Carport Find: 1955 Pontiac Chieftain Wagon

Let’s start by saying that the seller doesn’t indicate the model of this wagon. In fact, the headline calls it a Chevy Corvette, but he corrects that later. We believe this is a Chieftain as it was the only six-passenger, 4-door wagon that Pontiac offered in 1955. This vehicle is said to have been sitting under a carport since 1984, so Mother Nature has kissed it several times along the way. It currently resides in Cary, North Carolina and is the subject of a no reserve auction here on eBay that’s just at $710.

Pontiac had three primary series in 1955. You could choose between the Chieftain, Starchief and Starchief Custom based on trim levels and mechanical conveniences. The Chieftain was built on the same platform as the Chevrolet 150/210/Bel Air. Pontiac offered a 2-door sport wagon called the Safari, which was their version of the highly collectible Nomad. The seller’s automobile is your rudimentary wagon, which would make a Chieftain (Series 870) that would see production of just under 20,000 copies.

For a car parked 36 years with partial exposure to the elements, this wagon could be in worse shape. At a minimum, there is rust in the rocker panels, the tailgate and storage compartment floor. We’re told the rest of the floors and doors are solid, but you should always expect more corrosion when they’ve been dormant this long. If patina is your thing, this car has it, but I’d be more impressed by a shiny professional repaint. The interior is original but needing about as much attention as the body. This is not a clean up and go kind of car.

All Pontiacs had V-8 engines for 1955, so the one in this wagon (which is said to be original) should be a 287 cubic inch powerplant good for 173 or 180 hp (apparently you could order two compression ratios, but why do that just to get seven more horsepower?). The transmission is an automatic, so that should be a 2-speed and one interesting option on this car is power windows, which were not common in 1955 and certainly not in a Chieftain. So this wagon may be in shorter supply than one world think. 83,500 miles is what the odometer is said to reflect.

It’s a safe bet that this wagon is a non-runner, so a restoration from head to toe would be in order. If this were a Chevy Bel Air of the same vintage, it would fetch a more. As it stands, a 1955 Chieftain is a $20,000 car at best. And you’re going to have to have a flexible pocketbook to fund pulling this one together again. It will be interesting to see how far the bidding goes considering the limited profit potential down the road.

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Wow, identical to a 55 Chevy from the cowl back. Even the taillights are inserts into the Chevy opening. This is a base model, didn’t the Chieftan and Starchief have a little bump at the top of the rear fenders and a completely different rear treatment than the Chevrolet? I’m not sure V8s were the only mill available in Pontiacs this year either. Perhaps GMC straight 6 cyls?

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      Those curves you’re referring to were exclusive to HTs/sedans and omitted from such a base wagon – only exception was the exclusive Safari that received a rear treatment similar to the posh Pontiacs. US Pontiacs ‘only’ got the V8 this year( as one of the last automakers to introduce an OHV V8), but if you were a Canadian customer you got the choice between I-6 or V8; Chevy engines though.

      Funny you should mention the tail lights; a retired colleague own a set which he picked off a ’55 Nomad in a boneyard decades ago, and he always assumed those were custom pieces. The red lenses were gone though. As he’s not particularly ‘dot.com’ I did some digging and found his are ’55-’56 Poncho regular wagon lights as seen here. They’re a direct fit into the Chev housings and make an interesting alternative to the stock Chevy tail lights

      Like 3
      • Bill McCoskey

        Yep, these are very rare & hard to get taillights. I used to have a 1956 wagon, and I had many offers to buy the lights. Came back from a month in England in 1986, and found both lamps gone, with only openings in the fenders. Ended up putting regular Chevy lamps in their place.

        A friend also had a 1953 Pontiac hearse with a body built from a Pontiac sedan delivery, and again, the taillights were Pontiac, but in the Chevy fenders.

        Like 1
    • Edward J Riley

      1955 Pontiac used a four speed automatic not a two speed, I rebuilt mine three times I think I
      remember that?

      Like 7
  2. oldsoldie

    Yeah, 54 was the last year for the straight 8 engine and all thereafter were V8s. Article says two speed automatic, I think you’ll find that this has the 4 speed hydramatic.

    Like 10
    • Will Fox

      Not on Pontiacs. This should be a 2-speed ‘powerglide’ type tranny. The 4-speed Hydramatics were found on Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs. Buick had the Dyna-slush, But Pontiacs/Chevys were B-bodies which meant they didn’t get the better transmissions in `55. Pontiac got the 4-speed auto.in about `56-`57.

      Like 3
      • Jim Trook

        To my knowledge, all the older Pontiacs always used the 4 speed Hydramatic transmission. A possible exception might be that short period when the Hydramatic plant had burned(my understanding) & the Olds & Cadillac divisions had to produce some cars with Dynaflow transmissions. Not sure what Pontiac did in that time period. I think this was around 1953-54 but not certain on that.

      • Tman

        The 4 speed automatic was also referred to as the Jet Away. I’m not sure if they ordered the powerglide and the 4 speed. The only manual was a 3 on the tree for that year

      • ToledoSteve Member

        Sorry,Will, but all my Pontiacs’50 ’53,and 55 had 4 speed Hydra-Matics. The gear selector did not not show ‘P’, and to select Park you would put the car in Reverse, turn the key off and the transmission would lock up. In 1953,some Pontiacs had Powerglides for 1 year only, due to a major fire at the Hydra-Matic factory. Canadian Pontiacs always had Chevrolet engines and transmissions.My ’57 Chieftain has the Jetaway 4 speed with Park, Neutral, 2 Drive ranges,Low and Reverse. This transmission is completely different from the earlier Hydra-Matics and can light up the tires easily. I still have this car, enjoy driving it and pulling my boat with it. The boat is a 1959 DuraGlass with tail fins and a ‘bubble’ hardtop and it just looks right with my ’57 Chieftain pulling it.

