Perfect Patina: 1952 Pontiac Catalina Chieftain

This 1952 Pontiac Chieftain Catalina is a great looking ride! The 1950s styling combined with 2-doors and the non-traditional Ford or Chevrolet moniker make this a very desirable car. It can be found here on eBay with a current bid of $6,000. Located in Santa Clara, Utah, the car seems like a good runner and would be a blast to drive as-is. Although there isn’t much information in the ad regarding the history of this car, it looks like an amazing survivor. The trim and details are all there and there doesn’t seem to be any major body damage. This car is a great candidate for a daily driver or how about an ICON Derelict?

The seller says the straight-eight engine runs well. The 6-volt battery has been replaced along with a few maintenance items. You can see new hoses, plugs, wires, and other underhood bits. The carburetor was rebuilt and the fuel tank was cleaned.

The interior is typical 50s aqua color and like the outside, it appears to be pretty stock. The upholstery needs a bit of work, but with a nearly 70-year-old car, this isn’t surprising. The rear bench seat looks okay, but everything needs a little work to be daily-driven. The headliner looks decent and doesn’t need to be addressed too urgently.

You have to love the styling and curves of this car. The trim is great, the patina is perfect. There are a few things that need addressing, but nothing is too urgent. It even has the really cool original Pontiac hood ornament. So do you think this car is as cool as I do? Let us know your thoughts.


  1. Howard A Member

    Oh, paint the poor Chief, for crying out loud, as a tribute to the great Native American for which it is named.( historical accounts vary whether he was good or bad, but influential against the British, none the less) These were classy cars, it looks terrible. Pontiacs were the answer to many peoples tastes, Buick or Olds quality, at little more than a Chevy price. Owning a Pontiac meant you knew what a quality car was. How ironic it’s no longer made. That tells you something. 2 door painted up, could look pretty sharp again.

    Like 37
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      It looks awesome Howard! Are you just in a bad mood today?

      Like 20
      • RayT Member

        I’m with Howard on this one, Jesse!

        “Patina” is okay for creaky old For Fairmonts or Datsun Honeybees, and is acceptable for most buyers of tired Chevy pick-em-ups from the 60s and 70s. But this? Nope. Get the chrome shiny, and paint it so it can look new again!

        We — ahem — older folks lived through the days when cars like this Poncho were one step from the boneyard and kept running only because the owner was either handy with tools or had just enough money to pay for keeping most of the cylinders firing. Even then, I wanted to see them treated better….

        Personally, I’m in a good mood today! Seeing Fox-body Mustang Cobras here is always good for a smile. It’s shiny, too!

        Just not a “patina” fan. Everyone’s mileage varies about that!

        Like 35
      • Hunter Snyder

        In support of Jesse here love classic 50’s car with original patina

        Like 14
      • redwagon

        Agreed. It looks nice with the patina but my thought was that it would look so much nicer painted. A dark blue with that whtie top would be gorgeous ….. but then so much else would have to be changed. I’d likely just repaint in the original colors.

        Like 16
      • Howard A Member

        I apologize, Jesse, yeah, I am in a funk, but still, we are pretty far apart on what is awesome. Like Ray sez,( thanks) we came from a period where cars like this represented a lack of caring owner, didn’t care what it looked like, we called them schmoes. It simply behooves me that a rusty car would be attractive someday. Now Rich’s car below looks awesome. Pontiacs were grand cars and shouldn’t be remembered like this.

        Like 14
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        And if it had a shiny new paint job, you’d all be complaining that it doesn’t fit the theme of the site…

        Like 11
      • Donnie

        I see plenty of cars on here that don’t fit the theme of this page.Barn find boats.What theme is that.

        Like 2
    • canadainmarkseh

      Even though it looks awesome, I’m inclined to agree with Howard I’d paint it if it were my car. I’d redo the interior to all back to stock colours. The primary reason for paint is to prevent the metal from rusting. This car will just continue to decay to the point where there will be holes, but if it gets paint it will last much longer. If you want this look there are guys out there that know how to paint to a level that they could give you this look in a paint job. For me personally I like them shiney. As for the drive line id just continue to maintain it as is. What a straight decent car, and much nicer looking then a Chevy.

      Like 16
      • 327 365

        Back in about nineteen sixty a neighbor of ours had 1958 belair with the glass jar under the hood and it was hooked to the ashtray and it sucked the cigarette butt into it could this be the same

        Like 2
      • Pugsy

        “I see plenty of cars on here that don’t fit the theme of this page.Barn find boats.What theme is that.”

