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Now not only magazine articles but anything of interest to Pontiac owners, any contributions accepted.................

bulletZink cars part 2.
bulletVauxhall Victors (brit ponchos?).
bulletHistory of hydramatic.
bulletCanadian Pontiacs.
bulletJohn Zink specials.
bulletBeautiful Pontiacs.
bulletTwo tone paint.
bulletIndian heads.
bullet57 injection.

Here's an article (in 10 parts) sent in by our very own Steve Shute;



Zink Cars

Hi All,

While looking for something else, I spotted this nice image of what appears to be the John Zink #1 car.  The previous image of a Zink '57 at Daytona Beach, which I forwarded last week was believed to be John's #2 car...
But, I could have my thinking reversed, as I don't see a roll bar in this particular shot, yet I know for a fact that they were mandatory for NASCAR, etc.  Or, they could be one and the same???

jzink2.jpg (126674 bytes)


    Scanned the Zink car on the sands @ Daytona.  This is the "real" one, not Thropp's former K/SA hardtop drag racer, which PMD "disguised" to look like a post coupe for the video...

    Although I've never seen the pictured car up close, I'd be willing to bet that it was an identical clone to the one Dad and I raced, e.g. 317 hp, H-D Buick 3-speed, Traction Masters, etc.  If it was one of Zink's NASCAR racers, it would've had a roll bar, and possibly heater/radio delete...

57johnzink.jpg (390351 bytes)

    These record runs on the sand, as well as at Bonneville, Muroc, El Mirage*, etc, were called "flying mile" events.  They gave you enough time to get up to speed, and then it was simply pedal-to-the-metal for the distance.  I don't recall what the Zink car ran, but we managed 137+ mph @ El Mirage w/2.56s, which was probably a much better "surface" than the wet sands of Daytona...

    If you've ever raced Pontiacs, you can imagine what a frightening experience it is to run one wide open in high gear at max rpms, knowing that the oil system is shaky at best.  Only a couple of years later, PMD lost several of their race cars due to rod failure on the faster speedways, as the engine's literally sucked the oil pans dry @ rpms (They didn't have "fancy" 10-quart pans in those days)...


* Note:  El Mirage is in Calif's "high desert", and is still a part of   Edwards AFB (where the Shuttle lands).  We had to lean the Trips down 2 jet sizes for the 2,800 ft dry lake's altitude...

Victor, we hardly knew ye! (Pontiac's other child)

Old Cars Weekly

September 30, 1999

By: Jack Mueller

Series_1_Victors.jpg (52314 bytes) Series_2_Victors.jpg (51857 bytes)

  You have to look carefully in the histories of Pontiac to find a mention of the Vauxhall Victor. In fact, you have to look hard in Vauxhall's histories to find more than passing reference to this compact car. The Victor started out with tremendous hoopla, but soon showed its many weaknesses… what seemed like a good idea became an everything-went-wrong situation.

            The story of the fist Victor – the F-Series models – started in 1954. Up to that time, Vauxhall automobiles used one basic body shell; engine type and appointments identified the different series offered. In 1954, management at GM's British operation decided that the Velox / Wyvern / Cresta lines would be replaced with different body programs. The new top-line passenger car would be the Cresta series, powered by an overhead-valve six-cylinder engine. A smaller shell would be used for the base product, to be known as the Victor. Both platforms would have an "Americanized" look, as word reached the company that Ford's English operation had new cars of their own in the works, based on the lines of the 1955 Ford. The Victor would be a downsized version of the 1955 Chevrolet.

            The dimensions of the F-series Victor evolved in keeping with other lower-priced English cars. Victors sported a 98-inch wheelbase, with overall length of 167 inches. Powerplant for the Victor was the existing OHV four, with compression upped to 7.8:1 and bored out to 92 cid. The update engine put out nearly 55 hp, which was more to the "high performance" side of the Victor's competition. Transmission was a three-speed manual, notable for its full synchromesh; you could downshift to first while the car was in motion (rare for many 1950's gearboxes). The car did not have overdrive, but did have an overdrive-type 4.25:1 rear axle. Suspension for the car was a conventional layout, with coil suspension for the front end and leaf springs with shocks for the rear. Tire size started out at 5.60x13, with 5.90x13 added to the option list shortly after production started.

            The body design was another mater. F-series Victors used wrap-around windshields that included the notched front doors as found on 1955 Chevrolets. The rear window was large and also wrapped in keeping with the American models. Also, like the Chevrolet, the rear fenders had a sort of fin shape and the exhaust pipe exited from a rear bumper guard. Flutes (creases in the hood panel) as found on the 1955 Pontiac were incorporated into the small car. Trunk space was tremendous for British cars in this market range, on par with American automobiles. It did not look as sharp as its American cousin, but had an even bigger problem than its appearance: British General Motors cars were built fundamentally different than American General Motors automobiles.

