West Texas Barn Find: 1958 Pontiac Chieftain

The west Texas sun can wreak havoc on everything – humans, animals, buildings, the ground, and especially on vehicles. This 1958 Pontiac Chieftain can be found listed here on eBay in El Paso, Texas, where the sun shines an incredible 302 days a year, on average, compared to under 200 days a year where I’m from. No wonder we’re all depressed. The seller has a $4,700 buy-it-now price listed or you can make an offer.

300 days of sun every year, man, I need to move, I don’t care if my skin would look like this Pontiac’s paint, or former paint, or not. Just to get the price thing out of the way, Hagerty is at $10,800 for a #4 fair-condition car, which would be a running, driving car. This one is a long way from being a running, driving car, and even if it was, the interior is scary, so the buy-it-now price may be a bit ambitious.

As with other GM divisions, the Pontiacs were redesigned for the 1958 model year and this would be the last one for the Chieftain, having been around since 1949. The ’58s are a love-it-or-hate-it design, with quad headlights and tail lights, along with a new honeycomb grille and those big concave-cove quarter panels (say that ten times in a row as fast as you can) as shown in the photo above.

In 1958, the Chieftan was the base model, with the Super Chief, Star Chief, and Bonneville being above this car as far as nicer equipment goes. There was a two-door and four-door sedan Chieftan with a thin B-pillar (this is a two-door sedan), and also a higher trim level Chieftan Catalina Coupe, which was a two-door hardtop and a Catalina Sedan, which was a four-door hardtop model, as well as six and nine-passenger wagons.

You can see that this car needs an incredible amount of work. The seller says that it’s been sitting since 1979 and the rear window has been out for years, and the floors are pretty rusty. It appears to have been a three-speed manual car with a column shifter that has been converted to a floor shifter. A Super-Hydramatic automatic transmission would have also been optional.

The engine should be Pontiac’s “Tempest 395” engine, a 370-cu.in. OHV V8 and it would have been factory-rated at 240 horsepower. The 240-hp two-barrel engine was standard with the three-speed manual cars but when the box was checked for the optional Super-Hydramatic transmission, the horsepower went up to 270. The seller says that this one started and ran when they poured gas in the carb, but don’t plan on driving it home. Any thoughts on this rugged Chieftain project?


  1. Howard A ( since 2014) Member

    I suppose for memory sake, this reminds me of that guys blue with white coves ’58 Bonneville 2 door with fuel injection by my folks as a kid. Naturally, the interior looks rough, but stripped out, I bet it’s not too bad. The sticky wicket is having to replace all that. Years ago, these cars were for what we called “amateur restoration”, meaning, they were gotten cheap, NEVER more than a grand, and in your spare time, you could make a respectable classic, certainly one welcome at any local car show, or grocery store, total investment, MAYBE couple grand. Enjoyment FAR exceeded the cost.
    Well, time to smell da’ roses, today all restorations(it seems) have to be to the nines, many kids don’t care about a ’58 Poncho, much less sink TENS of thousands into one. It’s just an old car.
    Again, not to sound like a scratched record( THAT dates me) I like it, but THREE PEOPLE and no bids,,,I’ve said before, us old farts just may see the return of affordable projects, just like this. Too bad, our health and pocketbooks won’t allow it now. THERE’S the conundrum for ya’,,but don’t kid yourself, we had our time and this was a mighty cool car then.

    Like 24
  2. Yblocker

    I bought a 57 Chieftain 2dr, 3spd, straight as an arrow, back in 77, paid $250 for it, everybody thought I was nuts for paying that kinda money for a 20 year old car. And now here we are, paying thousands of $ for projects. What the hell happened? I wouldn’t mind having this car, but I already have a life long dream sitting in my garage, and since retirement is now on the horizon, I can’t spare the years or the funds to go another round.

    Like 12
    • jrhmobile

      Just think, dude, if you hung onto that 57 Chieftain for another 50 years, you’d be pulling in big bucks now too.

      Why? Because most of those “20 year old” cars were gone already by then, and in the ensuing 45 years most of the ones around in 1977 went with them. That’s what happened. Run of the mill beaters are pretty rare now, and command good money because there aren’t many of them left.

      Indulging in nostalgic trinkets has always cost money. Even when — especially when — they sit on four wheels. If you wait another 30 years, most all the boomers who buy these will have died off and prices will have come down again. But it’s not likely that late boomers like you and I are going to make it.

      Like 10
  3. Dave

    The floor would be the biggest issue (for me). If its just the footwells no biggie, but if the entire floor needs a replacement the difficulty factor goes up a bit, and IDK if new is available for this model. Maybe the more prevalent Chevy part would fit, IDK.
    Interior? I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at that. Besides, headliners are over rated.

