing on the passenger dash? Easy to make this a fun drivable car.

    Like 1
  7. Rick

    I am currently working on a customer’s 53 Chieftain for which I need the left headlight bucket if anyone should happen to have one.

    Like 0
    • Doug

      You might want to check and see if the Chevrolet headlight bucket is the same – the early Chevys and Pontiacs had a lot of body parts that would interchange – the basic shells were the same, though the body lines and trim might have differed – 55 Chevy and Pontiac doors will interchange, and a popular mild custom touch on 50-51 Chevys was to install the fancier Olds taillights. Some of the “repop” sellers list parts for Chevys that will fit the Pontiacs. Try “Chevs of the 40’s” to see if they have what you need.

      Like 0
  8. Mountainwoodie

    Breaker…breaker…..what a mess………although if memory serves me correctly those plates date from the early seventies or so……always liked the green Colorado plates with white snow caps.

    (Insert tired joke about legalized marijuana or Doobie Bros song) it seems to me that the sellers price is waaaaay high.

    Why in my day this was a hundred dollar car! ( actually bought one in the very same condition, if not worse, a 1948 Chevy, for fifty bucks in 1971) :)

    Like 0
    • Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

      I see you’re writing tongue-in-cheek, mountainwoodie:
      $100 car back in the day?!? True but then again in 1975 we sold our ‘64 Chevelle 2 door wagon for $185; we bought it new @a Chevy dealership for less than $2800 in NJ..
      And those kind of bargains can still be had. Why, one of the residents a ways east of here just hung a “For Sale” sign on his “one-owner!” 1989 Geo Metro convertible!

      Like 1
      • Mountainwoodie

        @Nevadahalfrack: But that Metro !,it is a convertible afte rall. There’s no telling what folks will find valuable in the future :).

        I always thought people looked like Mr & Mrs Potato Head when they sat in them, especially the verts.

        Someday.those of us who are attracted to a ’52 Poncho or a ’48 Chevy will be in the Great Junkyard in The Sky.and ‘car folks’ may look at these cars as some of our cohort ( my cohort) looked at Model A’s……

        And I do think this is priced high but hey I’m cheap.

        Like 1
      • Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

        🤣 PERFECT descriptor RE: Mr & Mrs Potatohead, mountainwoodie!!!
        Insofar as how younger people view the classic ‘50’s hot rods, it’s already happening but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment folks like us have for them. It’s not so much waxing nostalgic as an understanding/ appreciation for American ingenuity, that of a cold steel example of a truly American trait, adaptability.
        BTW-you’re not “cheap”, you’re “selectively responsible in fiscal matters”🤑

        Like 0
  9. Tinindian

    Interesting coil or whatever on the end of the generator – whut izzit?

    Like 0
    • Roger

      Tinindian that is a noise filter coil used with the CB radio in the car, I had one on the generator on my Ford Falcon back during the CB craze of the 1970’s,as I recall it was adjustable but that’s been several years ago lol,think I bought it from Radio Shack

      Like 1
      • Tinindian

        Thank you!

        Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.