Tri-Power Terrific! 1957 Pontiac Safari Transcontinental

Somewhere along the line, the Pontiac Safari Transcontinental Star Chief escaped my attention. When I first gazed upon this listing, I was struck by this Pontiac’s lines, they are beautiful but unknown to me. That being the case, an examination is in short order. Located in Ladner, British Columbia, Canada is this 1957 Pontiac Safari Transcontinental Star Chief station wagon and it is available here on craigslist for $53,500. Thanks to Roger for this tip!

The Safari Transcontinental Star Chief was produced only one year and only half of the model year at that. As the seller states, “Pontiac’s most expensive 1957 car. Introduced in the last six months of the year, the Star Chief was given a Bonneville upgrade. Only a handful of the 1,894 produced have survived…“The seller further adds that this Safari is rust free and was recently repainted in its two-tone scheme of Inca Metallic Blue with a white roof. It is beautiful! Typical for cars of this era are the extensive stainless steel trim and chrome-plated accouterments and parts. It all appears as new on this wagon. The mileage is unknown and it would be telling to see how this Safari appeared before its restoration.

The interior is referred to as, “Excellent original interior with new front and rear seat upholstery”.  That’s a bit of a mixed bag and I don’t want to be overly pedantic but if the upholstery is new, the interior is not original. That said, it is as fantastic as the exterior.  The instrument panel has been refinished in the same Inca Metallic Blue hue as the exterior and that greatly assists with overall continuity – we’ll have to assume all of the gauges and lights operate as expected. The seller mentions that this Pontiac has every option that was available in 1957 except for A/C, power windows, and a power actuated seat.

The seller goes to lengths to reference the headrests which are original equipment, a safety requirement not mandated by law until twelve years later. Also of note is the fact that the front passenger seat reclines.

Under the hood is a Tri-Power (three two-barrel carburetors) equipped 347 (revised) CI V8 engine, generating 300 gross HP. The motor is claimed to have only experienced 2,200 miles since it was rebuilt. The air cleaner doesn’t look like original equipment so I’ll ask our Pontiac power specialist contributors to comment on that observation. It would also seem that the generator has given way to an alternator. The seller claims that this is the only known example, with a matching number power plant, that has survived. No word on how this Safari actually runs but it shouldn’t be an issue considering the low mileage accumulation. Backing up the engine is a Hydramatic, automatic transmission.

This Pontiac is a reflection of its Baby-Boom era when station wagons and suburbs ruled. GM thoroughly had their hat in the ring with the Chevrolet Nomad, Buick Caballero, Pontiac Safari, and now this Safari Transcontinental. Why can’t suburbanites have a little motoring excitement too, right? Somehow that plan seemed to work on a station wagon. A mini-van? Not so much so.

The seller is asking for a pretty handsome price for this Safari and the assumption is that the price is in U.S currency, not Canadian, but interested parties may want to verify. This car, is in fact, a rare bird but it seems more fitting for a collection or a museum than it does for private, occasional use; it’s just too nice to drive. And therein lies the usual conundrum, what to do with it? The seller does suggest that this is the car, “If you are looking for a car that is out of the ordinary with nothing left to do but enjoy.” Might you be that new owner?

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  1. Cadmanls Member

    It’s a land yacht, but looks amazing. Pretty sure that air cleaner would have been oil bath but a great looking wagon.

    Like 5
    • wayne

      The 1956 Oldsmobile J-2 tri-Powers were equipped with a dual oil bath, (Batwing) Air cleaner.
      The 1957 Oldsmobile J-2 tripowers featured an extremely
      Large circular replaceable filter.
      (I‘ve owned both)
      Good luck on finding a filterI‘m pretty sure Pontiac followed the same pathth

      Like 1
      • Glenn Schwass Member

        Stunning car.

        Like 1
  2. IkeyHeyman Member

    Featured on Barn Finds in 2016, listed at $43K.

    Like 12
  3. CCFisher

    The name is “Star Chief Custom Safari Transcontinental,” and this is an exceptional example of a car that was uncommon even when new.

    Like 10
  4. Mitchell Member

    This is a minty ‘swagon

    Like 7
  5. Ken Kittleson

    Pontiac’s displacement in ’57 was 347 cubic inches, while Olds was 371. Pontiac went to 370 cubes in ’58, then to 389 in ’59, where it remained through ’66 along with other variations (326, 421, 428…).

    Like 12
    • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

      Fixed, thx for the correction.


      Like 1
  6. Dave

    Nice rare car. With all the options it’s supposed to have I would’ve had a/c, power windows and power seats higher up on my option list.

