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Nomad Alternative: 1956 Pontiac Safari

Most car people remember the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad, a sporty 2-door station wagon that is in demand today due in part to low production. But not as many recall that Pontiac had its version of the same wagon called the Safari. Both wagons had a “B” pillar that raked forward, unlike other GM 2-door wagons of the day. This 1956 Safari is said to be a former show car, but no longer looks the part as it needs a complete restoration. The vehicle is sitting outdoors in Freehold, New Jersey and the seller is waiting for someone to start the bidding here on eBay at $5,000.

The Pontiac Safari took its name from the Swahili word “safari” which means journey. As more than one division of GM essentially built the same car, Pontiac and Chevrolet were able to share in the tooling costs for these special-bodied wagons. The Safari looked like a Chieftain from the front with Pontiac’s unique front-end bumper/grille assembly and sheet metal. The same was true at the other end with the distinctive Pontiac rear taillight treatment that largely avoided fins. The wagon had sport-coupe front doors, extra chrome on the tailgate and in the interior, and had sliding rear-seat windows. Over the course of three years, Pontiac would make just shy of 17,000 Safari’s, while the Chevy Nomad did a bit better at 22,000 units. Thanks, Alt Driver, for some Safari history.

It’s interesting that the seller says this 1956 Safari is a former show car. That implies there is something about it that separates it from the other 4,000 Safari’s built that year. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the commentary goes. He also says that he will not take or provide any photos beyond those in his listing. If you’re out of town, he suggests hiring an appraiser to come look at the car on your behalf. Either way, this sure doesn’t sound like someone who’s anxious to sell or make money off this rare vehicle. Not everything speaks for itself. However, there appears to have been an effort to keep the car covered while in the field.

We’re told the frame is good, but there is rust in the front floorboards and below the rocker panels. But even the door pillars and dashboard have rust on them. Since the car is stationary and blocked in, it’s difficult to tell exactly how much or how bad the rust is. Perhaps your appraiser can make a closer determination. However, the safe bet is to assume the worst and that repairing rust will be the biggest challenge with this 64-year-old-wagon. The seller believes the car to be complete, but unless you’re a Safari expert, how would you really know? While the eBay listing says it’s a 1955, it’s a 1956 and that correction is made elsewhere in the listing.

Under the hood resides what is said to be the original engine, which should be a 347 cubic inch V-8. It comes with a Power Pack, but that looks to be more aftermarket than factory additions. It’s a well-optioned vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes. The seller attempted to start the car about five years ago and had no luck, so we assume no further attempts have recently been made.

We’re told the seller has no time to restore the wagon, so that’s why it’s got to go. He estimated that the parts alone are worth $6,000, but we don’t have how he comes to that valuation. Once you sufficiently air up the tires, he says it will be a decent roller. The seller is not interested in letting it go a piece at a time. One more thing that the Safari shares with the Nomad is an appreciation in value. A sleek survivor or super restoration can easily bring mid-five figures. A long journey lies in front of this Safari to return to its glory days, but its rarity and beauty when completed would make a trip worth taking.


  1. Greg Stahlman

    The 56 engine was a 317, not 347(’57). There was a rare option of 2 X 4bbl carbs on the wagons. That would have been nice! The power steering is a nice option!

    Like 4
  2. Maverick

    I think the seller is on a safari.

    Like 20
  3. Jonathan


    Like 5
  4. Robert White

    I’d fork over $5k for this car so it should sell above that IMHO.


    Like 2
  5. benjy58

    Rusty, Crusty and beat. He wont to take anything less. Well I’ve had my laugh for today, time to move on. If you go see it get a tetanus shot.

    Like 10
  6. Will Fox

    Let me put it this way:
    “IF” (and that’s a BIG “if”) this Safari was “show car” at some point in its past, it had to be when it was built in `56—-AND NO TIME SINCE. One thing odd that jumps out are the bucket front seats. Buckets were never even an option on either Nomads or Safaris, as they were still 2-3 years from production. The tan vinyl on the door panels tells me someone did some upholstery work on this at some point in its life. Original would have been two-tone, being part of the Star Chief model line that Safaris were. Can’t even tell what the original color was because of how dense the surface rust is. I see about $2500. worth of decayed wreck and not much else.

