(first posted 10/28/2011) “Honey, does this make my rear end look too big?” This is a question that, when asked by his sweetheart, strikes fear into the heart of every male. The problem is that the question cannot be answered but in a single way – “Not at all, dear.” This is a problem because sometimes the only acceptable answer is not necessarily the truthful one. If Bill Mitchell, early in his career as head of GM styling, or his Pontiac design studio ever asked this question about this car, the response must have been a less than sincere “no, sir, of course not.”
Bill Mitchell had a long and distinguished career as GM’s chief of styling. The cars designed during his years at the helm were notable for a certain grace, a fluidity of line that made them uncommonly attractive. We recently featured the 1966 Riviera, a car that is sort of the entire Mitchell anthology all wrapped into a single vehicle (CC here).
But if the 1966 Riviera was the quintessential Bill Mitchell, the 1962 Star Chief may be the exception that proves the rule. Is there a GM car of the Mitchell era with more awkward proportions than this one?
Granted, this car came early in Mitchell’s career (the 1960 models had been the first to be restyled under his authority) and we were a year away from the 1963 model that would be one of the most beautiful cars of the ’60s (CC here). Maybe even beautiful cars have to go through that gangly, awkward stage that affected many of us around the age of thirteen or so.
I love the name of this car: Star Chief. It is so Jet Age, so mid-century modern. The 1950s and early 1960s was an era for the stars: Starliner, Starlight, Starfire. You could cruise the lake in a Starcraft. When Frank Sinatra asked us to come fly with him, it would have been in a Lockheed Constellation. So, when you are Pontiac Division and your brand identity from the beginning of time has been the dour Chief of the Ottowa tribe, what do you do to modernize your image?
Although the 1950s was the golden age of cowboys and indians on television (and we can only imagine the possibilities had Pontiac gone down this road), the space age beckoned and we got the Star Chief as the top of the line model in 1954. Star Chief: is this a mixed metaphor, or what?
But the Star Chief’s command of Pontiac’s firmament was short lived. With the 1957 introduction of the Bonneville, performance replaced both the space age and the native warrior. The Star Chief stayed on, but became the ignored, neglected middle child of the Pontiac lineup. Amazingly, the name would remain through 1966, when it became the Star Chief Executive. (Mixed metaphor to the third power?) The car became just the Executive in 1967, and Pontiac replaced one neglected middle child with another. Not everything that John DeLorean touched at Pontiac turned to gold.
But back to 1962. While the Catalina and Bonneville had full model lineups, the Star Chief line consisted of nothing more than a pair of four doors – the four door hardtop (called the Vista) and the four door sedan. No two doors, no convertibles, no wagons. No wonder we never saw many of these. Was this Pontiac’s way of upselling buyers to the Bonneville or the new Grand Prix?
Whatever the reason, how many of these did we ever see back in the day? Even in a year in which Pontiac was the number three selling brand (with well over a half-million cars out the door), the Star Chief was never very common on the ground. There was nothing worse than getting stuck with an “S” while playing car bingo on the interstate. Studebaker and Star Chief, that was about it, and they seemed to be around in roughly equal (puny) numbers in the mid 1960s.
Actually, the Star Chief was quite a value, if a four door Poncho was your thing. In this step above the basic Catalina, you got the same dimensions as the big Bonneville: a three inch longer wheelbase (123 inches) and an additional four inches out back. This must have been quite a value compared to the higher-level Dodges and Mercurys of the time. (OK, there was the Dodge 880, but let’s be honest – it wasn’t so much a step up as an escape hatch.) You also got the Bonneville’s candy cane taillights instead of the Catalina’s parentheses.
The Star Chief also avoided the Catalina’s troublesome Roto HydraMatic transmission. Instead, it shared the Bonneville’s (and the Cadillac’s) old fashioned but superior Super HydraMatic (a/k/a Jetaway). But there was a price to pay for all this value that hits me only now: this car looks really awkward.
Have you ever heard the term “shelf butt”? Well, the Star Chief has a bad case of it. Maybe it is the long wheelbase and the even longer tail end. The ’62 Catalina (shown above) is one of the most attractive cars of 1960s.
