Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: The Forgotten 1958 Pontiac Makes Its First Appearance At CC

It’s a bit hard to believe, but we’ve never featured a ’58 Pontiac on the pages of CC. How to explain that? Well, 1958 was a lousy year for Pontiac, the worst since WW2 with only 217k sold.  And obviously, there’s not a lot of those that survived to be sitting curbside these days, but we’ve never had a car show post on one either, or any other kind. The forgotten Pontiac.

SoCalMetro has come to the rescue with this low-end Chieftain two-door sedan he found in Las Vegas. Time to show it a bit of CC love.

SoCalMetro only posted that one shot, so I’m taking a lifeline from the brochure. The Chieftain was Pontiac’s basic line; it had a 122″ wheelbase, meaning it shared its body shell from the cowl back with the ’58 Chevy but had the usual Pontiac front end extension. This series morphed into the Catalina series in ’59; in ’58, the Catalina was a specially-trimmed hardtop coupe and sedan only.

I cannot refrain from expressing my personal opinion on 1950s Pontiacs: they were an unfortunate heavy handed make-over of the Chevy, with unnecessary added weight, length and gobs of chrome and other stylistic gimmicks. I’m not exactly a fan of the ’58 Chevy to start with, and  even less so of the Pontiac. I guess I wasn’t the only one to feel that way in ’58, but then that was a bad year for all the bigger cars. Things really started to pick up for Pontiac in 1959.

The Super Chief and Star Chief got an additional 2″ wheelbase extension at the rear (124″ total), very visible in the space behind the rear door of the yellow sedan above. All wagons used the 122″ wheelbase.

And then there was Pontiac’s hot Bonneville, which had been a very limited production (630 unit) convertible in 1957. For 1958 it was expanded to a coupe and convertible, sitting on the shorter 122″ wheelbase.

The 1958 Bonneville did have one claim to fame that made it to CC: it was the first American regular production post-war car to feature bucket seats as an option. That was the beginning of a trend that has of course completely taken over the industry. Good luck finding a bench seat anymore.

Here’s a closer look at them: they were rather oddly narrow and look like they might have come out of a truck or van. And there was no console yet.  That dash certainly had plenty of visual…interest. It was dashes like this that finally got the government to mandate no bright work on dashes that could create blinding glare. Keep your polarized sunglasses on when driving this!

All ’58 Pontiacs were powered by an enlarged 370 cubic inch version of their V8, which had just been enlarged to 347 cubic inches in 1957 from 316 in 1956 and 287 in 1955. Talk about rapid inflation!

In typical Pontiac fashion that would be common all through the sixties, there were six version of the 370 V8 available: a 240hp two barrel low compression job for the Chieftain and Super Chief with manual transmission; 255hp for the Star Chief and Bonneville with manual transmission; 270hp for Chieftain and Super Chief with automatic (Hydramatic), 2985 hp for the Star Chief and Bonneville with automatic; and a 300hp hi-po unit with Tri-power and a 310hp unit with Rochester fuel injection. Only some 200 of the FI units were ever sold.

Smokey Yunick built a hot ’58 Pontiac that Paul Goldsmith took to a victory in the last race at the Daytona Beach & Road Course. I’m pretty fure FI had been banned by then, so it was most likely a tri-power engine under the hood.

This will have to do until someone finds another ’58 Pontiac and shoots it more thoroughly. I’m not holding my breath.


Related reading:

Automotive History: The Bucket Seat Era Started Modestly In 1958 And Now Bench Seats Are History

CC: 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne Three Door Sedan – The Chevy Cherry Gets Popped