Straight-8 Survivor: 1951 Pontiac Chieftain

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Introduced in 1949, the Chieftain and Streamliner were Pontiac’s first all-new cars since before World War II. The Chieftain would eventually become the GM division’s entry-level automobile and remain in the mix through 1958. This 1951 edition, in a 4-door sedan layout, is said to be a barn find that runs and drives great. And it looks good, too (at 20 feet), and could be driven on weekends just like it is. If you have $7,900 to invest, you could take this one home with you!

New car sales were still brisk going into the 1950s as supply began to catch up with pent-up post-war demand. The Chieftain (aka the Pontiac Eight with the Silver Streak inline-8) used GM’s A-body platform through 1954.  That engine has a displacement of 268 cubic inches and held court until a new V8 arrived in 1955. Pontiac was the last GM brand to move away from the straight-eight engine that dated before the War. If you were shopping for a new vehicle in 1951 and the budget was of concern, the Pontiac Chieftain was a solid choice.

We don’t know the history of this family sedan, but it may have been off the road for a while and then coaxed back to life. The odometer reads 89,000 miles, and we’re told it performs as it should with a “3-on-the-tree” manual transmission. The seller says the vehicle is “all original,” which includes most of the factory black paint which has a nice shine but has its share of scratches and cracks. Those preferring patina can leave it alone while a perfectionist might opt for a repaint.

The interior was protected by vinyl/plastic seat covers which have been removed to reveal Mohair fabric in great shape. We wish we could see what things look like under the hood, but a personal inspection should answer any questions in that area. If you’ve been looking for a vintage “Poncho” that looks like a near-75-year-old car, check the Pontiac out here on craigslist for further inspection. And our thanks go to T.J. for another fine tip!

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Gil Davis Tercenio

    It’s not a Buick, but it’s still a nice old car.

    Like 5
    • John Kleist

      Excuse me?
      Pontiac & Buick were totally interchangeable. Pontiac decided to be more daring, Buick remained the stodgy profit maker. Only difference!

      Like 3
      • Gil Davis Tercenio

        No, Pontiac was a step up from Chevy on the GM hierarchy, then Olds, then Buick and Caddy at the top.

        I prefer the OHV straight eight Buicks to the flatheads in the Pontiac.

        Like 3
      • Gil Davis Tercenio

        In addition, only the Buick Special shared any body parts with the Pontiac. Buick Supers and Roadmasters shared bodies with the senior Olds and Cadillac lines.

        Like 3

    Another fine AMERICAN joy to see lookin GOOD

    Like 4
  3. charleMember

    Car pooled with a friend during the summer of 1960, he had one, only complaint was the whine in the transmission in 1st and 2nd. Why Pontiac used this when the rest of the GM line had a slient one was a wonder, to me. That with the Chrysler Corp’s starter noise, across all the lines, was another mystery.

    Like 3
    • Arfeeto

      Funny. I was a little boy in the early 1950s when an uncle bought a series of straight-eight Pontiacs. The transmission whine is the thing that I remember most vividly about them. Indeed, I can still recreate it in my mind. And, yes, at 73 I can also still “hear” the distinctive high-pitched sound of Chrysler’s gear-reduction starters, which the company’s products used beginning sometime in the early ’60s.

      Like 6
  4. RickyMember

    Looks like a great deal. Too bad it’s so far away from me.

    Like 4
  5. Dave

    Though this one MAY be a higher mileage than the listed 52 Plymouth, it’s a much nicer car for a reasonable price. Nothing needed to enjoy as is?

    Like 3
  6. 4501 Safari

    Having owned three ’54 Pontiac Catalina Hardtops with straight eights, two Star Chiefs Custom Catalinas and one Chieftain Catalina with a rare manual transmission, I can say this is a nice one at what I’d consider a fair price for its condition. Clean interior and no “Korean chrome” to flake off and rust the steel or pit the pot metal underneath. Seeing the undercarriage, I wager the driver’s side front floor is not rusted through like every ’54 I’ve seen. Pontiac straight eights were my Dad’s love with his ’37, ’46, ’48 and ’54. His last Pontiac before his death was a ’59 Catalina Vista four door hardtop. I’d like to have any of them. Have never seen a ’37 coupe in the metal. Sigh…nice heavy slow dependable car. Used to be advertised as good for 100,000 miles!

    Now it’s too many projects, not enough time and not enough money.

    Like 2
  7. frank mcdonald

    I’m a real stickler for originality, and I have NEVER seen an original interior on a car this old that’s near perfect. I would like to inquire about the car if it is still available, but don’t know how. I’m not real proficient with the electronic age, so if anyone can help out I’d appreciate it. I have gone to the actual craigslist ad, but clicking on reply isn’t cutting it. Thanks in advance

    Like 0

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