    Like 5
  4. Jerry Bramlett

    Monday afternoon I sent the following message to the seller through eBay:

    “Hello. I’m interested in buying this 1958 Pontiac, and would like to see some more photos. In particular, I’d like to see the floor of the trunk and the underside of the car. Do you have such photos available? I’m in Alabama so a personal inspection isn’t really practical. You can send photos to me at jerrybramlett followed by comcast and net.”

    I haven’t heard a peep from him yet. I’m beginning to doubt I ever will. This seems very strange to me. Why bother running a for sale ad that tells potential buyers to “ask questions” if you won’t respond to those questions?

    This car could be a nice starting point for me if the floor supports and rocker rails aren’t rusted through. The exterior sheet metal appears to be very straight. I’ve already found a used rear window for sale in North Dakota.

    But… I’m not about to chase the seller down the street and beg him to sell me this Pontiac.

    Like 20
    • Maggy

      Maybe he works long hours or something came up? Ship happens in everyday life to everyone at one time or another.Give the guy a day or 2 and another message then.

      Like 7
      • Jerry Bramlett

        Naaah. I’m done with him.

        It takes less than 30 seconds to reply “I’ll get back to you in a few days” through eBay. He picked the timing of his ad. If he can’t respond to simple questions then I won’t try to do business with him. I’m moving on.

        I’ve been playing with cars for over 50 years. I’ve finally accepted that I should run, not walk, away from impolite or uncooperative sellers. Life’s too short to deal with them. There are too many old cars for sale out there to put up with their crap.

        Like 13
    • Jon.in.Chico

      eBay didn’t reject the reply because of the “comcast” and “net” wording ? … I’ve tried several ways to get around their censor bot and usually get a rejection notice and/or “reprimanded” for having personal of website information …

      Like 0
      • Jerry Bramlett

        It wasn’t rejected. I had eBay copy me to make sure it went out to the seller. In the past eBay has told me when a message was against their policies.

        Maybe I’m just out of patience for this life cycle. But it seems like every time a seller has made me beg for basic photos, it turns out he’s hiding significant flaws… or he’s just too damn lazy to deal with.

        I’ve bought some neat cars based only on phone descriptions, and I’ve bought a few real turds after having someone inspect them in person. I’ve come to trust my instincts every bit as much as photos.

        Like 2
    • Jon.in.Chico

      Thank you for the reply … I didn’t say eBay rejected the reply but was surprised it didn’t … eBay always send a reply but sometimes “admonishes” replies with “com” or “net,” etc, wording … I’m going to try your method of “followed by,” etc, next time …

      Like 0
  5. nhcarnut

    A cool old Pontiac well worth the effort .

    Like 7
  6. TheOldRanger

    I lived in west Texas several years, not only the sun plays havoc, but also the wind, plus the fast changing weather.
    I remember looking north and watching those blue northers blow in, and as it came through, you could watch the thermometer drop rather quickly…. I walked to the school where I was teaching and the temp was 85 degrees that morning, got up to 100 by noon, and by 3 that afternoon, it was 40 degrees…. no place for sissies. In one week, I saw a dust storm, a gully washer, hail the size of baseballs, and a snow storm. 5 years was enough for me.

    Like 5
    • Yblocker

      The term “West Texas” can be confusing. There’s a town in Central Texas called West Texas, the home of Willie Nelson. And then there’s West Texas, as in the western part of Texas. Just a little trivia for y’all.

      Like 3
  7. Homer

    Hey, Old Ranger. My brother went through basic training in Ft Bliss, Tx in 1954 and said it was the only place he had ever been where he could wade in mud up to his butt and still spit sand.

    My son just spent a year at Bliss and couldn’t wait to see green grass.

    Like 1
  8. Paul R

    If I’m not mistaken , the original upholstery is hiding underneath the black aftermarket seat covers.
    The top of the back seat looks bad, but maybe the rest might be a pleasant surprise.

    Like 1
  9. dp

    Dowsn’t Hagerty have a # 5 condition listing like the Old Cars Price Guide used to?

    Like 0
    • Joe Bru

      DP: OCPG is the only price guide with all categories, all other price guides are run by insurance companies & Dealer associations, they don’t have lower values, they want the highest values published (Barrett-Jackson Auction results), they all make money on higher values, whether selling insurance or selling cars.

      Like 0
  10. Alan Henry

    I always liked the 1958 Pontiacs. Several years ago, someone had a Bonneville two door hardtop in two tone green, with the house and trim painted in the same colors. When I was in high school, I found a four door Star Chief hardtop in blue and white, the man wanted $200 for it. I wasn’t working at the time, so, no go.
    I’d like to see this toasted specimen turned back into a respectable everyday ’58, no extras, just straight as it was sold.

    Like 1
  11. Jerry Bramlett

    Financially, this car would be a much better project: https://www.ebay.com/itm/374439787705. It’s a running, driving, complete ’58 that has nice chrome and good glass. But… there may be rust under the carpet, it’s an automatic, and it’s awfully pink.

    Like 1

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