Rare Wagon: 1955 Pontiac Safari Star Chief

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Everyone knows what a Chevrolet Nomad is, and we have all likely seen one before, but what about the not so common Pontiac Safari Star Chief? Speculated that only 3,760 were produced for 1955, the Safari is a cool alternative to a Nomad. This ’55 is considered to be very complete, and certainly looks the part. Recently pulled out of storage, this Safari is looking for a new home. You can make it yours for $6,250. Check it out here on craigslist out of Waterford, Milwaukee. Thanks to Dylan for sharing this scarce wagon find!

Although a bit dirty, the engine compartment doesn’t appear to be terribly rusty, or look that out of place for a car that has been parked a long time. The Strato-Streak V8 is still in place and looks as if it could be revived, if we judged this book by its cover. There is no in-depth mechanical data on the drive-train, so there is certainly a chance that the engine is locked up.

While the original interior has survived to some extent, the floors and inner rocker on the driver side has not. It seems that all of the door hardware is in place, and that the dash only suffers from superficial damage. The steering wheel has a few cracks, but overall the interior seems average for a car of this vintage.  Arguably, the floors do too. Crisp and thin, the front floor section would need to be replaced if you were to launch a restoration effort on this machine.

Surface rust can be found a little bit of everywhere on this wagon, but the exterior seems to hold little rot. The seller has been forth coming with information on the floors and the inner rockers, but there is no mention, and no evidence, of extensive exterior rot. One other area mentioned is the inner section of the tailgate, and a few small holes in the spare tire well. A minor dent has been mentioned in the passenger side quarter, but it is difficult to see in the listing photos. With all of its glass and trim, this wagon is a small diamond in the rough. Would you revive this rare station wagon?

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  1. rpol35

    I haven’t seen one of these in years – this one is amazingly intact with many of the hard to find bits present. A very good base from which to start a restoration. I’ll leave it to others who are better informed but I would imagine that the plethora of parts available for the ’55 Chevy (floor pans et al.) could help rescue this rare bird.

    Like 14
    • Dave Erb

      Just checked the chevy floor won’t match up.

      Like 1
    • Dave

      The most important parts the stainless and chrome all seem to be there so a good find.

      Like 0
  2. Bultaco

    All of the good looks of a Nomad, but rarer. All Pontiac V8s used the same basic block throughout that engine’s production life, so a later Pontiac V8 would virtually bolt in. I’d repair and paint the body, freshen up the interior, and update the brakes to modern discs. Swap in a later Poncho 400 and automatic transmission, and you’d have a great, reliable cruiser that could easily be returned to original.

    Like 12
  3. CJinSD

    I didn’t know that Pontiac had a Nomad. This is very cool and looks like everything that makes it a Pontiac instead of a Chevrolet has survived except the headlight rings. I hope it gets a full restoration to original equipment, but can’t even afford the rechroming bill at the moment.

    Like 7
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Back when these were new a family from our church owned one of these and another family owned a Nomad. I remember a church picnic where the two cars were parked side by side with hoods open and owners comparing notes. Then when I got out of the army in 67 a group of young men across the street from my mil on S. 45th street in Tacoma Washington owned several Nomads that they were constantly working on, they even had a large garage built next to their house. They kept those Nomads pristine.
    God bless America

    Like 13
  5. Ben T Spanner

    If I recall correctly, this a 347 V8 with a 4 speed Hydromatic. It was also used in GMC trucks. With a front disk brake conversion, it should be perfectly capable of driving in modern traffic.

    Like 3
    • Arthell64

      The ones I have seen had the 317 engine.

      Like 1
      • Vince H

        55 had a 287. The 316/317 was 56. 57 had a 347

        Like 4
    • Will Fox

      Ben, the 347 V8 came along in `57. Bored out to a 370 in `58, and finally a 389 in `59. Same basic block.

      Like 3
      • Mr.BZ

        Is that the same block as my 66 Grand Prix 389?

