Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1951 Pontiac Streamliner Eight – The Tail End of the Streamliner and Straight Eight Era

(Update: this appears to be a 1950 with a 1951 front end).

We’re back in the Netherlands with another of Corey Behrens’ finds, and it’s a gem. It’s a final year Pontiac Streamliner, the end of the road for GM’s flirtations with streamlining. And it’s surprisingly late, really, to be building fastbacks in 1951; seems like that era had ended pretty quickly after the war.

There’s just one question in my mind: was this an original import in 1951, when American cars were still very popular imports, or like so many, imported later?

I’m pretty sure this is an eight, but I could be wrong. It does have the amber hood ornament that glows when the headlights are on.

That hood ornament is a classic, and has been for quite some years. They don’t make them like this anymore, and for more reason than one.

Pontiacs came with either a 239 ci flathead six, rated at 90 hp (manual) and 100 hp with the optional Hydramatic. The inline flathead eight would soldier along through 1954, making it the very last of its kind. It had 268 ci, and was rated 116/120 hp, also depending on the transmission.  I ran across an old SIA comparison of two ’52 Pontiacs, one a six with manual transmission, and the other with the eight and Hydramatic. They pointed out that no less than 87% of eights came with the HM; that’s an impressively high number. And only some 23% of the sixes did, which is not surprising, given that it appealed to the thriftier crowd. The Pontiac was the lowest-cost GM car available with the HM.

That’s not to say it’s exactly fast. I found two 0-60 times for the eight with HM: 20.12 and 18.8 seconds. The HM did impose a penalty on absolute performance, due to hydraulic slippage. I also found a 0-60 time for the six with manual transmission, at a scorching 13.9 seconds, achieved by Tom McCahill, who had a rep for the fastest times thanks to his very aggressive techniques.

Of course it’s a classic GM BA-Body, meaning a Chevy with a longer front end, resulting in a 120″ wheelbase. That had been the formula since the very first Pontiac in 1926, the first instance of actual body sharing at GM. It was essentially a Chevy with a longer front end to make room for a six. And soon after Chevy got its six in 1929, Pontiac had to start offering an eight, in 1933. That inline eight was the same engine still being used in these through 1954, when it was finally replaced by the new ohv V8.