        Like 5
      • JUST ME

        ( american made ) pontiacs in 1955 all had v-8 ‘ s, beeing the first year of there v-8’s from the factory. also they had a hydramatic 4 speed with the park position in reverse when you turned the engine and (key on the off position .) other then that they came with 3 – speed standard shift on the column only and the high end cars like the starcheif’s in 1955 thru 1957 you couldn’t get anything but the automatic transmissionin from the factory. that type of hydramatic automatic transmission was started way back in 1939 and was basically the same with a few up dates from 1939 thru 1956. early 1956 pontiac’s cheaper models like the cheiftan also had the older transmission. like the 1955’s had but the higher end pontiacs like the starcheif’s had the new model hydramitics transmission also known as the jetaway it had a dual range added torus a completely redesigned transmission, starting in 1956 models. also there was now added on the shift position indicator on the column a park positon , no longer using the reverse position with key off for park. they still was called hydramatics but with a major change from the hadramatics started back in 1939. from 1956 thru 1964 that later style hydramatic transmission was used in pontiac, oldsmobiles and cadillacs with a few updates from the 1956 thru 1964 years. this later model hydramacic is sometimes better know as the jetaway!

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        @JUST ME are you breathless from writing all that? Punctuation and some uppercase letters would help immensely for the reader to get into the gist of your comments. All well meaning and factual, I might add! Thanks.

        Like 2
  3. Turbo

    Hmm…looks like a Corvette to me…’from back when they used to build them out of steel’ (probably the most idiotic car show comment my brother and I ever overheard).

  4. CCFisher

    The higher compression ratio engine was usually for cars equipped with automatic transmissions only, to compensate for the power consumed by the transmission. Incidentally, Pontiacs of the era used the 4-speed Hydramatic, not Powerglide.

    Like 4
    • ToledoSteve Member

      Except for the 1953 model year, when some Pontiacs were equipped with PowerGlides due to a major fire at the Hydra-Matic transmission plant. My ’53 Catalina 2dr hardtop had the 4 speed with the ‘hidden’ Park feature. Put it in reverse, turn the key off and the transmission would lock up.

      Like 1
  5. John P

    The seller was trying to get $11,500 for this car on Marketplace for a few months.. it’s an 860/870 Chieftain wagon..287 V8 with 2-Spd Hydramatic.. I bought nearly the exact same car 4 months ago in Montana for $1500… these are not the same as a ‘55 or ‘56 Chevy forward of the doors or below the belt line..frames, floors, everything is pontiac specific.. cool car—but rusty dreams die sure..

  6. Ted Land

    I drove a 55 Pontiac in my college days. It has a 4 apeed Hydromatic. Prior to that, I drove a 56 Rambler wagon. Same transmission.

  7. Bunky

    Awesome car! New for ‘55 V8 had more cubes and more hp than the Chevy. (173hp had a 2bbl/180hp a 4bbl) Later in the year a 200hp “Power Pack” option was made available. – and Pontiac did use the 4 speed “dual range” Hydramatic. Great find!

    Like 2
  8. 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

    Around 40 years ago I found the ’55 Pontiac 2 door version of this wagon. It was yellow and white outside, same red and white inside as this one. I decided the door and rear seat side panels would look “custom” in a ’55 Chevy, so I bought them. The wagon was in kind of a swampy area of the yard with a car tight on one side and a tree on the other, couldn’t get the doors open enough to crawl in. Had to climb in through the tailgate. I think I sweated 10 pounds off getting the panels, but I got them. Never had the right car to put them in, think they’re still tucked away in the upstairs of my granary.

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Wonder if the car you got them off of has become one with the soggy swamp or was rescued? You sound like me back in the old days, pulling a couple parts off a car that today would call out “restore me instead of cannibalizing me!”

      Like 1
      • 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

        Car was pretty rotten from sitting in muck, would have loved to save it. Junkyard had a wonderful selection, but cars were usually too far gone to save. In the late ’70s, 3 ’55 Chevy convertibles, a ’56 and a ’57 Chevy convertible, dozens of ’30s cars. I bought a ’66 Chevelle convertible from him in 1980. In about 1982 I bought 2 ’52 Chevy wagons and an early ’40s Dodge military Power Wagon from him that were frozen to the ground so I was to pick them up in the spring. Yard owner died, yard was bought by another salvage company who wouldn’t honor the sales receipt so I never got them. If I remember correctly, I was out about $200.00. Most of the older inventory was crushed. Still there today, but only a shadow of what it used to be.

        Like 1
  9. Maestro1 Member

    Russ, well done.
    If I had the room, I have the inclination, I would buy this and save it AFTER
    a close inspection. It’s perfect for a variety of uses, and when saved would
    even look good. If you want a parts chaser and something you can take your
    lady to dinner in, this is it.

    Like 1
  10. Jim

    I had this cars sister years ago in gray & white outside & Red and white inside.
    Mine also had the feature of a remote outside mirror as this one does. Mine also had the 4 bbl. Power Pack engine. You just can’t keep them all.

    Like 2

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.