The years 1957 and 1958 were a time of change in regards to the place the Star Chief models had in the Pontiac line of automobiles. Shown in this article is the 1954 Pontiac Star Chief. This was the Star Chief's first year of production and there were many changes to come just a few years later. The 1954 Pontiac Star Chief is one of the more popular classic cars for collectors.
The Pontiac Star Chief was the top of the line Pontiac model beginning in 1954.
Pontiac even introduced air conditioning beginning that year in all Star Chief models. Seat belts were also made optional with the 1956 models. In 1958 Pontiac, for the first time, offered four headlights in all their models including all of the General Motors models. By 1958, the Pontiac Star Chief looked quite different than the original 1954 model.
By the time 1957 arrived, Pontiac wanted to add something new to help with Star Chief sales and offered the Pontiac Star Chief Bonneville model. By 1958 the stand alone Bonneville model gained the top spot in Pontiac's line up. The Bonneville model sold over 12,000 units it's first year. The redesigned 1959 Pontiac Bonneville was highly popular and helped to raise Pontiac Division from sixth to fifth place in the sales race.
Pontiac and Semon Knudsen
Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen began his career with General Motors in 1939. He was the son of General Motors president William S. Knudsen and graduated from MIT with an engineering degree. After moving up the ranks he became head of the Pontiac Division in 1956. With the task of improving sales much of what we see with Pontiac cars after about 1957 has his stamp on it.
Knudsen made several moves to raise Pontiac out of the doldrums. The Pontiac Bonneville and the wide track Pontiacs were the most memorable of his products. New designers and engineers were recruited, among them John DeLorean, with the goal of making Pontiacs more performance based. This was the time that Pontiac became involved with NASCAR to a high degree. In general, the Pontiac image was given a complete reworking. As one example of this image change, a 1958 Pontiac Bonneville served as the Indianapolis 500 pace car that year.
One of the more significant changes with Pontiac cars beginning with the 1957 models was the removal of the "silver streaks" from the hood and deck lids. The 1958 models were without the Indian motif which had been common with Pontiac's for some time.
The Pontiac model line went through big changes during the very late 1950's. Models were reshuffled.
The Chieftain line of Pontiacs were renamed "Catalina". The Star Chief replaced the Super Chief and the Bonneville assumed the top spot on the model line. The Star Chief design actually became very similar to the Catalina towards the end of the 1950's. As mentioned above, big styling changes were made in 1958 and 1959. The wide track Pontiacs gained a reputation for better handling.
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1954 Pontiac Star Chief Specs
The 1954 Pontiac Star Chief came with a powerful General Motors Straight Eight cylinder 267.6 cid engine. 1954 was the last year for Pontiac's Straight Eight.
The transmission was a choice of either a four speed manual.
The 1954 Pontiac Star Chief has a 124.0 inch wheelbase. The car's length is 213.6 inches with a width of 76.7 inches and a height of 63.2 inches.
About 5,000 Pontiac Star Chief Convertibles like the one shown here were produced for the 1954 model year. Total Star Chief production in 1954 was about 115,000 cars.
(Photos from author's collection)