Rare 1957 Pontiac Safari Wagon Project

In 1955, Chevrolet and Pontiac pooled their resources to come up with a special line of 2-door station wagons. Chevy’s version would become the now-iconic Nomad, while Pontiac called theirs Safari. 65 years later, the Nomad is better known, perhaps because Chevy sold twice as many of these wagons as Pontiac did. This Pontiac Safari is a 1957 model and can be found in Comfort, Texas. It was the proverbial barn find and the seller has a sedan parts car to add to the equation, if you want, for extra dough. The bidding here on eBay sits at $2,950 for just the wagon, but the reserve has not yet been met.

The Pontiac Safari got its name from the Swahili word “safari” which means journey. Beginning in 1955, the Safari was part Pontiac Chieftain and part Chevy Nomad. This enabled both GM divisions to share in the tooling costs for these special-bodied wagons. The Safari was identifiable by Pontiac’s unique front-end bumper/grille assembly, sheet metal and rear tail light design. The Safari had sport-coupe front doors, extra chrome on the tailgate and interior and sliding rear-seat windows. Like the Nomad, the “B” pillar of the Safari was raked forward, something not shared with other GM two-door station wagons of the day. Over the three years these wagons were made in this configuration, Chevy sold 20,000 Nomad’s vs. Pontiac’s 9,000 Safari’s. Thanks, Wikipedia, for the Safari refresher!

The seller’s Safari is a rare commodity, one of only about 1,300 built for 1957. But it’s a project where virtually every aspect of the wagon will need help. We’re told it’s a complete vehicle that comes with several extra parts. The photos provided don’t do a great job of capturing this wagon. It has rust in the quarter panels and where the spare tire resides. There is also rust in the front floor, but the seller will be providing new floor pans as part of the deal. The chrome and glass are good (except a front door) and are either on the car or nearby.

The original engine would have been a Pontiac 347 cubic inch V-8, but that’s long gone. The seller has an engine and transmission from 1955 to go with the car, but they’re not installed. If you want a date-correct drivetrain, for extra dollars you can also buy his 1957 Pontiac sedan to harvest. The original seats have also flown the coup, but a set of non-correct leather seats are offered in their place. The seller also has a Chevy S10 frame that could be used with your restoration, but we aren’t told how that would work.

If this Safari was a well-preserved original, its resale value could rival that of the Chevy Nomad where prices have been known to go into six figures. But you will invest a lot of money and sweat equity to get there. However, when was the last time you saw one of these pop up for sale?

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Comments

  1. Snotty

    Save this classy Poncho. More character than any nomad.

    Like 36
    • Will Fox

      Despite what this Safari is missing, it’s WELL worth the cost of restoration; these are too scarce not to. Since it shares many components with that year’s Chevy, the front seat ass’y. could be made from one of those. Too bad the 347 V8 is gone; I wouldn’t put the `55 287 V8 in it; I’d strive for correctness. Hopefully rust hasn’t eaten this one too bad underneath,.

      Like 13
  2. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I really like these cars, but this one will require way to much work for me to get into. Hope someone who loves these cars will get this and save it.
    God bless America

    Like 9
  3. Turbo

    I’ve always thought these were pretty cool because of their rarity and sharp styling. The article mentions that Chevrolet and Pontiac pooled their resources. I always thought that they were developed independently because those were the days when brands truly had their own identity. Makes me wonder what, if any, parts are interchangeable between the Safari and the Nomad? Suspension, chassis, glass? Any sheet metal like the cowl or floor pans? Someone here will surely know the answer to that question.

    Like 8
    • local_sheriff

      That’s one mighty good question – especially since the Pontiac is a tad wider and being both overall longer and with a longer WB. Not to forget that these two divisions would still be using their very own frames too for several years to come.

      As I understand it (without ever having any opportunity to measure) everything involving the glass/roof/tailgate/pillars specific for the Nomad/ Safari should interchange – and from then on any similarity would stop. It would be extremely interesting to know exactly WHERE those extra inches on the Pontiac went though! I’ve read several places that sport coupe doors were utilized but I’ve always found them to look slightly longer?

