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Forty Years Asleep: 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Project

Will there ever be an end to the supply of cars that haven’t seen the light of day for decades? Here’s another one, on eBay, a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief (misidentified as a Silver Chief) two-door hardtop, bid to $2,300, reserve met. This car is located in Selden, New York. As the photos illustrate, this once-beautiful sedan has turned shabby after forty years in a barn. The Star Chief was introduced in 1954 as a longer, swankier trim version of the Chieftain. Intriguingly, the first iteration of the Star Chief, made in that one year only, looks nothing like the second generation, to which our subject car belongs. The 1954 car had distinct rear fenders and a bulbous nose reminiscent of 1940s cars; this look was thrown out with vigor in 1955 when over 180 changes were made to the body’s design. Gone were the 1940s styling cues; instead the car took on a sleek, low look, incorporating the dramatic “Twin Streak” chrome trim on the hood, which was repeated on the tops of the small tail fins. Reminding owners that the Star Chief is special, three chrome stars are scattered along the front flank and across the door, and the hood ornament has an amber face that lights up when the car’s headlights are turned on.

Pontiac used one motor for 1955: its overhead valve, 287.2 cu. in. V8 with a two-barrel carburetor. This car appears to have the Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic. The combination would produce about 180 bhp, propelling the car from zero to sixty in a little over twelve seconds. The seller tells us that the car is “missing some parts” under the hood but is 90% complete. The motor has oil (hopefully not forty-year-old oil) and turns freely.

The interior is needful. But the dash looks pretty clean. This car has power seats and power windows, and those seats were leather. The seller indicates that two of the windows are cracked, so add that to the bill.

This view of the body shows that there’s paintwork in store, along with dent and rust repair, and trim restoration. The two doors and the fluted extensions below the rear fenders identify this Star Chief as a Catalina – the top of the line next to the convertible. The hockey stick trim invited two-tone paint jobs. Usually, the car would be cream color above the trim and across the trunk panel and roof. It’s easy to see how attractive this car could be, but there’s a long road between here and there!


  1. Old Beach Guy

    The hydromatic used in the 55 was a four speed. It shifted from first to second in low range, third in drive one, and fourth in drive two. It had no park. When you stopped you shifted it into reverse before leaving the vehicle.

    Like 10
    • Bob C.

      I heard 1st was so low it would shift to 2nd by the time you were halfway through an intersection.

      Like 4
      • Old Beach Guy

        It was quick shifting, but not as quick as an eighties 700R4. I could put mine in low, nail it, and it would chirp my dad’s old nylon tires when it hit second. Good times.

        B&M made them famous. A build version was used in most of the gassers of the day. Stone, Woods, and Cook, Big John and most others used them.

        Like 2
  2. david r

    Twelve second quarter mile? You sure?

    Like 2
  3. david r

    my mistake, zero to sixty in twelve seconds. That’s more like it lol

    Like 5
  4. charlie Member

    So much car behind the greenhouse.

    Like 2
  5. Edward Walsh

    never get that back glass maybe custom?

    Like 1
    • Old Beach Guy

      I think all the glass is the same as a 55 Chevrolet hardtop.

      Like 4
  6. Old Beach Guy

    As far as the hood ornament, The first lighted ones were amber, then the story goes that the DOT got involved and ruled against them. Later 55s had clear lighted ones. This particular car doesn’t have either. I don’t know the story on that.

    Like 1
  7. Jerry Bramlett

    If you’ve been lusting after a ’55 Pontiac to drive pretty much as-is, then this one isn’t terrible. The starting price is reasonable. You could almost afford to replace the seat covers with vinyl and maybe buy some used window glass. An engine rebuild, transmission repair, and body/paint work would be budget-busters unless done personally in your own driveway, however.

    But… be willing to live with the financial bloodbath that will come with a full restoration if that’s your goal.

    Like 3
  8. DA

    Looks like a snowball to me. Time for this one to head to the breakers.

    Like 1
  9. Jeff

    the roof glass, and main body were the same on all gm’s only the fenders and quarters,trunk,&hood were different,,,I had a 60 olds super 88 and it would shift at about 5- 7 MPH out of super low,,great trans plus I think these are alot better looking than the 55-56 chev’s

    Like 1
    • Old Beach Guy

      Jeff, I disagree. The cars were entirely different with the exception of the glass and some of the doors. The frame, body shell, suspension and engines were all different from division to division. For example, Pontiac suspension parts would not fit a Chevrolet, Olds or Buick.

      Like 1
      • Jeff Wasniak

        well I disagree with your disagree,,,I said the main body was the same but front and back were different,,,yes engines, trans, suspension were different,,, before GM tried to save money and use just a coup[le engines , trans ,,,loyalists to OLds, Buick pont had to swallow their pride and drive a GM that didnt have “correct” engine etc,,,,lots of times that was the only reason a person would buy a certain make

        Like 1
      • Old beach Guy

        Jeff, I’ll repeat what I said. In 1955 the cars were different. The main body was NOT the same. They used the same top, glass, and doors on some models. Look at the firewall in this car’s pic? Does it look like a 55 Chevy?
        55 Pontiac front sheet metal would not bolt on a 55 Chevrolet. The chassis were different. The firewall was different. Do you see a master cylinder on this car’s picture? No, that’s because it’s mounted to the chassis underneath. Where is the MC on a 1955 Chevrolet? It’s mounted on the firewall. Another example, a 55 Chevrolet heater is mounted on the firewall, but a 55 Pontiac heater is under the front seat. In later years, much later, the divisions share the same platforms. All the best my friend.

        Like 1
      • Dave

        The Canadian Ponchos were even more identical to the American Chevy, same wheelbase. The doors, glass, and roof were the same Chevy to Pontiac and the trunklid only had a different lock. I was always struck at how similar they looked to each other, but I much prefer the Poncho

  10. angliagt angliagt Member

    Trying to figure out what car that is behind it.

  11. Uncle Leo

    That looks to be a ’66 Chevy wagon behind it. Wonder if that’ll get listed.

  12. BCB42

    Lookit the size of that trunk!
    I’ll bet Jimmy Hoffa’s in there…
    Grand old car, hoping someone resurrects her.

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