Garaged 50 Years! 1951 Pontiac Chieftain

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The Pontiac Chieftain was introduced as a 1949 model, offering good looks and some cool features such as a curved 2-piece windshield, but it seems these cars aren’t really garnering all that much attention from car enthusiasts at present, which is good news if you’re looking to acquire one as they remain relatively affordable.  If you’re a Pontiac fan and looking for a project, this 1951 Chieftan here on Craigslist is probably worth considering.  It’s a California car located in the beautiful Sherwood Forest area, with the asking price set at what seems to be a reasonable $6,000.  T.J., we’d like to say thank you for finding this one and bringing it to our attention!

The seller calls this one a true barn find and says it had been sitting in the same garage for the past 50 years in Southern California, although there’s no word on how long ago he rescued it or any other pertinent details about the car’s history.  But this is one of those cases where the photos seem to speak for themselves, back from the days when people sometimes just discarded cars that only needed minor mechanical repairs but were otherwise in decent shape.  Fortunately, this one survived, and from what I can tell the body looks overall exceptional for its age, with the only exterior rust mentioned being some corrosion on the quarter panels, and from what I can tell it doesn’t appear all that serious.  It’s pretty much complete on the outside too, and I’m really digging that sun visor, though the bumpers and trim pieces could stand some attention.

Things inside are stated as original, and I’m wondering if some sort of critter got in there at some point and gnawed on the seat.  Other than that one area, both seats actually appear to be in fairly decent shape for their age, and hopefully structurally sound enough that some new upholstery on top will be all that’s needed.  The dashboard seems to be well preserved, as does the steering wheel, but be forewarned that there is some rust stated to be present on the driver’s side floorboard.

This Chieftain is equipped with a straight-8 engine, which Pontiac called the Silver Streak.  Unfortunately, the motor is not currently running, but it does turn over so at least we know it’s not locked up, though I’m guessing with the amount of time sitting it’s probably going to need a complete rebuild.  I might start by giving the engine and transmission a good going-through, and once the car’s driveable just enjoy it for a while without doing a thing immediately to the outside, except maybe replacing the tires with some new wide whitewalls like are on there now.  How would you move forward with this one?

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  1. "Edsel" Al leonardMember

    This should be a good project for someone…sitting 50 years shouldn’t be a problem…don’t know why the upper radiator hose is off..price is reasonable..good luck to the new owner

    Like 8
  2. Will Fox

    Overall, a very complete `51, and original. The seat repair should be fairly straight-forward. Patch panels avail. for the driver’s floor? Hmm. The Korean War period chrome lives up to it’s legend, turning black in places so a re-chrome will be needed. I like it. Same basic car as the Chevy coupe.

    Like 3
  3. "Edsel" Al leonardMember

    P.S. too bad its almost 2000 miles away!!!!

    Like 2
  4. Maggy

    If this was local I’d be all over it.Seller priced it very fair and wants it gone which is the way you do it. Great car to tinker with and get running. I’ve seen many a seat wear in that spot from people having a hard time getting in the car for whatever reason and have to brace themselves before they sit.Glwts. It’ll be sold in no time.I hope it doesn’t get restomodded.

    Like 6
  5. TheOldRanger

    Nice looking car, and I hope someone gives it a good home, and keeps it as close to natural as possible

    Like 4
  6. Steve

    I’d be more interested in knowing about the Hudson that appears in the carport. But a 2dr Pontiac is worth restoring.

    Like 1
    • "Edsel" Al leonardMember

      It’s actually a 51 Merc…and not for sale per the owner..:<(

      Like 0
      • Steve

        Yes, Mercury makes sense because I could tell the tailights were not Hudson.

        Like 0
  7. John Jasper

    I had a 49 2dr htp with all leather interior and all the garnish rails were chrome. I loved that car.

    Like 0
  8. Russ Ashley

    I inherited a 51 Pontiac just like this one, including the rusty bumpers and grill. It was my wife’s grand father’s and was a one owner car that was totally original and complete. It sat outside for many years before he died but had very little rust other than the bumpers and trim. None of the other family members wanted it so I took it to keep it out of a junk yard. I spent a day getting it running and drove it over a hundred miles home on hard bumpy tires. I didn’t do much with it except take out for a neighborhood drive occasionally. I sold it for $350 when I moved to my current house in 1985.

    Like 0
  9. Richard Kirschenbaum

    To the eye of this beholder: Deadly dull styling.

    Like 0
  10. Mark E. Edmiston

    Get the bumpers chromes before the tyrants in Sacramento outlaw chrome… they are trying to shut down chrome plating shops… even the ones needed for aerospace.

    Like 2
    • Tiny

      Happens every time: too many nosy Karens that have more dollars than “sense”……

      Like 0
  11. Peter Storen

    The through-bolts are missing from the starter which has been loosely placed into the bellhousing . This dear old crate may only need a new starting-motor.

    Like 0
  12. HCMember

    This car is listed as a 51 Pontiac not a Mercury. It’s a fair price for a survivor car with minimal rust and an original 8 cyl engine. It has all the makings for a custom build. Keep exterior paint and interior close to stock and update the mechanicals. Of course buyer can do as they want. Good find.

    Like 1
    • Steve Mehl

      We were talking about the car seen in the carport as a Mercury.

      Like 2
  13. HCMember

    Yeah, I couldn’t even make out what car was in carport behind this 1951 Pontiac. In regards to the Pontiac listed, it’s not a rare car and tons were produced. Done right,I can see someone doing a great custom build with this car, and the price is definitely right. I’d be so tempted to rebuild and warm up its original flat 8. Otherwise it’d be running a mid 60s 389.

    Like 1
  14. Stu

    Would love to hop up that straight 8

    Like 0
  15. bone

    Most of the time when a car get parked and sits for decades there’s a good reason ; engine or transmission issues are common, the car gets put away until someone gets around to fixing it, which never happens. If the radiator hose was missing when the guy bought the car ; I’d suspect cooling issues , bad radiator, head gasket, etc. Its still worth getting back on the road though !

    Like 1

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