Pontiac Star Chief

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Pontiac Star Chief
58starchief4dwagnt.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Pontiac
Production 1954–1966
Assembly Pontiac, Michigan, United States
Flint, Michigan, United States
Ypsilanti, Michigan, United States
Wentzville, Missouri, United States
Body and chassis
Class Full-size
Body style 2-door convertible
4-door sedan
2-door coupe
4-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Chronology
Predecessor Pontiac Streamliner

The Star Chief was an automobile model manufactured by General Motors' Pontiac division in the time period between 1954 and 1966.

First generation (1954)[edit]

First generation
1954 Pontiac Star Chief Eight Custom Catalina 2d HT.jpg
Overview
Model years 1954
Powertrain
Engine 248.9 cu in (4.079 L) 122 hp straight-8 (1954)[1]
Dimensions
Wheelbase 124 in (3,150 mm)

Between 1954 and 1957, the Star Chief was Pontiac's prestige model; the car was easily identified by its chrome star trim along its sides. When the storyline of I Love Lucy pointed towards a Hollywood setting in the 1954-1955 season, the characters "drove" (in episode 110, "California Here We Come") to the West Coast in a 1955 Star Chief convertible. In 1954, Pontiac also introduced air conditioning with all the components under the hood, a first for the price range.[2] Seat belts were added as options in 1956.[3] The Star Chief was available in Deluxe and pricier Custom trim.

Prior to the introduction of the Star Chief, all Pontiacs had shared the modest wheelbase of the Chevrolet. The introduction of this new premier model in 1954 was the first application of the longer 123.5 inch (313.7 cm) wheelbase of the junior Oldsmobiles and Buicks to the Pontiac division. The car was still on the A platform, but with 11 in (28 cm) added towards the rear of the frame.[4] Power the first year came from Pontiac's venerable straight eight engine, with the six-cylinder not available.

1954 Star Chief sedan

Second generation (1955-1957)[edit]

Second generation
Starchief.jpg
Overview
Model years 1955–1957
Powertrain
Engine 287 cu in (4.70 L) 193-200 hp V8(1955)
316.6 cu in (5.188 L) 216-227 hp V8(1956)
347 cu in (5.69 L) 270-317 hp V8(1957)
Dimensions
Wheelbase 124 in (3,100 mm)[2]
Length 213.7 in (5,430 mm)
Width 76.6 in (1,950 mm)

Along with an all-new body, the straight-eight was superseded by the new V-8 power in 1955.[5] Typical for the 1955 Pontiacs is the design with two wide "Silver Streaks" running the length of the hood. Also for 1955, the new Star Chief Safari two door hardtop wagon, which was similar to Chevrolet's Bel Air Nomad, was introduced. This variant lasted through 1957; after that the Safari name was used for all of the division's standard four door wagons. The Safari was introduced on January 31, 1955, a over three months behind the rest of the 1955s.

1955 Pontiac Star Chief Custom Safari

The Safari was not quite part of the Star Chief line, as it sat on the shorter 122 in (3,100 mm) wheelbase. It was officially part of the "27 series", whereas the longer Star Chief received the "28 series" designation.[5] In January 1957, some time after the rest of the new models, the four-door "Custom Safari Transcontinental" was introduced.[6]

For 1956 the design was lightly revised, with heavier looking bumpers and a vertical slash on the front door above the swage line. In 1957, the high performance Star Chief Custom Bonneville was introduced as part of its divisional head's push to raise the marque out of the doldrums. The silver streaks running down the hood were dropped for the new "Star Flight" design. All gauges were placed in an oval on the dash and the side trim had a missile-shaped spear behind the front door.

Third generation (1958)[edit]

Third generation
Pontiac Star Chief Catalina 1958.jpg
Overview
Model years 1958
Body and chassis
Layout FR layout[7]
Related Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet Impala
Pontiac Bonneville
Dimensions
Wheelbase 122 in (3,100 mm) (Safari)
124 in (3,100 mm)
Width 77.4 in (1,966 mm)

In 1958, the Bonneville was first given its own position in the Pontiac lineup as the ultimate Pontiac, and was only available as a two-door hardtop and two-door convertible. While no longer Pontiac's prestige model, the Star Chief remained a well-appointed car, and the division's finest four door hardtops and sedans. The 1958 Star Chief, as with the rest of the Pontiac lineup, received all-new bodywork and an updated chassis. The body was considerably longer and lower, and featured a new honeycomb grille design and twin headlamps.[8] The sedans and coupé models all shared the longer 124 inch wheelbase, while the Custom Safari model remained on a chassis two inches shorter, shared with the lesser Chieftain.[8] In spite of the new bodywork, sales of the 1958 Star Chief dropped precipitously; down by around 60% while Pontiac's overall sales dropped by more than a third.