      I got thrilled too so I found this article about the development of the Nomad/ Safari. If anyone have further intel I’d love to know!
      https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1955-1957-pontiac-star-chief-safari.htm

      Like 6
      • Gus Fring

        I’ve always assumed that the extra inches came by way of extending the front end. Pontiacs always looked funny to me in this era, due to that reason. It was evident on early ’70’s Ambassadors too where, from the firewall back, they shared the same everything but trim, with the Matador. The Matador was much better looking.

        Like 1
      • 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

        55-57 Safaris and Nomads shared roofs, all glass, doors, lift gate and tailgates. The Safaris used an entirely different frame and running gear, the wheelbase at 122 inches 7 inches longer than Nomads. The extra length was all forward of the cowl. I don’t know for sure about floor pans, suspect they’re different because of different body mounts. The doors are styled off coupe doors, but don’t slope down at the back edge and are not interchangeable. Another seemingly odd thing is that Pontiac kept the slope/notch along the top of the quarter panels, just behind the doors.
        I’ve had my 55 Nomad for 45 years, honestly have found more Safaris out in the “rough” and have used very few parts from them. Most were really picked over, probably parts cars for Nomads. Too bad, I would love to have a nice Safari but too many projects now.
        Also, in 57 Pontiac had a top of the line 4 door Safari, the Safari Transcontinental.

        Like 7
  4. lou

    replace with 57 chevy quarter panels, install 57 chevy front fenders, hood, grille and bumpers, add the 57 chevy chrome and voila you have a nomad!

    • Jon Hilker

      as long as you’re at it, I’d also replace the dash with a 57 chevy dash.

      • 57Chevy

        Hey lou & Jon, Why Bother, simply just buy a Nomad!!!!!

  5. Racer-x

    My first project car was a ’57 Chieftain hardtop. I replaced the 2 barrel with a tri-power rochester set up residing on a “X” factory part number intake manifold. I miss that car.

    Like 5
  6. mainlymuscle

    One of the most beautiful and popular cars at one of the shows that I attend annually is a 57 Safari in GM’s Ivy .Mild restomod with the day 2 look,it is an absolute stunner.This car will be rescued by a braver soul than I,without question.I wish the lucky buyer/restorer well,as it will be expensive and take lot of time.Much harder to do than a Nomad due to parts scarcity.

  7. 57Chevy

    Great Parts car for a Nomad!!!!

    • BONE

      no its not

      Like 10
  8. Gus Fring

    The ’57 was, by far, the best looking of the three years.

    Like 6
    • 57;Chevy

      Gus, I have been to MANY Classic Chevy International Conventions where we always showed our cars to the public after the Show & Shine, & I have MANY people tell me they liked my Orig. restored Harbor Blue/Nassau Blue ’56 better than the other 2 years! Don’t get me wrong, I like my ’57 equally as well !!!!!

  9. Maestro1 Member

    My favorite was a ’55.

    Like 2
  10. Jeff

    For 55-57-57 like models of Pontiac and Chevy shared doors, roofs, and glass. Besides have such a lower production of the Safaris over Nomads, many were parted out for builds of Nomads.

  11. Leo

    My very first bought car was a 57 Chieftain. Paid a whooping $300.00 and that was a lot back then. 2 tone blue, with a 389 Auto. Reverse was all the way down. Had a tube radio, that took a minute to warm up. I never got the volume right and had to reach quick for the knob. Had a big speaker on the tunnel under the dash. Went everywhere in that car. Took my driving test in her. Would drive to Al. from Pompano Fl. 12 hours to visit my Grandfather. Joined the Army when I was 16, had my dad sign the paper and 4 days after my birthday I was turning my head and coughing. Put everything I owned in the trunk, and left her at Dads house for basic. Came home on leave and he sold the car for $15.00 for the rear bumper. So, her and everything I owned was gone. Sure wish I still had her.