            Vauxhall was GM's first automotive unit to incorporate unit body construction in all its cars. The early work came out well, and Vauxhall Motors Ltd. was soon recognized as a leader in mass-production body-on-frame construction. The F-series victor platform pushed the limits of the process since roof pillars at the windshield and rear window were (at least then) significant to a successful unit body.

            Vauxhall's engineers felt cocky enough to push the limits this time. The Victor platform started with a stressed floor pan rather than the re-enforced one used in past Vauxhalls. A re-enforced center doorpost was welded to frame rail sections (but not welded together to form a regular box frame) and to the floor pan to brace the roof and body sides. A front sub-frame for engine and other items was designed and welded to the floor pan without additional bracing or cross members to help distribute weight (and stress). The result was a car with a series of stress points in the area of the firewall. The designers knew this, but tests of prototypes did not show serious fatigue.

            As the Victor got to prototype construction stage, news came from Detroit that the platform needed a left-hand-drive version. GM management decided that the Vauxhall Victor would be imported and offered through Pontiac dealers. Compact cars were hot sellers as 1956 drew to a close, and GM would have nothing domestic to compete until at least 1959 or 1960. Besides left-hand drive, the people at the Luton, England plant had to look at undercoating to bottom of the car to help prevent rust. Lacking experience on such things (the home market and other commonwealth markets did not have the harsh climate that covered much of North America in winter) it was decided that the bottom of the body would be coated with a hot plastic material, which would be primed and painted to help protect the plastic from stones and other debris. This move doomed the Victor in North America before the first cars came off the boat.

            Victors were produced only in four-door sedan or station wagon form, the latter being the first wagons (estate cars as the British called them) to be produced at Luton (earlier Vauxhall wagons came through third-party coachbuilders).

            In final gearing for North America, the car was rather impressive for an import for acceleration with a 0-60 time of 24.8 seconds, compared to 26.6 for the Hillman Minx and 32.6 for the Morris Minor. With a road-tested top speed of 75.2 mph, it ranked in what you might call a high performance category for four-door small imports. The biggest stumbling block to the Victor at introduction was its price. In its 1958 review of imported cars, Motor Trend magazine compared POE (Port Of Entry) pricing of various makes with other imports and American cars, the Victor came out the most expensive of all four-cylinder models.

            Despite the price, Pontiac dealers committed themselves to selling the line, at least until something better from the home team came along.

            In Luton, at the Vauxhall plant, there was jubilation as orders came in. In the first six months of production, 50,000 cars rolled off the line. A year later, the 132,000th car went out the plant gate. Sixty-five percent of the production went out of the country, most to the United States. For a short time, the Victor moved well, then came the winter of 1958-'59.

            Salt and other highway deicers played havoc with the plastic coating, exposing bare metal on the critical floor pan, resulting in premature rot of the thing that made the car structurally unsound. American undercoating was not compatible with the material applied at the factory, so dealers could not sell the fix as an add-on. Owners also found that they were hard-pressed to keep up with expressway traffic (a common problem to imports) . . . something not expected in an automobile having the full backing of GM's high-performance division. Then there was the problem of Pontiac's inability to promptly handle dealer warranty transit claims. Cars would sit unsaleable for weeks or months while their non-conformances were resolved.

            Vauxhall designers went to work on the undercoating problem, incorporating a fix into the F-series 2 program which went into production during February 1959. Body styling was cleaned up, creating a very nice looking automobile. Flutes were removed from the hood, and the exhaust pipe no longer ran out the bumper guard. The rear quarters were filled out, with bumper guards toned down. Interiors were changed with a more rational dashboard giving the car a more conservative British look.

            The basic model in Series 2 was the Super, with two-tone paintwork appearing in the Deluxe version (leather upholstery was offered, but not on cars sent to North America). The plastic undercoating was dropped in favor of conventional undercoating materials.

            While American sales continued to slide, the rest of the world market was good to the Victor. In the first year of production, 115,100 of the Victors moved out of the Luton plant, with another 95,900 cars built between January j1960 and January 1961. Unfortunately for the platform, most of the sales came early in the period. Pontiac introduced the Tempest in the fall of 1960, and dealers preferred to push their own compact rather than the import car. It was a smart move on the dealer's part as the bad news of the Series 1 grew worse, and took the better Series 2 down with it.

