The Ottawa Indian leader Chief Pontiac was the leading figure in a rebellion that occurred during the years 1763 to 1766 in the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. As history shows us, Chief Pontiac became a timeless figure of North American history. The present day city of Pontiac Michigan is named in his honor as was also the Pontiac line of automobiles produced by General Motors.
The 1957 Pontiac Star Chief
Between the years 1954 and 1957 the Pontiac Star Chief was the division's top of the line automobile. The Star Chief line was produced until 1966. The Star Chief models came with a chrome star trim along the sides. The year 1957 introduced what was called "Star Flight" styling to these Pontiac models. The Star Flight styling included missile shaped side trims, flatter tail fins, much larger front bumper and large grille. The car also was known for it's tapered diagonal moldings. Production figures for the 1957 Star Chief Convertible like the one shown in this article were recorded at 12,789.
An interesting note is that the Pontiac Bonneville also came out in 1957 as a sub series to the Star Chief line and went on after that to become it's own separate model.
Another significant change that occurred about the time of the Pontiac Star Chief Star Flight styling was that Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen, who had worked for Pontiac since 1939, took charge of the Pontiac Division. Knudsen, the son of former General Motors President, William S. Knudsen, had the task of revamping the brand. While Pontiac had always been considered a reliable make, something had to be done to make the brand stand out more.
Quick changes that the younger Knudsen made on the 1957 model was to eliminate the Silver Streak trim which had been on the Pontiacs since his father's days. He also reorganized the Pontiac line having the Chieftain on the lower end, the Super Chief in the middle and the Star Chief on the top end.
The new Pontiacs also had the first tail fins and as it turned out these were also the last. Knudsen is also credited with heavily involving Pontiac with NASCAR. Knudsen oversaw Pontiac's rise as a high performance automobile. In 1962 he was promoted to head General Motor's Chevrolet Division. In 1968, Knudsen made headlines when he resigned from General Motors to become president of the Ford Motor Company. That position didn't last long since Knudsen resigned from Ford in 1969 after political infighting mostly with Ford's lee Iacocca.
Pontiac's Star Flight Styling
If you go back in time to the late 1950's you'll see that many car lines took on styling that reflected the jet age. Along with that styling we saw an influx of auto fins on cars. All of this had somewhat of an aviation undertone. Some believe that the inspiration for this design goes back to the fighter planes of World War Two. This was a style seen all over the world during the late 1950's and into the early 1960's. There was no car that had larger tailfins than the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. Even Mercedes Benz began to design tail fins on their cars but never actually called them tailfins.
1957 Pontiac Star Chief Specs
The Pontiac Star Chief was not a light weight vehicle. it's weight averaged about 3,975 pounds.
The powerful engine was a 347 cid V-8 , 5.7 L producing 244 horsepower. 1955 was the last year that Pontiac offered a V-6 with their full size models. After that year everything they sold were V-8's. Another note is that from 1955 to 1981, Pontiac built their own engines. These engines came with U.S. models with Canadian models using a Chevrolet manufactured engine.
Transmissions on the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief was either a manual or General Motors Hydramatic.
The Pontiac Star Chief wheelbase was 122.0 inches. The new 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible sold new at about $3,100.
(Photos from author's collection)