shot and posted by Curtis Perry
Such a busy front end, compared to the ’55 Chevy. The eyebrows, the walrus moustache aspect. Reminds me of the Monopoly Guy. Hard to believe they were corporate cousins.
And it’s missing the hood stripes, which complicated the design even more. Makes you appreciate even more what a work of design brilliance the 55 Chevrolet was back then. And how Pontiac could be turned around in only four model years. Especially considering how 55-58 got worse, if that was possible.
The ’55 looks pretty clean compared to what they came up with for ’56. Tom McCahill said the ’56 looked like it was “born on its nose.” The ’57 is another tour-de-force in chromium sculpture; things were really cleaned up in ’58. The ’59–sublime! I love ’em all, even the 55-57 “sea monsters”!
It does have an integrated bumper/grille though. And has been pointed out, Hydramatic not 2-speed Powerglide. The 1955 Chevy was a brilliant and somewhat Euro inspired design. I’m guessing that Chevy stylists were influenced by looking at European sports cars while researching for the Corvette design. Then Harley had them add the complicated chrome trim scheme on the sides and two tone paint.
I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these. They are now very rare. I liked the look. Somehow friendlier and less aggressive than the chevy’s.
Its face looks like the “My Pillow” guy.
Just needs the blue shirt which would color-coordinate as well.
Here is one for you now on Craigslist along with the required hose off to the side. Standard procedure to make the car shine for picture taking.
Removing the Silver Streaks is like tearing off a soldier’s medals. An act of degradation and humiliation.
Fortunately, condensation is trying to make new Silver Streaks.
Even has the light-up Indian head hood ornament. Bunkie Knudsen hated the hood suspenders and got rid of them for good in 1957. Then for 1959 he and Johnny Z had the brilliant wide-track idea and it was off to the races.
The ‘55-‘56 models were good values compared with the Chevy. A standard V-8 and 4 speed Hydra-matic as the automatic over Powerglide. A boyhood friend’s mother had a ‘55 2 door sedan in this exact color combination. Always thought it was classier than the many ‘55 Chevy’s around.
The light-up hood ornament is amusing, considering that those light-up grille emblems are all the rage these days on high-end German cars (and, from what I gather, they’re not a cheap option, either).
The hood ‘suspenders’ are interesting. Previously, the Pontiac trademark was a single, wide stainless-steel band that ran down the middle of the hood. But in what I can only surmise as a way of easing out the ‘Silver Streak’, Bunkie Knudson split the wide hood band into the two suspenders before getting rid of them completely.
In a marketing move that rivaled Marlboro’s transformation from a woman’s cigarette to macho cowboy, Pontiac was previously looked upon as an old lady’s car. But with lightning speed, Bunkie, Delorean, and Pete Estes transformed the brand to GM’s performance division at exactly the right time, culminating with the 1964 GTO which took the country by storm. Unfortunately, by the dawn of the seventies, all those guys were gone, and performance, too, was on the way out. Sadly, Pontiac ultimately succumbed to market forces and the last Pontiacs rolled off the line in 2010.
Re: the light-up grille ornaments. The only ones I’ve seen are on the three pointed star brand. I find them incredibly off-putting. First, they don’t even look like the star at first glance. Second and more to the point, I see their only purpose as informing the world of your car brand, lest anyone miss that because it’s nighttime. When said brand is relying on 2 liter turbos to power many of its models, I can’t help but wonder if the brand is worth that sort of brandishment (no pun intended).
“The ‘55-‘56 models were good values compared with the Chevy. A standard V-8″ I’m sure that is why my father got a bottom-of-the-line Chieftain (with standard transmission) as his very first new car. The standard V-8 was 180hp, vs the optional Chevy 162. An X-braced frame, bigger tires, bigger brakes and a 122″ wheelbase vs 115”. All these things made it much more than a Chevy with too much chrome. My uncle bought a Buick Special that year and got only 8hp more, but IMO much better styling, with same wheelbase, brakes, tires, etc. I dont know what the price difference was. A ’55 Olds 88 spec’d out same as the Pontiac as well.