By the spring of 1961, a new, lethal version of the rot problem started to surface in parts of the Midwest. Earlier I mentioned the attachment of the front sub-frame to the stressed floor pan. Well, when the pan started rotting in this area, the weight of the sub-frame combined with gravity to snap the car in two at the firewall.

            While this was not a chronic thing, enough cars started to show the symptoms of the disease (doors not closing properly, a noticeable sag in the fender line and hood fit problems) to make the car a bad buy in anyone's book. Attempts were tried to brace the area with new steel, but again, most dealers selling the car in the United States did not have the equipment and experience to deal adequately with unit-body construction problems. It was a good effort but not enough to overcome the bad reputation that the original design had.

            Production of the F-series Victors ended in September 1961, less than two months after the 1961 models were introduced. Total 1961 production came to only 22,043 automobiles, less than half the first six-month production of the Series 1 in 1957. Replacing the F platform was the better-engineered FB series, designed with stronger roof pillars all around. The wrap-around glass was gone.

            A few dealers loyal to the project brought FB's into America but gave up the idea early in 1962. Any dealers still sporting the Vauxhall crest on signage or advertising did so as a means to help those people with Victors find someplace that would still work on them and have access to parts. The last identifiable Pontiac/Vauxhall dealer surrendered its Vauxhall franchise in 1966. It seems the dealer sold his next-door neighbor (who was also the dealer's family doctor) a Series 2 station wagon and kept the program active until the car was finally traded in.

            Today, not only is the Victor forgotten (or rather ignored) by Pontiac, but it appears to be extinct on the American highways. It's been several years since any of them showed up in the classified section of Old Cars and none have appeared at the car shows I've attended over the last 12 years or more.

            I have seen a couple in junkyards, but the two examples I came across were really rotted through at the sub-frame/floor pan area and could not be moved, let alone considered a restoration project. I do hope, however, that at least a few examples will surface examples of the only postwar automobile from GM's British division exported in great numbers to America.

P.S.  Due to our lovely U.K. climate very few early victors survive, Vauxhall (our GM) built real rot boxes for many many years, now they just build bland-mobiles.  



Hydra-Matic celebrates its 60th birthday

Old Cars Weekly

November 1, 1999

By: Bill Siuru

              If asked to lest the top automotive innovations of the century, most people would probably include the automatic transmission. It's right up there with the electric starter when it comes to making driving easier. The electric starter allowed many more women to drive; the automatic allowed virtually every woman to drive. While there were earlier attempts at shiftless driving – like the Carter friction transmission and the Owen Magnetic – General Motors (GM) is credited with the first successful fully automatic transmission, Hydra-Matic. And how successful it was!

            Hydra-Matic was first offered on selected 1940 Oldsmobile models as an option costing a mere $57.00. The 60th birthday is being observed now because General Motor's Detroit Transmission was reorganized to produce Hydra-Matics in May of 1939 and the first production Hydra-Matics were shipped to Oldsmobile in October of that year. They debuted in dealer showrooms soon thereafter. When Alfred P. Sloan, then GM's chairman, took his first ride in an Oldsmobile fitted with Hydra-Matic, he was more than impressed. He commented, "For 15 years, I have felt that the gearshift lever had no place in a really modern car," adding, "I feel very strongly that it is only a matter of time when every car must have this kind of a transmission." While this never happened, and I, as one who still likes to shift a slick five-speed, hope it never will, Sloan's statement has come pretty close. Today, most motorists in North America wouldn't even consider buying a car that requires gear shifting and clutch pushing.

            The Hydra-Matic development team was headed up by Earl Thompson whose synchromesh transmission had eliminated double clutching as well as crunching and grinding of gears. Prior to the Hydra-Matic, he had developed the short-lived Automatic Safety Transmission semi-automatic for GM.

            Hydra-Matic was an instant hit with Oldsmobile and 20,000 units were sold in the first year. Cadillac added it as an option in 1941, and between the two divisions, about 200,000 of them had been installed before car production ceased for the duration of World War II. However, heavy-duty military versions of the Hydra-Matic were produced during the war. Mated to Cadillac V-8s, pairs were used to motivate light tanks, howitzer carriers, and self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. Torq-Matic, with a four-fold increase in torque, was used in the Pershing tanks and Hellcat tank destroyers.

            When automobile production resumed after the war, so did Hydra-Matic production. By 1947 GM had produced its 500,000th Hydra-Matic. In 1948 Pontiac was the third GM division to add hydra-Matic to its option list and the million mark was hit in 1949. Cadillac in 1950 was the first automaker to offer Hydra-Matic as standard equipment, this on its Series 60 and 62 models.

