One Year Wonder: 1957 Pontiac Star Chief

The 1957 Star Chief Custom Transcontinental Safari has what may be the longest car name ever and was built for only one year by Pontiac. It had a mid-season debut that some might think of as a 4-door Star Chief Custom Safari, Pontiac’s version of the Chevy Nomad 2 door sport wagon. Only 1,894 copies were made, and the seller’s edition looks to have been stored away in a garage for many moons. Rust and corrosion seem to be contained as it’s an original California wagon. Located now in Joppa, Alabama, this Safari is available here on eBay where the latest bid of $3,350 has yet to crack the reserve.

By 1957, Pontiac was at the end of a three-year styling cycle (as was the case with the Chevy Tri Fives). Mid-stream, the company would introduce two new cars: first was the Bonneville, which was only offered as a convertible, while the second was the Star Chief Transcontinental Safari wagon. In some circles, it’s called the “Bonneville wagon” because both sported the same special stainless rear-quarter fluted panels. Most of Pontiac’s press focused on the Bonneville and the Star Chief Custom Safari (Nomad), this top-level wagon got lost in the shuffle and is only remembered today by serious collectors. Out of nearly 90,000 Star Chief Customs that Pontiac assembled in 1957, less than 1,900 were this decked out 4-door.

This ’57 is said to be number 1191 to roll off the assembly line. Like all Transcontinental Safari’s, the exterior is distinguished by a modified side spear with a fourth chrome trim star, special paint, a standard roof rack, and anodized aluminum trim below the side spear. Inside, these wagons had genuine leather 70/30 upholstery with a folding rear seat and a carpeted cargo area. No other Pontiac had fewer takers in 1957 except for the 2-door Star Chief Custom Safari at just 1,292 units. Both wagons would disappear from the line-up the following year.

Under the hood resides Pontiac’s Strato-Streak 347 cubic V-8 engine that produced 270 hp with a 4-barrel carburetor, so they were built to go fast in style. The seller tells us the numbers-matching motor is free (i.e., not stuck) but not close to running although it was when it entered storage more than 10 years ago. The mileage claim is 26,000 which sounds hard to believe, but there’s no paperwork provided that would contest that number.

The body looks good with some evidence of surface rust. We’re told there is no Bondo anywhere and no bodywork has ever been done. Unfortunately, all the glass looks to have been broken out by kids or vandals, but the same glass that goes in the ’57 Chevy wagon will fit in this car. The only metal that may need replacing is the floor pan on the driver’s side (these cars had under-seat heaters which were prone to leak). The tailgate has a few little holes that will need to be filled and the lip on the hood needs some attention, too. The interior is said to be complete and the material old and brittle, covered up by loads of parts that we assume will go with the deal. Given the usual attrition rate for wagons this old, there can’t be too many of them still around.

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Comments

  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    May I suggest…the 1957 Pontiac…Starfari!!

    Like 3
  2. Will Fox

    …………and not one pane of glass–not even a wing window–left intact. Sad. However, all the glass should be doable from a 4dr. `57 Chevy wagon since they share the same greenhouse.

    Like 5
  3. steveR

    Nice find but I suspect once all the restoration bills are paid there’ll no room for profit.

    Like 3
    • Mike

      Or gas!!!

      Like 1
  4. Joe Sewell

    Must be an interesting story on how this automobile ended up in this pitiful condition. A bit of serious Pontiac history here – hoping the right person gets this.

    Like 5
  5. Kurt

    This will look great when done, biggest expense may be the new glass…

    Like 1
  6. Tom Overbaugh

    Even as a half year model it out sold the full year production of theCustom Safari by about a 100 units. The passenger seat reclines and has a head rest as wide as the back rest. Should have a wonder bar radio with power antenna.

    • chuck dickinson

      No power antenna was ever on this one. Those would be on the top of the rt rr 1/4. The remains of a manual antenna is visible on the rt ft cowl where those went.

  7. 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

    My small hometown had an identical wagon as this for it’s fire chief car. While I was in highschool (circa 1974), it apparently went up for auction – and the then current fire chief ended up with it. It became his son’s daily driver.
    It was the local rage at that time to drive your car on the railroad rails, only one train a day came through and that was mid afternoon. Your main concern was other kids also driving on the tracks.My Dad was working a night shift at the local grain processing facility one night when he was nearly run over by a white 57 Pontiac wagon running the rails. “Get out of the way, we’re on our way to Chicago” yelled the driver.

    Like 3
  8. Ron

    So now we think a seller might provide paperwork to contest their own mileage claim?

    Like 1
  9. HC

    I love many of these Safari wagons you guys have posted recently. Along with the occassional Ford Ranch wagons. Like them much more than the Nomads. The 2 door Safai and the Ford y’all posted earlier were such a joy to see.

    Like 1
  10. Scip Gallant

    Stunning oe example!!My love affair with Pontiac started in 58 tho!!Beautiful!!!

  11. Abi

    People mention the glass that is missing. At least it is readily available. No one has mentioned (not even the seller) that the rear bumper is missing and I’ll assume it is unique to the vehicle. Good luck finding one.

    Like 4
    • Kurt

      I see something in the detritus mound inside that might be the rear bumper and bottom halves of the tail lights.

      Like 2
  12. martinsane

    Does the drift of detritus inside come with? Man that wagon is stuffed to the gills.

    Love wagons but you’d need to get this for free and then spend every weekend for 10 years lovingly rebuilding your dream wagon. And then youd still be upside down but you’d be ok with that as its your forever pride and joy.

    Like 2
  13. HC

    The engine. In this Pontiac would be cool to rebuild. Update the top half with lighter alluminum heads and intake would reduce tons of weight. Updating to at least front discs with booster would also be desireable. Doing just that will take a minute and some money.

  14. Mike

    I don’t see where it says “Transcontinental “ on this car anywhere! All I can find is StarChief and Safari. Hhhmmmmm

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