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Pontiac Star Chief

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pontiac

Star Chief
Vehicle Model

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Wikipedia: Pontiac Star Chief

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A car produced by Pontiac from 1954-1966.

History

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Pontiac Star Chief page on 13 May 2016, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

First generation (1954)

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, that in the previous episode "Lucy Learns to Drive" was "bumped together" with a 1922 Cadillac Type V-63. In 1954, Pontiac also introduced air conditioning with all the components under the hood, a first for the price range. Seat belts were added as options in 1956. The Star Chief was available in Deluxe and pricier Custom trim, with the top trim level hardtop called the Catalina.

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. Power the first year came from Pontiac's venerable straight eight engine, with the six-cylinder not available.

Second generation (1955-1957)

Along with an all-new body, the straight-eight was superseded by the new V-8 power in 1955. 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, over three months behind the rest of the 1955s.

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. In January 1957, some time after the rest of the new models, the four-door "Custom Safari Transcontinental" was introduced.

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)

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. 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. 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.

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).

Fourth generation (1959-1960)

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. 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)

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). 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)

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.


Multimedia

[Pontiac Styling Picture]
No audio. Produced by The Jam Handy Organization for Pontiac salesmen, showing design features of the 1955 Pontiac Star Chief.
This film is available courtesy of the Prelinger Archives (public domain).
Download 1955 Pontiac Styling Picture from The Internet Archive - 206MB - 9:04


Photographs

1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari 1955 Safari
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
Green Street Cruise Night:  October 4, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari - 2,888KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari 1955 Safari
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
Green Street Cruise Night:  October 4, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari - 3,181KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari 1955 Safari
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
Green Street Cruise Night:  October 4, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari - 2,879KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari 1955 Safari
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
Green Street Cruise Night:  October 4, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Safari - 3,358KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model 1955
Johan kit
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Cedarville Model Car Contest and Swap Meet
March 14, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model - 2,359KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model 1955
Johan kit
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Cedarville Model Car Contest and Swap Meet
March 14, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model - 3,719KB
1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model 1955
Johan kit
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Cedarville Model Car Contest and Swap Meet
March 14, 2010
View photo of 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Model - 3,393KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Full Size Pontiac Club Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,481KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Full Size Pontiac Club Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,092KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Full Size Pontiac Club Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 2,653KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Full Size Pontiac Club Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,165KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
3rd Annual Grass Lake PTO "Cars for Kids" Classic & Hot Rod Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,213KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
3rd Annual Grass Lake PTO "Cars for Kids" Classic & Hot Rod Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,157KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
3rd Annual Grass Lake PTO "Cars for Kids" Classic & Hot Rod Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,112KB
1956 Pontiac Star Chief 1956
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
3rd Annual Grass Lake PTO "Cars for Kids" Classic & Hot Rod Show
View photo of 1956 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,023KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,101KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Engine 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,580KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Wheel 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,231KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Interior 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,713KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Dashboard 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,878KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Radio 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,401KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Speedometer 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,248KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,730KB
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Steering Wheel 1957
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1957 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,115KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,875KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,924KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief C-Pillar 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 2,595KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief Dashboard 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 4,248KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,466KB
1963 Pontiac Star Chief Wheel 1963
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1963 Pontiac Star Chief - 3,784KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 3,371KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive Engine 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 4,552KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 4,625KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive Interior 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 3,735KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 2,823KB
1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive 1966 Executive
Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
2010 Indian Uprising
View photo of 1966 Pontiac Star Chief Executive - 3,933KB


Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
4 March 1954Pontiac's Star Chief Series Bigger, Longer The Spartanburg Herald


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