            The resounding popularity of shiftless driving required the other manufacturers to offer automatics to remain competitive. While some developed their own, others took the easy path by purchasing Hydra-Matics from GM. Thus, it was first available on 1950 Nashes, 1951 Hudsons, 1951 Kaisers, and 1954 Willys Aeros. Since Ford Motor Company would not have its own automatic available until 1951, Hydra-Matics were installed on Lincolns starting in 1949. By 1953, Hydra-Matic was available on about one-half of the American marques. It was even available on Bentley, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, and several other European brands. Hydra-Matic became available on GMC light-duty trucks in 1953 and on Chevrolet trucks in 1954. Powerglide was available earlier on sedan deliveries.

Hydra-Matic.jpg (71660 bytes)

Growing up in Detroit, I still remember the night of August 12, 1953 when GM's Hydra-Matic plant in Livonia, Michigan burned to the ground. This was catastrophic since it was the world's only source of Hydra-Matics. GM applied a Herculean effort to recover. Tooling was repaired and rebuilt even as the ruins were still smoldering. GM obtained the giant World War II bomber plant at Willow Run from Kaiser-Frazer and completely revamped it for Hydra-Matic production. Twelve weeks to the day of the fire, the first Hydra-Matic rolled off the new production line. Because of that fire, you will find some 1953-'54 Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles fitted with Buick Dynaflows and Pontiacs with Chevrolet Powerglides. Non-GM companies using Hydra-Matics were even more severely impacted since they had lower priority. Lincoln, for example, stopped production for 55 days with a reported loss of 7,000 sales.

            Through the years there have been many improvements to the Hydra-Matic. While the selector on earliest versions read N-H-L-R, in 1946 it was changed to N-Dr-Lo-R. Later it was changed to P-R-N-D-L to reflect the addition of a "PARK" feature. Then lower gear markings were added as the transmission became more sophisticated. A Dual Range Hydra-Matic was added in 1952. In 1956, there was a new version based on what GM called the Controlled Coupling principle and used a second fluid coupling. It was offered on all Cadillacs, as the Jetaway Hydra-Matic on Oldsmobiles, and Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic on Pontiacs where it was either standard or optional depending on the model. The long-lived Turbo Hydra-Matic, which has been offered in many versions through the years, first appeared in 1964. Another important engineering feat was Front End Turbo Hydra-Matic used on 1966 and later Oldsmobile Toronados and 1967 and subsequent front-wheel-drive Cadillacs starting with the Eldorado. By 1967, GM had produced the 20-millionth Hydra-Matic and the 25-millionth in 1970. By the mid-'90s, electronically controlled versions of the Hydra-Matic were being offered.

            You may wonder why Buick developed its own transmission, Dynaflow. It seems that with Buick's torque-tube drivetrain set-up, which was directly connected to the rear end, all the jolts and jerks produced by the Hydra-Matic design as it shifted would be felt throughout the car, definitely not in keeping with Buick's noted ultra-smooth ride. With the Hotchkess-type systems used on other GM products, this was not a problem since shifting action was absorbed by their rear springs and universal joints.

            Chevrolet chose to go with its own Powerglide, which was really a scaled-down version of Dynaflow. Now, both Dynaflow and Powerglide are long gone and Hydra-Matic soldiers on as "the" GM automatic transmission.



There has been quite a bit of interest in the Canadian Pontiac cars by Pontiac owners in the USA so I thought that I would go into some of the interesting history for those of you who are still interested.  