The identically-sized Bonneville looks better than this car, too. Maybe it is this car’s four door hardtop body. The Bonnie’s two door hardtop and convertible are strikingly good looking cars. And perhaps the B’ville’s more prominent side trim on the four doors plays some visual tricks on us.
Maybe it was just that wonderful Fitzpatrick and Kaufman artwork. All of their Pontiac advertising for 1962 seemed to feature the Catalina, Bonneville and Grand Prix. Those guys could make anyhing look good. Not just good, but desirable. Alluring. Almost sensual. But the Star Chief was never shown in the ads, only in the brochure (where showing the car was mandatory). And even then, never from the rear. Although the brochure does not appear to feature F&K work, the Star Chief looks good in the artists renderings. Is it me, or are the proportions fudged just a bit in this drawing of the sedan?
I’m actually kind of disappointed here. The ’62 Pontiac is one of my favorite GM cars of all time, yet here is the unfortunate truth: this particular one is just not that well proportioned. Is this car an example of a cherished memory from long ago that does not measure up so well with a fresh look? I’m thinking of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Or could it be the color? This hot red was never one of my favorites. And those cheap aftermarket wire wheelcovers do not do the car any favors.
Or has our yardstick changed? Does this car prove to us just how influential the XK-E and the Mustang really were, with their long hoods and short decks giving a subtle tweak to our sense of how cars are supposed to look?
Or maybe the car just has a big butt. No matter. The Star Chief may not be as attractive as either of its two gorgeous sisters, but it still has an awfully pretty face and a great personality. And it’s still a lot better looking than most of the other kids in the class of 1962.
I recall many, many times in the car magazines the complaints about the rear overhang on cars back then. I’ve never been able to figure out why that trend went on for so long? I’m referring to the late 60’s – early 70’s when I was in the service, as I had lots of time to read and spend time at the base library.
My avatar was bad enough as to rear overhang, but it certainly was modest by comparison, but hey, it was a Chevy, it was mine, and of course I was prejudiced toward my car!
No, even though those cars had features I was crazy about (which I won’t mention!), I don’t miss them except for a very few, as they were all gas hogs and even at 25¢ a gallon for gas, I didn’t have a lot of money to spare and it still got expensive real fast! As much as it sounds blasphemous to what I like, I’ll take a modern, efficient car every time. Still, the old stuff sure is pretty.
Agreed, Zackman. My business partner gets a kick out of driving old Detroit iron but not this kid. Two slam doors, crappy interiors and wallowing handling is not my cup of tea at all. Recently I got to drive his 1978 Sedan De Ville for a weekend when I was in Saskatchewan on business. The entire front end of the car was new but it was still practically impossible to keep it in a straight line. Also noteworthy was the 425 cube V-8 got all of like 10 mpg and my Acura, which has no problem getting 25 mpg (US gallons to boot), can smoke it any day.
Was that a problem with age? Or inherent? Back in high school my best friend’s mom bought him a year old ’77 Impala Coupe. I drove it a few times and I thought it tracked quite steadily , not a lot wheel movements required. The ride was velvet-It wasn’t even an F41.
It was relatively spritely,even with the 305. I was surprised it could bark the tires off the line. Try that in a 302 malaise Ford of the similar size.
The THM-200, however did grenade at 15,000 miles, and wiped at couple of cam lobes 7000 miles later. Luckily he had an International Warranty contract
(long since defunct) that covered both.
I dunno, I think people have lost driving skills, I have never had a problem keeping a big 70’s car tracking straight and I am about as old as most 70’s cars, so its not like I have been driving them since new.
I think it’s more a matter of what you’re used to. (Good) modern cars tell you that they “know” where straight-ahead is. The first time I got out of a modern car and into my wife’s grandfather’s ’68 Riviera, I was sawing the wheel back and forth, feeling for some suggestion of on-centre feel (and I’ve owned old Detroiters before). Then you relax, rest an elbow on the door and couple of fingers on the wheelrim, and it tracks straight as can be. Corners, on the other hand…
Well, my avatar was a pleasure to drive, but if I could drive one today? I don’t know, but I’d love to have the opportunity!
