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Tin Woody: 1953 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Wagon

1953 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe

Things have been a bit crazy lately here at BarnFinds. Jesse has been busy getting the Mustang ready for the rally and I’ve been in Wyoming finishing up some other projects. Time has been a bit short and getting posts done on top of everything else has been a challenge, but the moment I realized it was Wednesday, I knew I had to break away from everything else and get a wagon posted! What would Wednesday be without Wagon Wednesday? Well in my search for a great wagon, I came across this 1953 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Tin Woody here on eBay and something about it just caught my eye. It needs a lot of work, but the rough and rusty look makes it rather interesting to stare at!

Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe

We love wagons of this era, especially woodies. This one isn’t quite a woodie, but it is a tin woodie. Crafting a wood and metal body is an expensive and labor intensive process, so Pontiac decided that rather than build a real woodie, they would build an all steel body and paint wood panels onto the body. This saved vast amounts of money during production and also means that these cars are easier and cheaper to restore today. Rather than needing a wood worker to carefully craft and install new panels, all you need is a painter skilled in replicating the look of wood. After spending the last 50 years parked in a barn in Colorado, this one is going to need lots of paint work. It looks to be solid with little, if any, rust through though.

Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Interior

This Pontiac is going to need a massive amount of work to be used for much of anything, especially any long distance drives. The interior is going to need to be redone from top to bottom. From what’s visible, it appears that all the pieces and trim are still here. The dash actually looks to be in good shape and could be left as is. If it were ours, we would go ahead and repair or replace the floors while the interior is pulled apart. The seller claims it is solid throughout, but that there are a couple spots that a previous owner tried to patch. We would want to check any repairs carefully and make sure it was done properly.

Pontiac Chieftain Motor

The engine is also going to need to be gone through before this one can be driven. The seller claims it turns, but they haven’t done a compression test or investigated any further. The seller listed this as the inline 8, but they didn’t state whether it is of the 103 hp or 106 hp variety. We spot a few parts that appear newer, so hopefully someone hasn’t already tried to get it running and damaged it in the process. With any luck, it won’t take much to get it running again, but we would plan for the worst with this one.

Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Tin Woodie

Sure, a real woodie wagon would be more sought after and possibly even a bit cooler, but the fact that this wagon won’t require replacing any actual wood is a major plus. The seller says it currently has great patina, and while we do like the way it looks, we think it is way past patina and is to the point of just being rusty. As long as it hasn’t rusted through, it shouldn’t be an issue and could actually make it very desirable to the Rat Rod crowd. While it might be interesting to look at, these are rare enough that it deserves some attention and hopefully someone will give it a new lease on life. So that brings us to the question of what you would do with this wagon. Would you give it a full restoration, complete with new faux wood grain, or would you leave it looking ratty and rough?


  1. That Guy

    The rat look isn’t really my thing, but this car could convince me otherwise. That exterior looks fantastic just as it is. I’d have to clean up the interior though.

    On the other hand, this would have been one hell of a stylin’ ride when it was new, in its shiny red paint, red and white upholstery, and faux wood grain trim. Well restored, it would be stunning.

    Either way, this is an awesome car.

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  2. paul

    I wonder why they have it listed as a Chevy? Man I love this one, the dash is killer cool I hope this gets a restore to original since these are so very rare & this one is so complete, trim, engine, etc. I doubt this will go cheap.

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    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I would completely agree with you, Paul. Not a common car and it should be brought back to original so others could have a chance to see one in all its glory.

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  3. Dave Wright

    One of the most beautiful cars I ever saw was a 1953 Pontiac Catalina convertiable…….it was dark red with white leather interior and tons of classic chrome. I love the one piece windshields and the straight 8 is one of the smoothest engines you will find. These are getting so rare and unusual it could be a show stopper. Much less comon than a Chevy and much higher quality overall.

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  4. Dolphin Member

    Great cool look, and (relatively) unrusty….as old neglected ebay cars go. The mascot is worth the current bid by itself….well, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. We’ve had some discussion on BF of those great plastic and chrome Chieftain mascots sitting just above that big chrome waterfall going down the front of the hood.

    Unrusty is very good but all that chrome will take a lot of wampum to get redone. That, and the interior. At least the plugs look fresh.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen a resto’ed one like this at a local show ‘n shine, but I hope this one gets brought back like it should be and avoids the rat rod route.

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  5. jim s

    i too would like to see this back on the road. i like that it is all steel, i rode in ” hand me down” woodies back when they were just cars and did not like them. but the woodies were easy to cut up to make farm trucks, sorry. is the locking fuel door factory or aftermarker? nice find.

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  6. Aktifspeed

    Send it to ICON and have it resto-modded the right way!

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  7. Marc

    that is “patina”

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  8. Brian

    It’s an interesting find, but I have to go against the grain as I really don’t care for this one. I usually dig old wagons, but there is just something about these early 50s wagons that leaves me abit cold. It’a almost as if the woodie wagon era had passed away, and the designers just didn’t have a good replacement for them. I think station wagons didn’t find there way again until the mid 50s when wagons began to benifit from the lower, wider styles of their two and four door brothers. To me, these wagons just cry for two less doors, panels on the rear sides, and the name of the local grocer or plumber painted on them; there just that utilitarian looking!

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  9. RickyM

    I’m not a great lover of the rough ‘ratty’ look but this could convertme. Love the contrast from the wheels to the body! Great looking car just the way it is.

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  10. Darren

    Lub the hubs.

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  11. Alan (Michigan)

    The hood ornament alone has me hooked!

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  12. DT

    Baby got back!

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  13. Paul B

    These cars were quite uncool in their day, dashboard notwithstanding. I was a kid in the late 1950s, when they were regarded as old people’s cars, with boat-anchor straight eights. Falling sales prompted GM to get rid of the silver streaks and shake up the Pontiac division by aggressively cultivating a sporty performance image. That rejuvenated this brand in the 1960s, as the GTO and Grand Prix cut a wide swath through the automotive scene. Despite this wagon’s dowdy appearance and miserable performance, or maybe because of them, it is now ’50s cool, definitely worth saving and enjoying. What a piece of history.

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  14. TED

    Wouldn’t this be a good thing to go to the beach in with surfboard on top once its restored and running?

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  15. Bizfinguy

    We had a ’51 Chieftain sedan which we sold to neighbors who had it into the late ’60s at least. These cars were built to last. I’d restore and not modify — what a unique and totally period look both inside and out.

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  16. bob

    What’s that on #3 sparkplug ?

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    • bob

      Well it’s been nearly 3 weeks and no reply . Guess I’m not the only one who don’t know what that is.

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  17. Charles

    I’d love to see that car restored back to original specs. Ugly dash board or not. I am about everything Pontiac. I have two all original Trans Am’s that I take to the Pontiacs In Pigeon Forge TN every June. The show is a fund raiser for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. This old Poncho will attract interest if it were just hauled there and put on display. She is so rare that she will steal the show if she were restored.

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  18. Don Andreina

    Simply beautiful

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  19. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    The seller ended up pulling the action when bidding was up to $8,000. I can only assume that he received a better offer offline?

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  20. DENIS

    I like it, but OVER $8000??? Looong ways from done in any form….I must be missin’ something

    Like 0

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