We will start at the end of the depression years;  Many car companies did not survive the depression.  Even the big three were affected by the depression so much so that cars like Cadillac and Lincoln were on the line!  It is only with  their more profitable and cheaper offerings they were able to survive.  At this time the Canadian divisions of the large American automakers realized that the Canadian market was somewhat weaker and needed more entry level cars rather than all the mid-price vehicles that existed.   Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth were the bread and butter cars of both nations.  in the USA the Pontiac and Dodge were only slightly more upscale and slightly more expensive.  In Canada the price difference between the low end cars and the low mid priced cars was greater.   The solution for Canada was to use more common parts from the cheaper cars with slightly more upscale trim at only a slightly higher price.  Canadians would feel that they were getting an unique vehicle and a better deal for the dollars.
 This, in 1937 the first significant "Canadian" Pontiac was introduced!  This new Canadian Pontiac was called the 224; it featured a 224 C.I. overhead valve six based on the Chevrolet engine and was offering something that would not be offer in the USA till the mid sixties, which was an overhead valve 6 cylinder engine.   The body for 1937 remained totally the same as the American Pontiac.  However, the next year for 1938 the Canadian Pontiac also adopted the Chevrolet body, making the Canadian Pontiac more unique.   In 1941, the Canadian Pontiac cars returned to using the US style L Head flathead till 1954, except for the period of WW2 when manufacturing in Canada was suspended for the war effort, but continued to use the modified Chevrolet bodies with Pontiac badging.   For example, 1950-51-52 Fleetleader Deluxe (Canadian Pontiac) looks like a Pontiac but one could identify the Chevrolet in them with the Chevy rear fenders, taillights, etc. The 1954 Pontiac Fleetleader Deluxe has the distinctive profile of a Chevrolet 210 Deluxe and used the same frame and body and grill , hood and trunk streaks and engine from Pontiac. Starting in 1955 Pontiac was still using Pontiac styling and some of the interior trim from Pontiac but they were built on Chevrolet  chassis with Chevrolet drivetrains. The Canadian Pontiac success came in 1955 when it shed its Chevrolet appearance and had full Pontiac styling with multiple body styles like convertible and wagons; it had retained the Chevrolet powertrains and shorted chassis though!  The 1958 top of the line Pontiac Parisienne looked very much like the U.S. Bonneville but shared its shorter frame and drivetrain with the Chevrolet Impala.  In the USA Pontiac sedan deliveries, that were available were based on the Chevrolet sedan deliveries, until 1958. The '59 and '60 Pontiacs were scorned cars, in Canada, by many buyers for it had the large wide-track body placed on the narrow tracking Chevrolet chassis and was the cause of a few laughs. The 1959 Strato-chiefs and the 1960 Laurentian and the 1962 Laurentian were all six cylinder cars, which was unheard of in the US Pontiacs. In 1962 when the Chevy II  compact was introduced, in Canada,its twin the Acadian was offered in Canada only.   Also,  when the mid-sized Chevelle appeared, in 1964, GM Canada offered the similar Beaumont.  The Pontiac cars were so successful in the Canadian market that by the early sixties the Canadian Pontiac Strato-Chiefs, laurentians, and Parisienne were challenging Chevrolet as the best selling cars in Canada!  By 1965 the famous Auto-Pact between Canada and the USA made these "special" models ruduant and manufacturers could now bring models back and forth freely across three border.  1970 when models started blending together and all full sized Pontiac models were offered in Canada from the lowly Strato-Chief to the big Bonneville.  Of special note, Canada exported many of its Pontiac cars, over the years to its British Commonwealth countries where they were imported there with a minimal duty because Canada is a British commonwealth country whereas if the GM cars went to these countries from USA they would be subject to a higher duty and therefore less competitive in those countries.  That is why many foreign English speaking nations are familiar with names like Parisenne and Laurentian, etc.
  Of interest, to those in the USA, the Canadian Parisenne became available in the USA in 1983 before disappearing completely after 1986.
  Pontiac has been a strong and respected name plate in canada since they started building Pontiac cars in Canada since 1926.  The bulk of the Firebird cars for the North American market were built in the Oshawa, Ontario plant in Canada.  This plant will shut down with the end of the final production of the 2002 Firebirds.  GM has called the stopping of the Pontiac Firebird a hiatus; maybe it will rise again like the Phoenix of legendary times.

  I hope that this has shed some light into the production of pontiac cars here in Canada.  I own 3 American Pontiac cars; a '28 Landau sedan, a '51 Chieftain sedan and a '54 Starchief Custom Catalina cpe.   Anyone with comments can contact me by clicking the button;   



57 John Zink specials


57_317hp.jpg (548871 bytes) Appears to be a factory photo showing the release of the Tri-Power option in late December, 1956.  This particular engine is what was called the NASCAR version, and featured solid lifters, -886 cam (McKeller #6),  10:1 squeeze, and a Delco dual-point FI distributor, which allowed the use of a JONES/Motorola mechanical tachometer.

Jonesm1.jpg (38934 bytes) ONES cable-driven tachs featured a "tattle-tale" redline, which indicated highest RPM achieved.  It could only be reset with a key, and was more of an engine monitor than a driver's indicator, since the Chief Mechanic usually had the only key.

It's interesting to note that most NASCAR-equipped engines removed the
dual snorkels from the big Tri-Power Air Cleaner, cutting additional windows
and mounting it backwards, so that the 2GCs received cold air from the
cowl.  This was waaaaaaaay before Chevy ever thought of "cowl induction"
for their product line.  See image below, which clearly shows how this was done on a 1961 Air Cleaner...