    Like 6
  7. b-rad jeepster

    The air cleaner says 347

    Like 3
    • Glenn Schwass Member

      Stunning car.

      Like 1
  8. TimM

    This car is in beautiful condition and is the kind of build I always admire!! Looks stock on the outside but under the hood is all business!! I’ve frequently referred to this as the mullet build!!!

    Like 4
  9. Tom Bell

    1957 Pontiac Tri-Power air cleaner now on Ebay:

    Like 1
  10. Tom Bell

    That didn’t work. Here is the Ebay item number for those interested: 193392581285.

    Like 4
  11. local_sheriff

    I thought I knew 50s-60s Pontiacs and I knew about the ’57 Safari 2door Nomad sibling, however the Transcontinental is a model I was completely unaware of until now. Just love to learn something new about old!

    I did a quick google search and it turns out there are many Transcontinentals alive considering 1.894 were made. That prod# is actually rather impressive for a mid-year luxury wagon; in the ’58-’64 period Pontiac’s top dog wagon sold between 2.905 – 5.844 examples so they were never really massive sellers. Note the traffic viewer prism on its dash as it was part of the outer visor package. To me it seems its quarter taillight extension trim is unique to 4door wagons only. But is the roof rack installed the wrong way…?

    Author says it’s ‘too nice’ to be driven – I’d say DRIVE IT for heaven’s sake, but with care! IMO you’re doing mankind a favour by showing it! OK; a hefty price tag however how many muscle cars don’t come advertized in this range today? And @ Tom Bell – great work locating that air cleaner/ carb/ intake package. If one can afford this longroof one probably also has the extra $ for that assy. Impressive find!

    Like 9
    • Bill L McCoskey


      Yeah, the roof rack is on backwards, but it’s no big deal, as it can be installed with the bases pointing either forward or backwards, and as it’s 6 bases are identical in location, the rack can be removed, rotated 180 degrees and re-installed.

      The rack shown was a dealer installed version, it didn’t come from the Pontiac factory. Back when these were new, I used to install them when I worked for local car dealerships.

      Like 6
  12. Bradley James Purintun

    In 1968, our family, 4 kids and mom and dad, were driving in our wagon lime this one. An airplane had lost power after take off, and tried to land on a city street. Hr hit power lines, then our car. Everything burst into flames. All on board the airplane were killed. But thanks to that incredible wagon, my entire family survived. Cant beat them old U.S. made vehicles.

    Like 5
  13. Mark Jefferson

    WOW – hadn’t heard of this before – what’s not to like about a “Custom Star Chief Safari Transcontinental” especially in this two-tone blue. Not cheap, but it looks like all the hard work on it is mostly done – and think of the fun you could have at big Pontiac meets as everyone flocks PAST all the restored GTO Judges, Firebirds, (and any other muscle cars I might have missed) etc. to look at it…..

    Like 5
  14. JohnD

    Do Pontiac numbers really match in 1956s . . . I mean, the block may or may not have a plausible date, and the right casting number, but is a partial VIN stamped on the block? It wasn’t on the Chevys of the period, so I think numbers matching might be an overstatement . . . .

    • Phil Maniatty

      I don’t know about GM, but Chrysler has a department that, for a fee and proof that you own the car, will print the build sheet for your car from microfilm. This contains the engine number and serial number, so you can prove that yours has the factory original engine.

      Like 2
      • don

        I think Chrysler only has that from the 1950s and down though, I tried years ago on my 68 with no luck .

  15. steve

    i have seen this car in person,all i can say is ” Wow” its stunning! fyi – the original air cleaner will not fit with the upgraded windshield wiper motor so he opted for safety over originality…good choice.

    Like 6
  16. Wayne Meyer

    There’s a beautiful ’57 Pontiac coupe on craigslist now that has the tripower setup on it. The air cleaner is the same as the large round one with dual snorkels that was utilized in later years. It may be incorrect as well but it looks right at home.

    Like 1
  17. don

    This is a beautiful car , but when I see something like this I always wonder if the person who did the restoration added all the options, or did it come that way from the factory ? This one I could see Pontiac loading it up on this late entry as the 58s would be all new and maybe they threw all the options they could into them to get rid of the parts

    Like 1
  18. Kenn

    Hey local_sheriff, that “traffic viewer prism” – whatever you meant by that – was a device enabling the driver to easily see the traffic signal light that the outside sunvisor was blocking. (One of the few advantages of getting old ; I experienced in person much of the early automotive advances. Even saw a Tucker in the showroom in Michigan when they came out!

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