I wonder if the whole short deck/long nose design issue is a reaction to the short nose/deck cars that immediately proceeded them. I think a similar analogy in recent times would have been Chrysler’s cab forward styling of the 90’s. I think we may be judging this car by today’s standards. Before the widespread adoption of FWD and the packaging advantages that come with it, the only way to get a decent amount of cargo space was the big trunk.
FWIW, I believe there was an expectation of large cargo capacity in those cars, because generally families had one car. My family did until all of us kids were adults. My folks never owned two cars at once. Unlike today, Dad didn’t have a pickup, Mom a SUV, and Junior and Sis their own cars. One car to do everything. Ergo, huge trunks.
And you should never answer that question. In any way, shape or form. Period. Jump out the window or something… 🙂
Good points. I’ll add that people also took more driving vacations, didn’t fly as much, so owning a car with a large trunk was almost a necessity.
Guess I don’t mind the huge rear overhang as I remember seeing many a ’61-’63 Bonneville four- door hardtop as a kid around the Bay Area – but – don’t remember too many Star Chiefs. I do remember a ’65 Star Chief sedan in my high school parking lot (I had a ’61 Catalina stripper); and I know the mix was confusing prior to ’62 when, I believe you had a SUPER Chief in ’57 and ’58 – a car that was trimmed like the lower priced ’57-’58 Chieftain but on the longer Star Chief wheelbase.
If I recall, long rear “B” body GM nonsense extended (no pun intended) to the comparable Olds (Super 88) and Buick (Invicta) of this vintage.
At least the Star Chief got the four-speed HydraMatic.
Memories of Pontiacs from Bianco’s (San Rafael), Lee Adams (Oakland) and Boas (San Francisco).
Right you are, Billy. The Bonneville and Star Chief, all Olds 88 varieties and Starfire, and the Buick LeSabre, Invicta and Wildcat (except wagons) used the basic Chevrolet/Catalina body, but stretched the rear axle four and a half inches out from under the rear seat, and stretched the trunk accordingly. They didn’t have one bit more room inside, for all the extra money you paid, but most customers were convinced they were roomier just because they were bigger. You did get thicker padding at the edges of the rear seat, and a smoother ride back there because you’re ahead of the rear axle, not over it.
I find it interesting that the ’62 is criticized, and the ’63 praised, but when I click the link I see only a Catalina and the similar-size Grand Prix from ’63. The Star Chief and Bonneville, for all they were gorgeous (especially the Vista four door hardtop, my grandmother had a navy blue ’63 Bonneville which was one of my first loves), did just as good an imitation of an aircraft carrier in profile.
I find Bunkie Knudsen and John Z. Delorean’s marketing in this period interesting. The Catalina was Chevy-sized and plain. The Bonneville was Buick-sized and deluxe. The Star Chief was Bonneville-sized, but only a little nicer than Catalina, and from 1961, available onlywith four doors. Meanwhile, in 1960 and 1961, the hardtop-only, Catalina-sized Ventura was offered with a very sporty interior not unlike Bonneville’s. It seems logical to me to offer two medium-price series, a long, modestly-equipped sedan and a snazzy, smaller coupe. But the Ventura sold even worse than the Star Chief, which for all the extra money it cost over the Catalina only offered a slightly bigger trunk and a clock.
But Deloriean had a cure for that. For 1962, he RAISED the price of the Ventura, made it even sportier, and changed the name to Grand Prix.
The 88 and the junior Buicks had the standard B-body dimensions from firewall to rear axle in the early Sixties. The difference was in front of the firewall and behind the axle. Wildcat got the stretch for 65, then went back to a standard Le Sabre shell for 69.
These look so weird today with today’s car’s trend to have very short rear deck (and sometimes the front too). Makes me itching to get the chainsaw and cut it down to size.