    Like 1
    • Jon Hilker

      Why do some of you call your vehicles “Her”? ?? Makes no sense. LOL

      Like 1
      • 57Chevy

        Because it is SHE who decides whether you can Have It or not!!!! Makes sense to ME!!!!!!

        Like 1
  12. gerardfrederick

    Nice dad! Kind of like my brother-in-law who threw everything I owned in the trash when I left for Basic in Ft. Benning. Will never forget or forgive that POS.

    Like 1
  13. Don J. Long

    Cool! I just e-mailed this link to my friend from the POCI Pontiac Club, he has a network of ’55-’57 Pontiac Safari enthusiasts including himself. He owned his own pro auto restoration shop for 20 years.
    This is a great project for a pro restorer or for a resto-mod build.

    Like 1
  14. Gray Wolf

    Cruising thru a swap meet many years ago, I came upon a pea green’57 Safari on a trailer for sale. Talked to the gentleman who was selling it for his neighbor and was told the husband had past and he was assisting her with the sale. He mentioned that the husband used to drag race and had extra parts in the back, which rang a bell for me! Jumped up on the trailer and found a gold mine! He had a tri-power set-up, had installed a 4- speed and the cherry on top, a Pontiac fuel injection system! Not a Corvette injection, but the real deal with Pontiac emblems!! The engine had a 4-barrel set-up! What he was asking for the entire package could be covered by just selling the Pontiac injection!! I had to sell a vehicle for space and money, but couldn’t pull it off! And, I was the only one to show any interest in the vehicle and also to look inside!! Oh, this vehicle haunts me to this day!! HELP ME!! LOL!

    Like 4
  15. geezerglide85

    The Safari was really a work of art. I always liked these more than the Nomad.Also they were more Pontiac looking, I think the other Pontiac wagons used Chevy bodies with the longer Pontiac front clip. Somewhere I read that Canadian Ponchos were built on a Chevy frame and had a shorter front end,Chevy dash and could be had with a 6 banger. Does anybody know more about this?

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      Those Cheviacs you mention are worth a study in itself and Canadian+export market vehicles are something that truly fascinate me ( and also highly recommeded reading through dark winter months!).

      Prior to the Auto Pact; but also years thereafter; GM of Canada wanted to offer the buying audience posher models than just Chevies. However due to Canada’s miniscule population compared to the US, the cost of Pontiac-spec production, establish a dealer network, parts availability etc couldn’t be economically justified. The solution was to built Pontiacs that were visually true to the US counterparts, but riding on Chev frames, Chev drivelines,suspension etc.

      That’d lead to early 60s Pontiacs riding on an X-frame, shorther WB,narrow track width and available with Chev engines from 261 I-6 to 409 BBC! Suggested Canada-only cars for you to look up: Pontiac Laurentian/ Pathfinder/ Beaumont/ Parisienne, Meteor Rideau/ Niagara/ Montcalm, Monarch, Ford Frontenac

      https://mystarcollectorcar.com/august-2019-coast-to-coast-in-a-canadian-built-1957-pontiac-safari-station-wagon/

      https://www.chron.com/cars/article/Canadian-Cheviac-is-one-rare-bird-4728932.php#photo-5036872

      Like 2
  16. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    We had a 1957 Safari in our wrecking yard – that – try as he could – o’man Fry couldn’t sell it whole….finally someone offered silly money for the drivers door….then later the same for the tailgate…and finally he just got pissed and stacked a dang Edsel station wagon on top of it…..

    Like 3
    • 57Chevy

      Wow stillrunners-There went a Rare Roof!!! What an Insult to GM!!!!!

  17. Phil Ethier

    My family had a 1957 Star Chief Safari. It had leather upholstery in blue and white to match the exterior paint. Signal-seeking radio. 347 engine. Shotgun seat reclined and had a flip-up headrest.

    Here’s the thing: four doors.

    Like 1
  18. Jon Hilker

    57 chevy, you may have a point. LOL

    • 57Chevy

      Jon, makes sense to ME!!!! lol

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