Dear Gents, What good information. It is much appreciated. As a boy and a teenager in the ’50’s, I looked forward to each year’s new models from the auto manufacturers. I guess that we children back then were easily titillated. What I would like to know is about the frame. Did the ’58 carry over the frame of the ’55 to ’57? Did the frame of the ’58 become the chassis for the ’59 models? As you know, the ’58’s were completely different vehicles and innovations (for GM) included under hood air conditioning (which means a heat pump and, therefore, the capability to dry the air in the cabin and get rid of the moisture on the side glass), but I could never figure out which way the frames went – old model or the future ’59’s. Love to hear from you all.
This article by CC’s founder, Paul Niedermeyer, is full of great information on GM’s frame designs of the late 50s and early 60s.
Automotive History: An X-Ray Look At GM’s X-Frame (1957 – 1970)
The quick answer is that essentially nothing was carried over to the ’58s, which were much bigger and wider than the ’57 Pontiacs and Chevys. The ’58s had the new X frame, which was also used on the ’59s and up. The ’59’s had new bodies, but were quite similar the ’58s underneath.
Paul, regarding the x-frames – I was seven when my father bought a ’63 Belair. A year later I was watching my uncle (head mechanic at a local service station) change its oil on the lift. I noticed the x-frame and asked him if it was safe because it struck me as weak on the sides – I was a weird kid. My uncle said it was safe enough, but for his money, the 55 through 57 Chevys had the best frames. Guess he was right.
With the eyebrows above the headlights, it looks like a surprised catfish. No wonder the Chevy became the iconic American car of the era.
Reminds me of the ‘startled squirrel’ look made by the huge headlights which were nearly as large as the front fenders of the first generation Chevy Spark.
A friend of mine had a Canadian 55 Pontiac with 283 and 3 speed standard. He got it for virtually nothing. The plan was to hang a Chevy front end on it but time and life had other plans. I suspect the crushers probably sharpened their teeth on all the chrome would be my guess.
I like it just because it’s NOT just another tri-five Chevrolet.
That front end has too much going on, similar to the Dodges of the 55-56 model years.
I had a 55 Pontiac when in the Air Force in the mid 1960’s. I blew the engine in Florida where I was stationed. I bought a used 389 cubic inch V8 from a junkyard and installed it while at the base. I drove the car back home to Connecticut before leaving for my overseas assignment and sold it.
Fun car, heavy though. I still have a picture of it somewhere around here.
Anthony…I had a 1957 Pontiac while I was also in the USAF (1966-1972)
Wow, if a Mercury was a Ford with more chrome then a mid-50’s Pontiac was a Chevrolet with more Chrome. According to Brock Yate’s book “The Decline and Fall of Detroit”, in 1955 GM management was seriously considering closing Pontiac down-at the time the only part of the division earning a profit was its foundry. It makes the ’55 Chevy look great by comparison.
My two 1957 Pontiac StarChief convertibles kept me broke and single through out the mid 1960s, I was 22 in 1966. Both convertibles were black/white top, red/white interior The second had factory Tri-Power and a Continental kit, long enougth to not fit in the garage. When one would break down,it would serve as a parts car for the other. With bucket seats from a 1964 Chev SS, Munoz (4) track tape deck w/ Wilson Pickett singing Midnite Hour I had my 15 minutes! It wasn’t long after Pontiac #2 got squared away, Uncle Sam called upon me and had my new wardrobe waiting in Jan of 1966. Sweet memories got me through tuff times.
Good lord were ‘50s cars garish and nasty.
They had STYLE not like today’s pieces of universal looking crap. You must be a millennial.
Also,besides unique styling, a good number of ’50s vehicles had the ultimate millennial “theft” device….manual transmission.
Pontiac didn’t start looking good until 1961 until 1967, and then sporadically after that, depending on the model. Pontiac always gave buyers more “creativity” and more design. You see that 1955 – look at the latter years of the Grand Am and you’ll see a similar styling theme – more, more, more!
As for the Chevrolet of this era – yeah, they’re fantastic, but I’m sick of them. They’ve become an overpriced cliche, like the 1955-57 Thunderbird.
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