61_3x21.jpg (47155 bytes)

Daytona1.jpg (245318 bytes) This pic was snapped on the sands of Daytona Beach in February, 1957.  The John Zink-prepped 2711 2dr sedan ran 131.7 mph in the flying mile with a 2.56:1 rear.  A PMD video is usually shown at the POCI Nats, which "recreates" this particular scene.  However, sharp eyes (like mine) instantly note that the featured car is really a Chieftain
hard-top belonging to drag racer John Thropp.  A plywood "post" was used for side shots, to give the impression that the car is a post-coupe, when the reality is that it's a 2737 hard-top coupe with a Hydramatic.  As I recall, there are some captured images from the video on '57 Ian's website...

Nascar57.jpg (31307 bytes) This 57-2711 is seen taking the checkered flag at the NASCAR Performance trials at Daytona Beach in February 1957. It is a "sister" car to the one above, and was also prepped by John Zink. The driver is believed to be a young rookie named Cotton Owens.  The
160-mile Grand National was won by yet another Chieftain, with an average speed of 101.6 mph on the beach course (Before the big, banked, oval-track was built)...

Contrary to what you may have heard, nearly all the racing '57s were equipped with the H-D Buick selector 3-speed.  PMD used this trans for only two years, 1956 and 57.  Although warranty costs were almost nil, since it was nearly unbreakable, it was discontinued for
1958 because of complaints about the excessive gear noise of the straight-cut gears (ever seen/heard a Jericho?).   Anyway, the B-W T85 replaced the old Buick for H-D applications in '58.  They were much quieter, having helical rather than straight-cut gears...

"Old" Rick
Sometimes Pontiac Historian <grin>



Pontiac claimed to have “The most beautiful thing on wheels"

Old Cars Weekly 

August 16, 2001

By: Robert c. Ackerson

Although many mechanical components were carried over from 1948, the 1949 Pontiacs were regarded as all-new cars. Along with Chevrolet and the smaller Oldsmobile's, all 1949 Pontiacs were based on General Motors’ new A-body. It was upon the new body that Pontiac asserted it had “the most beautiful thing on wheels,” a comment best left to the visual tastes of the viewer. But few could deny that the latest Pontiac was a handsome automobile.

The clean lines of its new envelope body, well-proportioned by a 120 inch wheelbase, were accentuated and not overwhelmed by its chrome trim. While Pontiac’s hood-mounted silver streaks weren’t exactly new, they flowed smoothly into the new car’s overall styling theme.

Only minor styling changes set the 1950 Pontiac apart from the 1949 model, but 1950 became Pontiac’s best production year to date with a total of 446,429 cars.

While Pontiac’s steel bodied station wagons were no longer newsworthy, the same could not be said of the new two door hardtop Catalina model. A prototype of the Catalina had appeared in early 1949 GM shows, but Pontiac and Chevrolet had to wait until 1950 to offer their first two door hardtops. 

Like other Pontiac models, the Catalina was available in De Luxe or upscale Super De Luxe trim. The latter was offered in just two exterior colors: Sierra Rust and San Pedro Ivory. These colors were also reserved for the Super De Luxe Catalina’s leather interior. 

Over the last five years of their production life, the power of Pontiac’s six and eight cylinder L-head, in-line engines, which dated back to the 1930s, gradually increased. When the Catalina was introduced in 1950, the straight eight was up to 268.2 cid, and with the optional 7.5:1 compression ratio cylinder head, it developed 113 hp @ 3600 rpm. The six cylinder was available with either the standard or optional high compression cylinder head with respective ratings of 90 hp @ 3400 rpm and 93 hp @ 3400. By 1951 the eight cylinder with a 7.5:1 compression ratio had a peak output of 120 hp. Equipped with the high compression option, the six was rated at 100 hp. 

Tom McCahill’s test of a 1950, two door fastback Pontiac with manual transmission and the six cylinder engine in Mechanix Illustrated, March, 1950, resulted in a zero to 60 mph time of 15.4 seconds. As McCahill noted, “in the pickup and get-away department, the Pontiac six is right up there with the immediate competition and doesn’t have to take a backseat for any of them.” 

Motor Trend, in its test of a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain De Luxe four door sedan, depicted Pontiac’s straight-eight as “staid.” The magazine also noted that the 6.5:1 compression ratio engine with 116 hp @ 3600 rpm had a “fairly good” torque output of 220 lb.-ft. @ 2000 rpm. This provided the Pontiac with a better than average power to weight ratio. The Hydra-Matic, found on over 70 percent of all new Pontiacs, gave the Pontiac straight-eight a zero to 60 mph time of just over 20 seconds. Motor Trend recorded a maximum speed of 92.9 mph.  

Revised designs were used for both the side body trim and grille in 1951. Changes in Hydra-Matic’s design made it easier for a driver to “rock” the car out of mud or snow. Both the De Luxe and the Super De Luxe versions of the Catalina were continued with Sapphire Blue and Malibu Ivory now exclusive to the Super De Luxe. 

