One of Pontiac’s shortest-lived nameplates was the Chieftain, which was produced throughout three generations from 1949 to 1958. And even though its Chevrolet Tri-Five competitors eclipsed it in the middle of the 1950s, it is still a fairly sought-after classic today. As a result, an increasing number of people are saving them from rotting in barns and junkyards.
One of the fortunate ones is this four-door vehicle. The third-generation model has a few impressive achievements of its own, even though it isn’t the more desirable second-generation model that was built on the same platform as the Tri-Five and the Bel Air. It had the biggest V8 a Chieftain had ever provided as a starting point. It is also the rarest of the lot because it was only made for one model year.
It goes without saying that this Chieftain had a difficult life. The sedan was abandoned somewhere in the early 1980s and was not driven for about 40 years. Just enough time for a vintage automobile to degrade into a huge pile of rubbish, yet, amazingly, the Chieftain has held up quite nicely.
Although there are a lot of surface rust holes on the body, there aren’t many of them near the wheel arches and side skirts. It’s a pretty good contender to be turned into a rat rod. On the other hand, the interior is in poor condition. The headliner is toast and has turned into fabric strips that hang around the sides, while the upholstery has to be replaced.
What about the engine, though? Does it still possess the necessary capabilities to move this large four-door vehicle? Well, I think that says it all—the men who bought this Chieftain found evidence of a rat’s nest.
The good news is that the rats haven’t yet gnawed through the wires, so there was still optimism that the V8 might function without requiring extensive repairs. If you’re not familiar, every third-generation Chieftain had a 370-cubic-inch (6.1-liter) V8 engine.
It was a development of the 346-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) engine from 1957, and depending on the carburetor configuration, it produced 240 or 270 horsepower. Both the Super Hydra-Matic automatic and a three-speed manual transmission were available. It doesn’t really matter how much power this V8 produces; we don’t even know. It matters nothing if it refuses to start at first.
Additionally, it operated well enough to allow the Poncho to go for a drive for the first time in forty years.