I would agree that this particular car has somewhat exaggerated lines aft of the rear doors. But only by a few inches of where the base of the C pillar lands. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective (no pun intended). By perspective, I mean what you’ve grown used to. Modern cars – with their short rear decks and minimal overhang beyond the front wheels – look very out of proportion to me. The terms Jelly Bean and Baby Shoe come to mind. Granted, I now drive a baby shoe- a Lexus ES300, and the one thing that bothers me about it is how short the rear deck looks. It almost looks like someone took an eraser at the design table and got rid of the back foot or so of length. From the front, things seem more balanced. Overall, it is a very nicely trimmed jelly bean with an endearing character. I just wish it had a bigger butt. Is this rational? Only if you can’t get used to the contemporary proportions of cars. The cab has reigned supreme in modern design; everything else is about space efficiency. Particularly in the rear. As Freddie Mercury would say, Fat bottomed girls make the rockin’ world go round. Or at least, they used to. Since the first gas crunch, it seems like new cars, like supermodels, have been too concerned with losing a few pounds. Guess if you want overhang, look to the cars of another era that are a little weathered, and have aged with dignity like a great bottle of wine.
That just looks BAD.
Funny I don’t remember it that way back-in-the-day but then again my ’62 Pontiac memories are of Grand Prixs, Bonneville and Catalina 2-doors and convertibles…and thanks to living in Canada for two years…the ’62 Parisienne…which had Chevy proportions as it was built on Chevy underpinnings complete with the 119″ wheelbase.
I’ll take my ’62 Parisienne convertible with a 409 and a 4-speed, thank you.
I have a ’62 Parisienne convertible with a 283 and want to put a 4-speed in it. Can you tell me what make and model # trans I should be looking for? Thanks
“Not at all” would be my truthful answer to the question that led off this article. Maybe I’ve been staring too long at a full-figured fuselage, but these low-deck no-fin early 60s cars all look svelte enough to my eye. (I am trying not to run with the booty metaphor…)
If anything on this car is awkward, it’s the holdover 50s wraparound windshield. Time to replace the cat’s-eye specs, hun.
I think the two tone doesn’t help here either, all of GM’s 1962 cars look less glaringly ill proportioned to the eye in solid colors. The White roof reeeealllly floats too far above the body in this case.
It’s still more attractive than the downs syndrome 1962 Chevrolets in my eye though…
It’s Down Syndrome and that’s cruel.
I like big butts and I cannot lie… (Oh wait you were talking about the car…)
I like large trunks with large openings, I want to own a sedan that can take the proverbial foursome to the golf course with all of their giant bags with no muss, no fuss. Most modern cars fail this test because of their silly small mail-slot trunk openings, massive fail in my judgement. Yes this Pontiac Star Chief takes it to extremes but I personally still find it classy and understated in a “gosh this was a nice pause between the over-wrought styling of the late 50s and the gingerbread-ed chrome and padded vinyl of the brougham epoch.”
These extended wheelbase-at-the-rear cars, along with their Olds and Buick counterparts, always struck me as being more than a bit weird at the time. It was just a hang-over from the old “classic” days, but it just doesn’t work well.
The real problem is that the rear doors weren’t changed, so there’s that rear-wheel cut-out in them, but no rear wheel, just a filler panel.
The Big C-bodies made the longer wheelbase work better; these “in-betweens” not. But length was still very much associated with prestige, even if the passenger compartment was the same. Silly, like so much of what went on for decades. And still does today, in certain other ways.
These decisions were obviously made by the marketing mavens, not Mitchell.
My chuckle at Pontiac’s back then was the interior. Take a look at that interior door panel. What do you have? 1962 Chevrolet BelAir. No, not Impala; BelAir. It always cracked me up that you paid more for a Catalina or Star Chief than an Impala, but got less in interior creature comforts. Or maybe the Impala was just that good a value back then?
You may have gotten a Bel-Air interior, but you got either a 3 or 4 speed Automatic as an option and a 389 V8 for not too much more cash than an Impala. I’d take the value of a more flexible transmission and (probably) better V8 over minor things like an interior door panel.
On the contrary; Pontiac interior trim and hardware was most certainly a step above Chevy. My ’61 Catalina “stripper” had a two-tone flying v insert on the door panels and everything was color-keyed where most Bel-Airs were monotoned.
The Star Chief wasn’t meant to anything fancy. It was a roughly Catalina level trim on the longer wheelbase. The extra money went into the things mentioned above. If you wanted plusher, you pulled out your pocketbook once again to ante up to the Bonneville.