1958 Star Chief Custom Safari (model 2793 SD)

The engine was updated from the 347 cu in (5.7 L) unit used in 1957 to a slightly bored out 370 cu in (6.1 L) version. Power only increased marginally, to 255 hp (190 kW) for the manual version, while the most powerful "PM" option was now up to 330 hp (246 kW).[9]

Fourth generation (1959-1960)[edit]

Fourth generation
1959 Pontiac Star Chief 4d HT at Power Big Meet 2005.jpg
Overview
Model years 1959-1960
Body and chassis
Layout FR layout[7]
Related Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet Impala
Pontiac Bonneville
Dimensions
Wheelbase 124 in (3,150 mm)
Length 215.5 in (5,474 mm) (cars)
210.5 in (5,347 mm) (wagons)[2]
Width 80 in (2,032 mm)
Height 56.4 in (1,433 mm)

However, in 1959, when the Bonneville gained a full range of body styles, the Star Chief was limited to sedans and hardtops, while the Bonneville and the new Catalina models received the lion's share of Pontiac's attention in the marketplace. In 1959, the Star Chief made 17.97% of Pontiac sales.[2] This was also the first year of the "wide-track" Pontiacs.

In 1960, the new Ventura was introduced, and the Star Chief was thereafter limited to four door sedans and hardtops. This was a novel, but unsuccessful approach. The Star Chief was equipped and powered in a manner similar to the lower-priced, slightly smaller Catalina series. The Ventura was more lavishly equipped in the manner of the high-line Bonneville, but was available with only two doors and rode the Catalina's slightly shorter wheelbase. This gave sedan buyers of modest means a larger choice than Catalina for only slightly more money, and gave upscale coupe buyers a lighter, sprightlier alternative to the big Bonneville. The Ventura lasted only through 1961, and was replaced by the even sportier new Grand Prix. The Star Chief continued to be available only with four doors through the end of production. Compared to the Catalina, the Star Chief was equipped only very slightly more lavishly; the major additional interior feature was the electric clock.

Fifth generation (1961-1964)[edit]

Fifth generation
1961 Pontiac Star Chief Vista HT front.jpg
1961 Star Chief Vista 4-door HT
Overview
Model years 1961–1964
Body and chassis
Layout FR layout
Platform B-body
Related Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet Impala
Pontiac Bonneville
Dimensions
Wheelbase 123 in (3,124 mm)
Length 218.6 in (5,552 mm) [10]

For 1962, Pontiac offered a 421 cu in (7 l) Super Duty V8 with two four-barrel carburetors, rated at 405 hp (302 kW), as a US$2,250 option (when the base Star Chief listed at US$3,097).[11] A rare option, it was probably never ordered on this somewhat heavy sedan. As in the other Pontiac series, the hardtop was designated the Star Chief Vista. Bonneville taillights and the three chrome stars on each side continued to distinguish the car from the Catalina. The stars were located either on the roof or rear fender, depending on year. No wagons were offered. All Safari wagons during this period (including the Bonneville Safari) rode the four and a half inch shorter wheelbase shared by Chevrolet and Catalina. This made a Star Chief Safari too redundant to bother with.

Sixth generation (1965-1966)[edit]

Sixth generation
Overview
Model years 1965–1966
Body and chassis
Layout FR layout
Platform B-body
Related Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet Impala
Pontiac Bonneville
Dimensions
Wheelbase 123 in (3,124 mm)

For 1966, the car was renamed the Star Chief Executive as the first step towards retiring the name, which by the mid-1960s had become dated. For 1967, Pontiac dropped the Star Chief name for United States sales and renamed the mid-priced model the Executive.

In Canada, Pontiac models used Chevrolet drivelines for greater economy. To ensure that used car buyers in the U.S. were not sold less expensive Canadian models, different series names were used. The Canadian equivalent to the Star Chief was called Laurentian. Nonetheless, Pontiac offered a similarly-named series called the Strato Chief, but this model was the lowest-priced big Canadian Pontiac.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Directory Index: Pontiac/1954 Pontiac/album". Oldcarbrochures.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  3. ^ Gunnell, John A. (ed.). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-027-0. 
  4. ^ Gunnell, John; Kowalke, Ron (1995). Standard Catalog of Pontiac, 1926-1995. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. p. 63. ISBN 0-87341-369-5. 
  5. ^ a b Gunnell and Kowalke, p. 64
  6. ^ Gunnell and Kowalke, pp. 67-68
  7. ^ a b "1957 Pontiac Star Chief Technical Specifications and data. Engine, Dimensions and Mechanical details. (Star Chief Custom, Series 27, Series 28, Catalina, Bonneville Convertible)". Conceptcarz.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  8. ^ a b Gunnell and Kowalke, p. 70
  9. ^ Gunnell and Kowalke, p. 72
  10. ^ "Directory Index: Pontiac/1962_Pontiac/album". Oldcarbrochures.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  11. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), pp.191 & 193.