    Like 14
  7. Steve Bush Member

    Another seller too lazy/stupid to clean the junk out of his car and take some good pics. And yet he wants $5k to start the auction for this POS.

    Like 8
  8. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Looks like absolutely every piece on this sad Safari needs restoration; rust repair, re-chroming, fresh paint, probably all the mechanicals and a complete new interior. All I see here is a very expensive restoration that will probably cost more the the car will be worth when you’re done many years from now. This seller seems to be the type I’ve always avoided when looking for a particular car. My policy has always been that I won’t give a seller my money and kiss his *ss. Whether too arrogant or too lazy to put some effort into selling his car just tells me he’s someone I don’t want to deal with. Hard pass on this one.

    Like 9
  9. bobhess bobhess Member

    Agree with the above. One thing would interest me as to how you get that much rust on a dashboard. Any floods in Jersey the past 5 years?

    Like 8
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      Park a vehicle on moist ground, cover the vehicle with a waterproof plastic tarp, and you have an instant terrarium. With a daily change in temperature, the moisture at ground level repeatedly evaporates and condenses on the tarp. That moisture will eventually settle on every internal and external part of the vehicle.

      In areas with moist ground, ONLY use a tarp as a temporary cover, and take it off on sunny days so the car can breathe.

  10. three_pedal_steve

    1956- My Dad ordered a new Safari in blue and white. Since we lived in Florida he ordered it with factory A/C but without a heater which was an option that year. In 1968 he sold the car to my best friend. Later it became a resto-mod with a GTO drivetrain and then totaled. RIP.

    Like 1
  11. James Simpson

    Does not have the “Spears and eyebrows” of the Nomad. I guess that it was not part of the Buick Package. I found those unique front fender ( Originally Diecast chrome plated Zinc) parts for a Nomad reproduced in Stainless steel in Georgia at a custom metal fabricator. How rare is THAT!
    No matter what it is- SOMEBODY out there makes it. I needed to have an interpreter to speak with this fabricator, his southern drawl was SOOOO thick.
    No matter what- this car is thousands of hours of work, and a Snipe-hunt for parts,.

    Like 1
    • ErnieSC

      James; You spoke with the Seller with a Slooowww Southern Drawl in New Jersey??? That’s extremely interesting! I live Down South. My Younger Son met and married a Girl from N.J.
      I told him before He married Her “If a Southern Boy Finds a N.J. Girl Attractive – He needs to Raise His Standards”!
      BUT, We’re supposed to be talking about Cars – Not Girls or Accents are We?

  12. Jt

    Seller’s attitude alone is enough for me to quickly pass on this one.

    Like 8
  13. Barry O'Connor

    $200,000 and at least 3 years of hard work and it would be a good car. Better off buying one finished in good shape, quicker and cheaper in the ling run. I learn the hard way on my Nomad and my Nomad was in much better shape when I started.

    Like 2
  14. Bob

    I need to get a tetanus shot before inspecting that car.

    Like 1
  15. Russ Ashley

    These sure do look good when restored. Go to the ebay ad and it will have some pictures of nice ones. Seems that $56K is the price for a creampuff one but would probably cost more than that to restore this one. The rust on the dash, windshield post, and the chrome would scare me away.

    Like 1
    • ErnieSC


      I personally don’t believe it could be Restored for $56K if one did all the work oneself!
      Material is EXPENSIVE!!!

  16. Robert S Decker

    Rusted out old wreck, what are people thinking, everybody thinks they have a gold mine.

    Like 2
  17. JOHN Member

    Show car? I take mine to local cruise nights and shows, I guess that makes them show cars?

    Like 2
  18. Mike

    Seller states “former show car”. So that explains the condition(?)

    Like 1
  19. Andy P.

    The seller covered it with non breathable cover , which held all the mostiure in and causing the dash to rust. I’ve seen this before when they think they are preserving the car but sadly not.

  20. Phlathead Phil

    Too much work. Where are the G-Parents in the photo, and the guy in pajamas?

    $1500.00 TOPS!

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