        Boats are found in barns making them “Barn Finds”

        Like 3
    • RonY

      My opinion tends to differ with the point that the car was not taken care of, in my view it was taken very good care of, I bet the car looked fantastic for a very long time, obviously sheltered, or more than likely garaged for a long time, by the time it was a second hand car probably decades ago, even the subsequent owners kept the used car at least running and out of any serious accidents, didn’t scrap it, didn’t let some kid ruin it completely, thought enough of it to keep it around, may have not had enough money to give it the desired paint some of us thinks it deserves, but the most amazing thing is the car is still here, to me that is a testament that more than one person thought enough of it to take care of it, and to them I say thank you, to me it doesn’t look terrible at all, just the opposite, beautiful I would say…………..

      Like 15
    • Ward William

      I’m starting to really love the patina movement. I agree with Jesse. It’s great the way it is. I would restore the seats and add new carpet but that’s it.

      Like 3
    • ctmphrs

      Anybody that paints a car to sell it is a fool. You will never get your money back for a good paint job.Let the buyer paint it.

  2. Manuel Broyer

    Sold new at Triangle Motors, Casper, Wyoming. Full history here >

    Like 9
  3. local_sheriff

    Patina can be cool, however this one would look so much better returned to its aqua colors. Such bombs are incredibly cool and a well-chosen color does marvels to emphasize the design. That medieval L-O-N-G eight will never be a racer but I simply love the rumble of an I-8

    Like 10
  4. Rich Novak

    Our 52 Chief.

    Like 38
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Nicely done, Rich.

      Like 10
    • JimmyinTEXAS

      I salute you, sir.

      Like 2
  5. Kenneth Carney

    By all means paint it! I like paint on my cars, not surface rust. That way, it’ll be
    shiny and new when you use it for your daily
    driver. Used to see a lot of these in the
    town I grew up in but the rust monster
    got most of them. Might use the photos
    for portrait purposes. Right now, I’m doing a 1954 Olds Super 88 convertible
    special edition similar to the car used in
    W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. Can’t
    wait to tackle this Pontiac too. Almost
    got my neice’s ’73 Mustang finished so
    soon, I’ll have time to do both. If anyone’s
    interested, drop me a line and let’s talk about it.

    Like 7
    • luke arnott Member

      The Olds in “WW & The Dixie Dance Kings” was a ’56.

      Like 1
      • Will Fox

        Luke, the black & gold Olds Burt Reynolds drove in that movie was a `55; not 56.

        Like 1
  6. JBP

    It look cool, but please paint it in org. Color. Think it deserve it 🙂

    Like 15
  7. Joe Haska

    YES! I do think its as cool as you do.

    Like 2
  8. Harry

    They’re only original once ….every scratch, fade, tear, dent, is part of an amazing story of a useful existence for all those decades, a testament to quality, ease of maintenance, drivability and history …to erase that story is like painting a bikini on the mona lisa ….tragic and lost forever …..

    Like 6
  9. Jose Cantu

    Although this is nothing but a Chev with added Pontiac chrome; I still find the old “Pontis” beautiful. This one is no exception. And the price, so far I’m concerned, is reasonable.

    Good luck to the buyer.

    Like 5
    • David Frank David F Member

      Chevy? Am I missing something here? I don’t remember any Chevys with a flathead V8.

      In about ’64 we pulled a similar car out of a shed on the farm in New Mexico. We had that thing purring in just an afternoon. I wanted it to use it for irrigating at night (luxury compared to using a tractor) but it drove so nice it was licensed and put back on the road. It was a really nice cruiser for driving into town.

      Painted or patina, this old Chief is going to be a great driver for someone.

      Like 8
  10. For Proper USe of Words

    This isn’t patina, it’s neglect. No one waxed, no one kept it out of the weather, no one applied any care to the paint. Would you clear coat your house if it looked like this?

