Postwar Pontiacs were essentially much dressier versions of Chevrolet sedans, coupes and station wagons, with dozens of factory options available. The 1955 Star Chief was the flagship of the Pontiac lineup. It featured Pontiac's then-trademark stripes on the hood and an Indian-head hood ornament. Pontiacs were known for value rather than power, but the 1955 Star Chief employed Pontiac's first V-8 engine, replacing a less expensive, less powerful inline eight-cylinder.
Models and Production
The Pontiac Star Chief was introduced in 1954 on an extended version of GM's A-body platform, which was in existence since 1936. The 1955 Star Chief had the same body panels as the Chevy Bel Air. Pontiac produced a convertible coupe, a base sedan and slightly dressed-up sedan, and the two-door hardtop Catalina. These were designated Series 55-28s. The Series 55-27 was the two-door Safari station wagon, Pontiac’s version of the Chevrolet Nomad. The convertible could accommodate six people, and 19,762 of them left the factory as 1955 models. The sedans numbered 79,953. Pontiac produced 99,629 units of the immensely popular Catalina. The high-end Safari station wagon had a limited production of just 3,760 units. It sold for $2,962, and the base four-door sedan sold for $2,156.
The base-model Star Chief sedan and Catalina tipped the scales with a curb weight of 3,556 pounds. They sat on a relatively long wheelbase of 124 inches and had an overall body length of 210.2 inches. They measured 75.4 inches wide and 62.5 inches tall. Front tread measured 59.1 inches and rear tread was 58.7 inches. The car sat on 7.1-inch-by-15-inch tires. The tank held 20 gallons of gasoline. The Safari had the same width, height and tread as the other Star Chiefs, but it was 7 inches shorter and its wheelbase 2 inches shorter. The convertible coupe was the heftiest of the Star Chiefs, weighing 3,791 pounds.
Under the Hood
All Star Chiefs were equipped with the “Strato Streak” 287-cubic-inch V-8 engine. No six-cylinders were available. The V-8 had a 3.75-inch bore and 3.24-inch stroke with a 8-to-1 compression ratio. It developed 180 horsepower and 264 foot-pounds of torque. The engine featured five main bearings and hydraulic valve lifters. A Carter or Rochester dual-downdraft carburetor delivered the fuel to the engine. In mid-1955, Pontiac offered a four-barrel carb and marketed it as the “Power Pack.” A three-speed manual transmission matched the engine with a 2.39-to-1 first gear ratio, a 1.49-to-1 second gear, a direct third gear and a 2.71-to-1 reverse. The clutch was a 10-inch single dry disc and the rear axle was semi-floating with a hypoid differential and a 3.64-to-1 ratio.
All body-on-frame Star Chiefs had identical chassis features: front independent coil springs, longitudinal rear leaf springs, ball-bearing roller steering gear, and 12-inch hydraulic drum brakes in the front and 11-inch drums in the rear.
The hardtop Catalina featured such options as an illuminated Indian-head ornament on the hood, a dashboard compass and tissue dispenser. In a nod to women buyers, Pontiac offered a purse holder. Buyers could order DeLuxe or Custom trim on any Pontiac. Options included the four-speed Dual-Range HydraMatic automatic transmission. Accessories on all models included a heater, backup lamps, outside rearview mirrors, an external sun visor and an "Autoronic Eye" headlamp dimmer. A Thermaster cooler and Remington electric razor were available.
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