New twin spear side trim made it easy to identify the 1952 Pontiacs. Belfast Green and Sea Mist Green were the De Luxe Catalina’s new exclusive colors. The output of Pontiac’s was again increased, this time to a standard 6.8:1 compression ratio and an optional 7.7:1 ratio.  

The six cylinder engine with those ratios now developed 100 hp and 102 hp, respectively. The ratings of the eight were 118 hp and 122 hp. These developments and the availability of General Motor’s new 4-speed Dual-Range Hydra-Matic transmission, had limited impact on Pontiac’s top speed. The zero to 60 mph time of a 122 hp, Hydra-Matic equipped model did, however, improve to just under 19 seconds. 

From 1949 to 1954, most changes in Pontiac’s front coil and rear leaf spring suspension were primarily ride enhancements. In 1953, revisions in the front suspension, collectively called “Curve Control,” included the use of Longer springs, stronger A-arm supports, and revised shock absorber valving. These alterations, which reduced both brake dive and wheel camber change during cornering, were accompanied by new sheet metal and a longer, 122-in. wheelbase. 

Pontiac styling remained modern by not extreme, and was highlighted by a one-piece windshield, a larger rear window, and a moderate up-kick in the rear fender profile. Revisions in Pontiac model identification resulted in the Super De Luxe Catalina becoming the Custom Catalina. The 1953 version featured an exclusive laurel Green and Milano Ivory two-tone paint scheme.

Pontiac production in 1954 totaled 287,744 cars, down significantly from the 418,619 produced in 1953. The drastic drop can be attributed to competitor offerings of more powerful OHV V-8s in Buick's and Oldsmobile's. These siblings also gave formidable opposition in the form of comparably priced models with new body shells. The time had come for Pontiac to change direction. 

But if an end to an era at Pontiac had arrived, it concluded in style. A new Starchief series in either De Luxe or Custom trim with a 124-in. wheelbase and a 122 hp eight-cylinder engine was introduced for 1955. A Catalina hardtop, along with a four door sedan, was one of the two Custom Starchief models offered. Exclusive to the Catalina were three exterior colors: Coral Red, Maize yellow, and Biloxi Beige. The Catalina was also offered as a 122-in. wheelbase Chieftain Custom with either a 115-hp six or the eight cylinder engine.

Although initially overshadowed by Chevrolet’s emergence as a performance leader, Pontiac also began to redefine its role within GM’s automotive empire in 1955. For thousands of Pontiac enthusiasts, the Catalina name would conjure up visions of the South California island of Santa Catalina, a graceful vintage World War II aircraft, or the timeless hard-top designs of the 1950s.   


Independents Make Colorful Exit
Old Cars Weekly News
By Bill Siuru
Two-tone paint jobs have always been popular, but usually with the second color on the roof. In the days before slab-sided styling, the separate fenders often got the second color.
In 1955, the big three introduced two-tone and even three-tone pain schemes with color separated by chrome strips that were called "sweep spears," "color sweep," or "side sweep" in the brochures. The purpose of these styling cues that appeared on Fords, Chevrolets and Plymouths as well as the other big three marques [including Pontiacs] debuting in 1955 was to make cars look longer and lower.
Actually, for the big three, the 1950 Buick's pioneered the "spearside" molding idea and the 1954 Oldsmobile's were the first models to use it to separate colors. Also, the limited edition 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta used a variation of the design.
Another benefit of the idea is that it was a great way to separate top-of-the-line models from their lesser siblings. Back then, you could distinguish a Bel Air From A Two-Ten, a Fairlane from a Customline, or a Belvedere from a Savoy from a block away. It also allowed major appearance differences between model years with minimum changes to the production line.
This styling fad was really a blessing for the independents, which by the mid-1950s were on their last legs and had virtually no budget for developing new models. With a minimum investment in tooling for chrome trim, they could not only have a fresh look, but also incorporate styling cues that were competitive with those of the big three.
By 1955, true Hudson's were history and for 1956-'57, Hudson's were badge-engineered Nash's. The "Hashes" did have their own distinctive front ends and trim that included different paint and chrome configurations from the Nash's. Nash's use of multi-tone paint schemes rather successfully updated the basic body design that dated back to 1952.
Certain 1955 Rambler models could be ordered with zigzag chrome separating colors. The all-new 1956 Ramblers featured a variety of multi-tone paint schemes. Here Hudson and Nash versions were the same design. After 1955, the Hudson and Nash Metropolitans had two-tone paint jobs separated by chrome.
Packard also updated aging body styling partly with multi-color paint and chrome with different configurations for 1955-'56 Clipper models and Patrician and Caribbean models. Likewise, Studebaker used the concept on its 1955 coupes, sedans and station wagons.
The two-tone Studebaker President Speedster had one of the best looking two-tone treatments of any model from an independent automaker. Studebaker offered a rather large number of different layouts on its 1956-'57 models. In its final year, 1955, Willys tried to survive with two-tone Aero-based Custom sedans and Bermuda hardtops. Only Kaiser did not join in, but then again in 1955, it built only 1,231 cars.
Pickups were not immune from this styling fad. For instance, International pickups and Travelalls as well as Studebaker Transtar pickups of the era could be ordered with two-tone paint designs.