The low-trim long wheelbase model was also aimed at the police market. Some agencies, like the CHP specified a minimum 122 inch wheelbase for supposed high speed stability. That meant no low-priced three. Buick cobbled together a Special trimmed Roadmaster for the CHP in ’55. Later, the Dodge 880 was at least partlly done for the CHP, because the downsized ’62 Polara didnt meet the wheelbase spec.
Actually the CHP got a Century 2-door post, a car that wasn’t available at retail. Made famous by Broderick Crawford.
Methinks you remember the 62 Bel Air a bit fondly. I had a college roomate with one and I don’t think it was anywhere near as nice inside as the Star Chief. This one has had the seat recovered. A look at the brochure artwork shows an interior that was not bad at all.
Also, I would take a 389 over a 327 any day, and there is simply no comparison between the Powerglide and the old 4 speed Super/Jetaway HydraMatic, which I consider to be the best transmission GM ever built. The ultra-low first gear and a design that minimized slippage in 4th gave you both performance and economy. It was quite durable and expensive to build, and was identical to the unit in Cadillacs through 1963, I believe.
Functionally, the dual-coupling four-speed Hydra-Matic (Pontiac called it Strato-Flight; Jetaway was an Oldsmobile trademark) was functionally superior to the later Roto Hydra-Matic, except in production cost, size, and weight (the three-speed weighed something close to 70 lb less than the late four-speed). The Roto Hydra-Matic was essentially a simplified version of the bigger transmission, deleting the front coupling and one planetary gearset and adding a stator to the second coupling to make it a torque converter. It even retained the four-speed’s dump-and-fill system (which emptied the converter in second gear).
The Pontiac and Cadillac transmissions (and the Olds version, which they dropped after 1960) were all the same design, but but I believe there were some detail differences.
Olds kept the four speed HydraMatic for the ’98 through ’64.
Roto-Hydramatics suck – pure and simple. In retrospect, if GM was trying to save a dime for it’s B-bodies (Pontiac/Olds and the first F/85’s), they should’ve just used the two-speed Buick Twin Turbine. Cost amatorization spread out even further and proven reliability at this point (early 60’s).
My 62 4dr tri pwr star chief could smoke the h 78 snow tires bald, too bad the 4sp hydromatic could not handle all that abuse I put it through. it would get stuck in 1st gear.great 1st car
The extra length is, as others have noted, a holdover from the 1950s. If you look at many 1950s GM cars from above, the hood is surprisingly short in comparison to the passenger compartment and deck. Cadillac even sold extended-deck models in the 1950s, and named them as such in the brochures. The customer basically paid for a longer trunk over the “standard” models.
Virgil Exner’s 1962 Dodges and Plymouths were an attempt to change these proportions – one of the hallmarks of his planned 1962 line, if it had gone to production unchanged, was a long hood and short deck. Those proportions weren’t quite as pronounced on the cars that did make it to production, and the Dodges and Plymouths were so unpopular for other reasons that no manufacturer was going to imitate them. It took the sensational success of the Mustang to really popularize the long hood-short deck look.
That’s a good point. The old model really was getting a bit stale, and Exner tried to break it. I suppose the failure of the ’62s set back any efforts for quite a while.
Indeed, one wonders if Exner had been in better health and had more time, if the abominations that were the ’62 Mopars would have come out better. The concept of long hood/short deck wasn’t bad, but the execution certainly was. One of the worst things was the Dodge’s ‘warthog’ grille tacked on due to the insistance of Dodge general manager M.C. Patterson. Coupled with the goofy rear-end and side treatments, the long-hood/short-deck ’62s didn’t stand a chance.
It’s also a testament to Iacocca’s foresight that, despite the ’62 Dodge/Plymouth debacle, he went ahead with a car of similiar basic orientation (but much better styling), anyway. To this day, it’s a formula that’s made the Mustang a cultural icon.
Even with the Mustang’s success, it wouldn’t be way late in the game with the 1970 E-body that Chrysler would return to long hood/short deck styling. Even then, the requirement of a wide car to accomodate Chrylser’s biggest engines meant a compromise that would quickly doom those cars, as well.
I’m more a fan of the Catalina and GP mainly for the powertrain choices but this one is still attractive in it’s own right.
I think the extended rear end looks odd only in hindsight, because no cars are styled like that today. But back then it was common for the rear deck to be longer than the hood.
