Shining Star: 1956 Pontiac Star Chief Catalina

This 1956 Pontiac Star Chief two-door hardtop Catalina is literally shiny but it’s also a shining star of a project. It would be a great project but I’m a bit biased since my parents had one when I was a kid and I’ve wanted one ever since. This patina-heavy project Pontiac and/or Poncho can be found listed here on craigslist in Fridley, Minnesota with an asking price of $6,500 or best offer. Thanks to Ikey H. for submitting this tip!

Our ’56 Pontiac was white and black and it was a four-door sedan. I wonder if our car would have been a two-door Star Chief Catalina hardtop if the old man would have cut it apart with his new torches? Yeah, he probably still would have. The top of the line was the Star Chief in this era and they weren’t all two-door hardtop models, despite what typically shows up for sale.

The (here it comes) patina on this Pontiac is amazing. I know, it’s worn paint and surface rust, and in this case, it’s covered by something, either wax, oil, clearcoat, or something to make it shiny, and that’s probably protecting this otherwise rust-free body. Rust-free?! A 64-year-old car in Minnesota is rust free? Well, the body is but the floorboards will need to be replaced, and there will be other work underneath, but it’s amazing that the body panels have lasted this long.

The seller has provided great photos, but none of the front interior other than the one shown above. I was hoping to see the dash from the driver’s side and some details of that beautiful dash. The back seat and headliner and the whole interior will need to be restored. You can see that this one has power windows which is always fun to see on a car from the 1950s and they work. Actually, it has a power seat and power antenna, too. Hagerty is at $12,000 for a #4 fair condition car.

The bad part is that the 227-hp 317 cubic-inch Strato-Streak V8 doesn’t run, or turn over by hand. They think that a former owner may have tried to get it running because of some new parts and they burned out the starter, which is missing. So, that’ll be the first order for the next owner. This sure looks like a great project and I’d restore it back to bone-stock original, but I’m boring that way. How would you restore this one?


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  1. Sam61

    The tri-5 Chevies get all the attention but I find the Buicks, Pontiac and Olds tri-5’s more interesting. Nice find!

    Like 33
    • Poppapork

      Don’t forget the Packed listed recently, very mint for the asking price

      Like 6
    • Johnny

      Sam61 I agree. ,but I think the reason might be is because of price and they made less Buick,Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Like Ford with Mustangs. I like to see the ones you do,nt see often. I,d keep it original and paint it. This pantina–I think it makes the person look like they couldn,t afford to paint it.Which paint jobs is expensive,but I,d paint it myself. Even though I never painted one. I,d learn.

      Like 7
  2. Chuck

    Back to stock!

    Like 16
    • Mike Brown

      I agree. Put it back to stock. I see that it also has the hood trim strips and ornament, which I’ve been told are extremely hard to find in good condition.

      Like 2
  3. Howard A Member

    Aw, little Scotty G before the weight of the world crushed his fragile spirit. Apparently, there’s more to his ’56 Poncho story. I believe, after his dad cut the back off, his mom still drove it around, can you imagine? His mom must be quite a sport. Even though it was kind of on the Tri-5 platform, I thought Pontiac looked so much nicer, kind of like Mercury’s and Fords. Lot of work here, but when done, a ’56 Chevy, it ain’t.

    Like 4
  4. Will Fox

    Very unusual to see any `56 Pontiac so loaded with options. My grandparents had a 4dr. Star Chief Custom Catalina 4dr. hardtop–pink/white, with a gray/white interior, and it too, had power windows, seat, p/s, p/b. Grandpa would let me reach over & start the car (I was about 5). One day while heading home from the hardware store, I reached over & shut the ignition off!! Grandpa freaked, slipped it in neutral & re-started the car before anything bad happened. I remember that episode like it was this morning! LOL

    Like 6
  5. Johnny

    Dad had a 55 –4 door sedan. It was 2 tone blue .3 speed and no radio. I remeber the chrome delet plate in the middle and the oblong park lights in the front. Their was a 56 Pontiac and a 56 Chevrolet his friends had. They were like new and both of them hit head on below the house. Both guys walked away and both cars were totaled. Dad bought the motor off the guy for $50. It was a sunny dad. Damn–that was about 65 years ago. Where does the time go. Funny how some people can still remember that long.

    Like 1
  6. PeterfromOz

    Yikes!!! A Strato-Streak engine. Sounds as though it could out-run Captain Kirk’s Warp Drive.

  7. JP

    This looks like a great buy if you have the money & time to restore it!

  8. robbert

    Back to original! Beautiful prospects here! I live in Australia and had a standard sedan. We have wombats on the road here ( 1/2 ton armor plated bear that likes to roam the roads at night) One moonless night on the back roads to the Snowy Mountains this think steps out in front of me. I hit the brakes the wombat lifted the Ponti two feet of the ground. Any other car would have been destroyed. Not a scratch on Starchief but the wombat got totaled! Sad night.I miss that car.

    Like 2
  9. Bob Mck Member

    I had one of these. Sold it recently. Still have a set of 4 correct wheel covers.

  10. TimM

    The patina thing started with the rat rod community and now it’s rolled over to the cars that should be painted!! This car would look so sweet with a new paint job instead of clearing over rust!! It certainly is a nice find but it needs to be painted and brought back to the beautiful car it deserves to be!!!

    Like 3
    • Mike Brown

      To me, “patina” is something you find on bronze statues and antique furniture. I’ve never been a fan of it on vehicles, unless it’s real. Even then, if it was mine, I’d get it painted ASAP. I’m also not a fan of “rat rods”. Years ago, when people actually built their rods, it was understandable. These days, people spend big $ to have a shop build a car to look like it’s not finished. To me, that’s crazy. Some people like the look though.

      Like 1

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