Indian Heads

Sent to me again by Steven A. Shute not 57 but interesting for us Brits;

Do you know the story behind why there are two colors for the Indian head in 1955? It turns out that PMD originally issued all the Indian heads in amber. However, during that year the Federal Motor Vehicle Department issued new regulations concerning lights on motor vehicles. The Feds decided that no color should be visible from the front of the vehicle. Only white lights were allowed. So Pontiac dealers had to recall cars with the amber hood ornaments and replace them with clear Lucite. Most of the amber inserts were trashed. PMD made a mid-year change at the plant and began issuing only clear inserts for the hood ornaments.
You can now by reproductions in either clear or amber from Ames.


I was sent this file some time ago I believe it was a HPP magazine article though I'm unsure. If this breaches copyright please let me know, but I thought the car was so beautiful that not to share it would be a sin!

image001.jpg (58806 bytes) With Rochester fuel injection, the '57 Bonneville was as strong as it was beautiful.

 In 1957, things were happening at Pontiac. The changes had started the previous summer, when Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen became Pontiac's new general manager. Soon after that, he hired Pete Estes and John DeLorean, in a move that would mean great things for the company for many years to come.
      From the enthusiast's point of view, the most promising improvements were coming in the area of performance, and that would soon mean performance with a capital "P."
      Several years of research and development had led to the introduction of the Strato-Streak V8 in 1955. This 287-cubic-inch powerplant was lighter than the company's Straight Eight, and cost less to manufacture than the Oldsmobile 303-cube Rocket V8. The 287's most unusual feature was its unique ball-pivot rocker arms, which replaced the traditional forged arms mounted on a shaft. It was available in 173-, 180- and 200-hp versions, and it powered every 1955 offering from Pontiac

Top: If you wanted Pontiac's new Bonneville in 1957, you could get it only one way: loaded, with a convertible top and the 300-plus horsepower 347. Total production was 630. Bottom left: Just as he did to the rest of the car, owner Bill Schoenig painstakingly restored this interior to its current immaculate condition.

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The Strato-Streak was enlarged and improved for the next two model years, until it measured 347 cubic inches for '57. And then, as if the two "Extra Horsepower" Tri-Power options weren't enough, Pontiac introduced a Rochester fuel injected version, available only in the new top-of-the-line Bonneville.
      This injection system was similar to the one on '57 Corvettes, and it offered the same mystique. Simply put, it meant something to have a fuel injected engine in '57, and it really meant something if you were cruising around in a fuel injected Pontiac Bonneville convertible.
      Unfortunately, not too many people would get a chance to test drive this fine American machine. Pontiac built just 630 of these babies, ostensibly to be sold only to dealers to gain valuable field testing--and to earn some publicity along the way. With a base price of $5,782, the Bonneville came with virtually every accessory Pontiac manufactured; air conditioning and an externally mounted spare were the only options.
      The actual horsepower figure for the 347 fuelie is subject to interpretation. Pontiac never released a specific rating for this engine, but left it at "in excess of 300 hp."
      Other published reports had the horsepower ranging from 295 to 310. No matter how much horsepower it put out, it was obviously enough to get the 4,200-pound behemoth moving in a hurry.
      The '57 Bonneville featured here belongs to Pontiac collector Bill Schoenig, who owns more than a few valuable pieces of PMD history. Bill bought the Bonnie in fairly rough condition in Los Angeles in 1978, and spent the next two years restoring the car to its former state of splendor.
      The Poncho's immaculately detailed condition pays homage to Bill's own talents, because he did virtually all of the resto work himself, including rebuilding the engine and transmission, reviving the interior and applying the gorgeous and flawless Kenya Ivory and Fontaine Blue paint.

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      Bill has put only about 600 miles on the Bonneville since he finished it. But every time he stomps on the gas, he remembers he's in the car that brought Pontiac to the top of the performance pack! 

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