    Like 11
  11. Bernie O

    never seen a chevy with a straight eight

    Like 4
  12. Chris in Clover

    the flathead 8 makes it a little more exciting than a similar Chevy; this one would be fun to drive…

    Like 6
  13. Mountainwoodie

    Inferring from the sellers description, looks to me he understands some folks desire to have this look as good as it did when first sold. And really, with a leather interior and that too cool for scruel 3 piece rear window it really deserves it. Sounds like a seller got it running and kept it running.
    When you cant afford to “restore” a car, in my view, getting it running well and stopping well is no sin. Wouldnt hurt the value of this model to make it look like new if you can afford it. ‘Cause really, this aint a rat rod……..just a sun worn paint job. As usual I’m with Howard and the rest of folks who think worn paint is just worn paint. :)

    Like 6

    I would of course restomod this puppy to almost beyond recognition.
    But that gorgeous dash would remain untouched.

    Like 2
  15. Tom

    I would be careful about purchasing a car from an ad that does not show any of the rust areas. I have purchased 2 cars off of Ebay that had serious rust problems that were misrepresented. The first was a documented low mileage 1956 356 Cabriolet. The owner said it needed a “couple of patch panels”. The transport driver called me when he picked the car up and asked if I had seen it yet. “That nice huh” I replied. After arrival it attracted a lot of attention. I could not find anyone who would tackle the project. I called the previous owner, a Dentist in Wisconsin and asked him ” what were you going to attach the patch panels to?” He didn’t appear to be too concerned since the car was no longer his problem. The 2nd rust out purchase was a Mopar convertible. It had multiple pictures in the ad and had been featured in a magazine. I sent a 10% deposit, $3,500. and was on my way to California to pick it up. When I got there the car was much worse than shown. There was rust through on the top of the fenders. Basically the repair job was going to be way beyond what was shown in the ad. When I asked the owner why he had not included the fender pictures in the ad, or told me or sent me the pictures when I asked about any further rust, he said ” I forgot”. The rust pictures were in the magazine article, but those were the pictures he conveniently left out of the Ebay listing. A battle ensued over the return of the deposit. He had spent it and did not have any money. A court fight in California for $3,500 would have cost me too much to collect. Buyer beware when rust extensive rust is mentioned with no inspection before purchase.

  16. Pugsy

    I’m not a patina fan, but this one is just so perfect. The interior, everything.

    Whoever buys can do anything they want with it, wouldn’t bother me. I just think it looks great now.

    Like 5
  17. Pete Phillips

    I restored one just like this in 1990-91: Same colors, same body style, same year, same leather interior. They are gorgeous cars! That old dependable straight eight will still be running after most of us are gone. Mine had the Hydra-matic like this one, and would get an honest 21 m.p.g. on highway trips. “Built to last 100,000 miles” says the 1952 Pontiac sales brochure, and that’s the truth. Mine had 99,000 and did not need any mechanical work. This one is missing its front bumper guards and the battery cables don’t look thick enough for the six-volt system. I would have to think long and hard about whether to repaint this one or not–probably would paint the roof as it looks like it is down to the bare metal. This is one of the best early 1950s automobiles ever made!

    Like 8
  18. Howard

    At first I thought this was a car where the patina word actually worked for, but upon closer inspection, she needs paint. Passenger door bottom, the crease on the drivers quarter and the trunk is getting pitted. It would be easy to tape her off and shoot a new coat of paint but then the bumpers/bright work would look shabby. And I can almost guarantee that the foam in the seats is dust. And before you know it, the “might as well while I’m at it” has got you to the tune of 25 grand. And who the hell puts blackwall tires on a grand old dame like this?

    Like 6
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      See, it makes much more sense to leave the paint alone and focus on making it a nice driver. Paint is expensive and once you start down that route, you’re going to want to redo everything.

      Like 8
  19. luke arnott Member

    Thanks – it WAS a ’55. Good movie!

  20. Billy L

    Just can’t see fixing up 67 year old beauty like and using it for a “‘daily driver”, there’s so very few of them left. It’s crying to be brought back to its original glory, and then proudly shown off, and passed down the family tree. But, to each their own I guess !!

  21. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    I was given a 51, but haven’t gotten to it. It’s in a lot worse shape than this one. It was parked in the late 50’s in south Florida, in the Everglades. It’s on private property half way between Miami and Naples. It’s complete minus radiator. By now it’s probably just a parts car, but I don’t know since I haven’t been down there for quite some time.
    This one in running condition is quite a beautiful and viable daily driver with a small amount of work. Interior would be my first concern, along with any rust issues. Paint and chrome is at the very end of the list for me.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  22. charlie Member

    Although much of the chassis and body and window glass was shared with Chevrolet, I think this top of the line Pontiac had a longer wheelbase, and therefore a stretched passenger compartment, and therefore a different top and rear window than the ’51 and ’52 Chevies.