        Like 2
  6. redwagon

    This looks like a great restoration candidate at a reasonable price. Both Chevrolet and Pontiac had 2 door sportwagons (Nomads if you will) but Oldsmobile and Buick did not. But dont cry for Buick and Oldsmobile as both of them had sporty 4 door hardtop wagons, Buick the Caballero and Oldsmobile the Fiesta.

    Like 8
    • Will Fox

      In `55, Olds had no wagon at all; it returned in `57. But Buick had one in `55-`56. Just no 2dr. versions.

      Like 0
    • Stillrunners

      Should be gone already!

      Like 0
  7. Jack Quantrill

    What happened to the good old days when you could pay a farmer $500 and tow a car like this away?

    Like 7
    • Steve R

      Time is what happened, something like 30 years would be a good guess.

      Steve R

      Like 1
    • John C.

      Jack, that’s what the guy selling it probably did, ( paid a farmer $500 for it). Nice rare wagon, never saw one in person.

      Like 1
  8. Glen Riddle

    Brings back memories. My first car in 1961 was my Mom’s ’55 Pontiac station wagon(a 4-door). Drove it for 3 years unitl I got my Dad’s ’58 Star Chief sedan.

    Like 6
    • Marshall

      I never even knew these existed until the 80s! I remember being shocked and amazed when I saw one going the opposite direction on I-5 in Washington state.

      In 1977, I remember test driving a 1958 Pontiac four-door sedan with 53,000 miles on it. It had plenty of power but it needed shocks. The price at the time was 325 bucks. But my dad said that it would not have been a good deal if they had given it to me. A used car dealer I met later who was not selling the car agreed.

      Like 1
  9. Jake

    What I wanna know, is how such a powerful company like GM could let it all slip away during the 80’s and 90’s…! Were they that blind and stupid??

    Like 5
    • CJinSD

      The success of the Mustang and Lincoln MKIII showed them that there was no reason to focus on engineering excellence. Most buyers were completely unsophisticated when it came to mechanical composition. Just dress up the cheapest chassis in a stylish body and sell image instead of substance.

      Then GM proved the formula applied to them too with the first generation Cadillac Seville as a loaded Nova for more than a Fleetwood. No GM accountant would ever accept an argument for engineering excellence again. All that was left was for the Japanese to figure out rustproofing.

      Like 8
      • Jake

        But didn’t they think that eventually people were gonna realize that and that the Japanese were gonna steal their engineering prowess down the road? I just don’t understand how they thought they were gonna get away with that kind of thinking after seeing how successful they were during the 50’s and 60’s. And even the 70’s.

        Like 1
    • ccrvtt


      Like 1
    • PatrickM

      ….Or, what were they snorting?

      Like 1
  10. TimM

    Nice project car at a pretty reasonable price so far!! A little cleaning up flush the tank rebuild the carb and try to start her up!!!

    Like 0
  11. Robert Jones

    It may be of interest to some that the 1957 GMC pickups came from the factory with the same Pontiac 347 V-8 motor that was placed in the 57 Pontiacs

    Like 1
  12. Andrew Franks

    I always was attracted to this year Safari. If I had the room and not involved with other projects I’d jump on it. But I don’t participate in Auctions; I’d rather contact the Seller and simply ask he/she what they want for the car. If it’s not an irrational figure, I’ll write the check. I’m also away from the car on the Left Coast. So there would be transport and associated expenses to consider. But sadly my existing Projects come first.

    Like 0
  13. Stevieg

    If anyone is interested, I gotta go out to Waterford this weekend for a family event. According to the map in the Craig’s list ad, the car is real close to where I am going. I would be happy to stop by & check it out for any of you. I can be reached @ (414)940-1392. Just offerin’!

    Like 4
  14. robbert

    Great project car sound investment at the price. Looks nice and complete.Remember advertisements featuring these in National Geographic magazines of the mid fifties.

    Like 0

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