It wasn’t until the Mustang and then the Toronado came along to popularize the long hood, short deck proportions, which of course are what we still have today (albeit very short decks in many cases and hoods that aren’t very long either).
As to that lovely ’61-’62 GM semi-wraparound windshield, I’ve always been fascinated with it. Why do A-pillars always have to be ruler straight — that little curve at the base adds so much flair.
Those F&K ads – “Almost sensual” indeed! Check out the guy in the suit, in the flower patch and further down under his lady’s umbrella. Watch his hands, what’s on his mind? This guy “likes pleasure in big portions…in full measure – in size, excitement…” They’re selling this car to men who want that extra length.
Actually, I’m none too sure that all (any/some) of the above examples are all genuine F&K renderings. Their pieces are pretty distinctive, and usually include their signed initials.
This style of rendering was very popular at the time, and quite a few other excellent artists also did these, especially for the brochures. F&K tended to do the big splashy ads in magazines: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/those-amazing-psychedelic-pontiac-ads-by-fitzpatrick-and-kaufman/
Good point, looking closer I see this little glyph on both these ads. Not the F and/or K initials. Any idea who? (I like to think F&K had better taste.)
Renderings were used very commonly by all the car companies for ads and brochures, starting way back. It was a whole industry. F&K just happened to be the best.
The man’s name is Howard Nourse. He scans a lot of brochures for Old Car Brochures.com and other sites. It’s his watermark.
I think that you are right about the brochure artwork, and I made some edits in the piece to clarify this. I had wrongly assumed that since F&K did the advertising, that they had done the brochure drawings as well. This does not appear to be the case.
A couple of blocks from my house there is parked-I believe a ’66 Star Chief-which is slowly moldering away. All the GM full sized cars in the ’60’s had what seems like today excessive rear overhang. My parents owned a 1966 Catalina and at the time I thought
the styling-even if it was a four door sedan-really attractive. Today, it simply seems quaint.
Whenever I look at 60s cars I’m astonished at the rear overhangs, or how far forward the rear axles are. I know there were some performance models that had a relocated axle for better drag race launches but even normal cars have the axles way closer to the rear seats than my Euro biased eyes consider normal.
Here in Canada we didn’t have the Star Chief. A Strato Chief was the entry level Pontiac. I owned,Laurentions and a Parisienne. 60’s Pontiacs have long been my passion.
On US trips, I’ve drooled over Bonnevilles and Catilinas. I’ve always been aware that the US Pontiac was a whole different car than our “Chevyiac” I was at one time a member of the Pontiac Oakland car club. I thought I was pretty much informed on all things Pontiac.
However having said all that, I never knew that the Star Chief model was 3 inches longer. I’ve seen a couple over the years, and could never decide why they looked so different.
Curbside Classic taught me something today.
Ok, How much was this example? Oh that rusted out Bonneville Coupe that I wanted 2 years ago…..
…and does the matching hard hat come with it?
In Aotearoa most of the Pontiac line up had overhang all the way round the wheels seemed to be tucked away almost out of sight but some must have come from Pontiac instead of Cheviac because the side overhang is smaller,quite confusing when you rarely see them trying to figure out what your looking at.
Nice car, even with the slightly off-kilter proportions. I think the main problem is that the sail panel and backlight are shallow, if you look at the forward edge of the trunk, it is only slightly past the back end of the rear wheel arch. Then there is a filler panel between the trunk and rear glass. It almost has a 4-door business coupe look to it. On the plus side, you can carry six people and six sets of golf clubs. Try doing that in a new sedan, unless you buy one of the last ’11 Town Cars.
Those “wire wheels” look like they came from my 80s Chrysler LeBaron.
I was 4 when my Mother chose the 63 Grand Prix over the Bonnieville Convertible I was in love with at 4, playing Matchbox Roads on the Morrokide, I Wanted a Convert, Mom said something about Subtle unadorned styling, (as Bill Mitchell as any Pontiac would ever be?)
It never dawned on me that Pontiac made a car with a bigger Trunk, but they made two of them.
The Star Chief always seemed like a manly no-nonsense Bonneville. Plainer Interior, but same engine/tranny set up. Same size, no skirts!