  23. Del

    Screw Patina

    Get a repaint

    Wonderfull car. Did not realize straight 8s were still around when this was built.

    Long gone. Very envious of new owner

    Like 3
  24. Ken

    Paint. This. Car.

    I’m sick to death of the “patina” nonsense. The word is used by pretentious upscale antique dealers, and has no place in automotive circles.

    Like 6
    • dweezilaz

      Like “unctuous” used in describing food.

      Like 1
  25. John H

    my vision would be:
    convert it to a gm late model LS driveline
    completely repaint as original
    keep the original functionality of interior controls as much as possible

  26. David Lord

    The patina is perfect, don’t touch that, but dump that antiquated chassis and get something modern under there, like a 90’s Caprice

    Like 1
  27. TimM

    Great car leave it alone and drive the tires off it!!!

  28. russell plumley

    i like it.. we had a similar one (sedan) when i was a kid.. my dad keep his up fairly well, and of course he put in a big 1960’s V8 as soon as it started needing some engine work.. also had a 3 spd, moved to the floor..

    Like 1
  29. KevinLee

    A clear division between patina or new paint. Just my two pennies here, I think some old trucks with whatever’s left of the original paint, and old race cars with original paint and, if it had it, stripes and signage look great! To me though, I believe a car like this would benefit with new, factory color (s). I get the “it’s only original once thing, but not for this. A Mona Lisa it ain’t!

    Like 1
    • dweezilaz

      True Kevin. “Only original once” refers to those vehicles in a lot nicer shape than this.

      “patina” is hardly “original”.

      Like 1
  30. cidevco

    Well guys Im the guy who won the the eBay auction. Thank you to Barn Finds for listing it as I would have never found this car.

    For all you haters on patina. The car will stay exactly as it is except for a rain shower or two to ad to the patina. I will however fine tune all of the mechanical systems so it is a trouble free driver. Remember it is only original once and once you start to restore it it becomes just a car like all others. I have 17 collected cars and trucks from show room condition to the beauty of this find. I love them all and each one has it place when I drive them. I will keep you all updated on the progress, if any of you know of where I can find the front bumperettes, a good right side tail lights lens and the trunk key cover I would really appreciate that.

    Thank You Barn Finds!!!

    Like 6
    • luke arnott Member


      Like 1
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      That’s awesome cidevco! Please keep us all updated.

      Like 1
    • TimM

      That’s the way it should be!!! Do what you want!!! It is America after all!!

    • Mountainwoodie

      Good for you! Love that rear window!

      True they are only original once,

      But……….here’s the but….’original’ covers a spectrum of physical conditions on a vehicle. A car sitting in a junkyard under a pile of crushed iron may be ‘original’……….your beautiful Poncho had rusted surfaces through original paint…and then there’s this…..seen at a local show this weekend…..a Plymouth Sport Fury……..o r i g i n a l… in absolutely nothing but the consumables have been changed in fifty three years….I think we all can agree ..THIS original should stay as it is……….

      The Poncho, of course, is up to you now…but I think you can see where the ‘haters’ of patina are coming from when we consider what ‘original’ should be repainted and what should be kept as is.

      Jess sayin…..

      Like 1
  31. robj Member

    Although I’m not usually a fan of the “P” word. In this case the really nice chrome presents an interesting contrast with the paint. I kinda like it.

    Someone else did as well. Gone at 8k.


    Like 1
  32. dweezilaz

    Everyone including the author avoiding the dreaded “H” word: hardtop

  33. Lawrence S.Rubinson

    the 52 Pontiac used the same Fisher A body as the Chevrolet. the passenger compartment was the same size. the extended wheelbase allowed for a longer Hood to accommodate the straight-8 engine in the Pontiac. the wheelbase in the Pontiac was 120 in and the Chevy wheelbase was 115 in.

  34. Clarke Smith

    the 1952 Pontiac 2 dr i had with straight 8 and had a 3 speed power glide transmission. I owned it in Vancouver BC, bought it off my football coach, Rocky Cameron who played for BC Lions, sold it to me for 20 dollars, but the rad got a hole in, brought it to garage, repair was 96 dollars, didn’t have the funds, and left it there, dopey me. passenger door top hinge was broken, no muffler. Miss it now.

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