Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1955 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible

"New, all-new from the ground up! Pontiac again for '55 steps out ahead  . . .  far ahead with cars entirely new and revolutionary in power and beauty! Cars so dynamic in every phase of design and performance they'll be definitely the car that you'll want to own!"

All-new for 1955, the Pontiac shared its corporate "A-body" and most of its mechanicals with Chevrolet. Yet, Pontiac's chief designer Paul Gillan and his team managed to give the car a much more glamorous look than its budget counterpart from Chevrolet. Part of the effect was achieved by creating boxier looking front and rear ends, and a smart horizontal division of the two-tone color schemes which emphasized the car's length. The biggest improvement, anyway, happened under the surface: new V-8 engines meant much more punch than in the previous years.

This generation of Pontiac cars marks an interesting transitory period between the stuffy "old" Pontiac and the new performance image that was instilled since Semon E. Knudsen became head of the Pontiac division. The 1955 and 1956 Pontiacs still feature loads of the typical chrome treatment that should distinguish them from the similarly constructed Chevrolets and justify Pontiac's higher price tag. In 1957, a different picture: now the Chevrolet had become the chrome-laden, glamorous car while the Pontiac lost much of its glimmer and became a decidedly cleaner looking car, perfectly embodying the division's new "purposeful" performance image. 

Our pictured Pontiac Star Chief Convertible is quite a celebrity in Havana. Although its owner, Jorge, usually likes to pilot the car himself, his Pontiac had already some illustrious guests behind its steering wheel. Formula One driver David Coulthard, in example, drove the car when participating in a classic car rally (video here), and American motor journalists choose it as their drive of choice for an interesting, albeit quite lengthy reportage on Cuba's automotive landscape. Most of their time, however, Jorge and his Pontiac spend providing adequate transportation for "fiestas de quince" or weddings. Solvent tourists are frequent and very welcome guests in the Pontiac, too. And honestly, who could easily reject the invitation to cruise along in such a stately looking car?

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