Pontiac sliced the full sized market so thinly niched out. Catalina, Ventura, Gran Prix, 2 & 2, Vista, Star Chief, Bonneville, Later Grand Ville, Broughham & Custom models, Executives, Safaris, Grand Safaris…
They were often better looking than all but the Cadillac or Lincoln to me.
You usually got a lot more for your $100 more than the Chevy Equivalent.
This trunk Looks about a foot too long, I remember the tail end of The Gran Prix Hitting the pavement on sharp inclined driveways.
As I read here, Even the Starting Level, Price of entry basic Cataline was an attractive car, not a compromise that showed, the size it turns out made it more attractive in hindsight.
As Brands Go Pontiac and Dodge seemed like the Male divisions.
But even within the Pontiacs Star Chief Was To Bonneville what Impala would become to Caprice , well to some degree.
I feel Awful that there are no 2012 Pontiacs to draw comparisons to.
I completely disagree. The enormous trunk is what makes these some of the best looking Pontiacs ever built (the very best being the 1965). I loathe the microscopic trunks on new cars. The only way I would ever drive a Chrysler 300 is if I first took it to a chop shop and had three or four feet added to the front and rear to make it look like a real car and not some Chevron toy. Now sure, these models did stretch the look to the limit, but this is infinitely better than anything that has been built in the last 30 or so years.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve grown up with the garbage that passes for cars these days (I’m only 22), but whenever I see a car with proportions like these all I see is perfection.
Were you “born in the wrong generation”?
As a car nut kid, I wanted her to trade it in badly after 1968 or so, as did my Dad, But she loved “Lola” and kept her until rust and Tranny issues got the best of Lola, Mom chose the Black on Black White Interiored TBird With AM only radio in 73…AC She finally had, and that made her day, she loved having a bargain Mark 4… We assured her same car, to her delight.
But from age 8 on, I was embarrassed by it being a 63, once a car was 5 years old, the paint faded,rust creepin at the roof n rear wheels, it reeked of “Not Doing Well” to neighbors in Suburbia, it should not have mattered, but it did, I suppose much like to use Labels to connote doing well IE… Louie Vuitton, lexus, mercedes,bmw… it was GM cars then that I remember equating with prosperity. Ford was Basic. Chrysler was outdated, as I remember it. John Delorean was given credit for much of Pontiacs success IIRC.
The frenched Stacked Headlights , and sleek hidden taillight look Pontiacs had went a long way, as did concaved rear window treatments… I miss seeing 1963 Grand Prixs now, along with the fine women who drove them.
dang, I miss rear overhang. The fear of offering ANY rear overhang on new cars is why we can’t have real station wagons — and why you have cars with 20 cubic foot trunks that are useless when you go to Best Buy to get aTV or a microwave, because of the small openings.
While Bill Mitchell obviously had influence over the cars styled during his tenure, most of the credit (or lack thereof, depending on your point of view) really should go to the Pontiac studio, which was headed at this time by Jack Humbert. (The ’62s may have begun under Joe Schemansky; Humbert didn’t take over until the spring of 1959., at which point the ’62 designs would probably have at least been well under way.) Bill Porter, designer of the second-gen Firebird, said Humbert had a lot to do with the fine detailing that characterizes a lot of sixties Pontiacs; he was really good at suggesting the subtle adjustments that separate distinctive designs from ordinary ones.
The Star Chief’s long tail dated back to its introduction in the early fifties. At the time, Pontiac was already going after Oldsmobile and Buick in the mid-price market, with more options and higher trim levels. Basically, they wanted to add a big, super-deluxe model, but were restricted by having to share the Chevy body shell. The Star Chief had a longer wheelbase, but I suspect they opted to stretch the tail because it gave an immediately obvious “big car” vibe without a lot of expensive tooling or mechanical changes.
Ive been reading this site for a while and just wanted to comment on the extra length. My father had a 56 Star Chief he bought new, then I restored one about 17 or 18 years ago. Not only was the trunk longer but so was the hood. My family used to go to Canada for vaction and I always noticed the “stubby” hood on the Canadian Pontiacs. I guess they were the same length as the Chevy. This is a great site and I think I’ve read every article on it. Keep up the great work.
Oh, hey! Evansville, Indiana! That’s Highway 41, and these photos were taken just 10 minutes north of my childhood home. I stood out in that EXACT same field a decade ago to watch a meteor shower at 4 am.
I was there for a family wedding about a month ago, and saw this car on the way out of town. I snapped a few others that weekend as well. Good eye on the location!
My Dad had a burgundy ’62 star chief it was the first New car we had ever had and it was the first car with with Airconditioning. It had power windows just like this one, and the same interior!
It was a hard top (vista) and we traveled from Alabama to see my relaives in Kentucky and then went down to a place my grand mothers in Winter haven Fla.
It held an awesome amount of luggage for five and the dog. My older sister and I had separate floor board areas to play and hang out in. It was a “rolling house” for us and we loved it for three years. Then it became a ’65 Star Chief in aquamarine/blue green with 6 way power seats, a power antenna and trunk release, I just thought we were SOOOOO rich!!! I would love to buy that one on the road side and bring it back, Big Ass End and everything!!!!
I don’t care what any one sez, those were some great cars! and it was gorgeous to be pick up at school in! I loved the simplicity or the lack of adornment compared to the Bonneville.
There is a Star Chief in this collection of street finds from here in Olympia WA… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0gSFiu8oZE
How much for the 62 Star chief 4 doors Pontiac?
just got the message from May ’13 if you have it you tell me what you’ll sell it for, and
I’ll reply… does it run?
do you own this car? or are you just asking to buy it?
Love Pontiac’s from that era, Ads using illustrations very cool:-)
It looks like that car was designed to carry 4 bags of golf clubs in the trunk laid lengthwise.
Not an unattractive car,but its tuchus is about as big as Kim Kardashian`s.
I always liked these US Pontiacs. They were five times the car the chintzy and short decked Canadian versions with Chevrolet underpinning. They could be ordered in Canada but at a price nearing a low end Cadillac therefore only a handful reached this side of the border.
If modern cars still had 30 cubic foot trunks compared to today’s “large” trunks at 15 cubic feet, full size truck sales might be a lot lower.
Wide-Track American Pontiacs caught my attention not long after we crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie during a vacation in 1965. In addition to the wide spacing of the wheels, there were many other features I found intriguing to my my young car nut mind. The long trunks was one of them. I don’t mind the look and for one-car families back then, one a plus to have all the trunks space.
I thought they were okay then and still like them today. Star Chief or Executive, Catalina or Bonneville whatever the style, thumbs up from me.
This ’62 Star Chief was just a continuation of one of Misterl’s brilliant styling devices going hand-in-hand with savvy marketing: the extended-deck sedan and by extension hardtop coupes and convertibles. It began with the ’48-’49 Cadillac 60 Special through ’58, plus Coupe de Villes, next comes ’52-’53 Olds 98 sedans and all subsequent 98’s. Then the ’54 Star Chief sedans followed by iterations of their top-line and lesser variations on the same body. Finally, Buick joined the long fanny parade with the ’58 Limited, introductory for the ’59 Electra 225. GM was the king of marketing acres of sheet metal!
Cars with this size trunk were prime demolition derby fodder from the late 1960s into the 1970s…
And were also mocked on by that counter-culture icon Mad Magazine for the excesses in size back then…
When I see American cars form this era I’m astonished at how far forward the rear axle is. I’m accustomed to Issigonis style proportions with the axles at the extreme ends of the cars for “wheel at each corner” geometry. Even 70s cars seem to have the rear axle further back.
The odd look, as I see it, centers on the cabin being ‘scrunched’ too far ahead of the trunk. I took one of the images into Photoshop and adjusted it just a bit (see before and after below). The result is an improvement to my eye, enlarges the front door a tad, and looks like it would make for a roomier interior to boot…what do you think?
Yes, I like your’s better. Perhaps the added length could have been in the rear door instead, but moving that C pillar back helps. Of course, that would have blown up the budget by adding cost and complexity to what was supposed to be a shared body. The longer butt was fairly cheap and easy to do if the passenger compartment was left alone. I see why Pontiac did it this way, but we agree that the look was not quite there.