1958 Pontiac Chieftain - No parking, even for you.

Obscure car news now, from your friends at GO tower! Ever heard of a Pontiac Chieftain? Me neither. Turns out it was one of Pontiac's first actual new designs after Doubleyuh Doubleyuh Eye Eye. Today's ad is from the car's final year of production: 1958. Hey look! A rocket!
The Images and Scanning Them squad apologizes for the krinkly and overall crappy scan of today's picture. The binding of this magazine didn't want to spread 'em for us, and it put up a fight. If the magazine's held together to 44 years, we'd be cruel to cut the thing apart just for the sake of getting a clean scan. There are plenty of jackwads who have no problem with destroying ephemera of our past and selling it to you for $10 a page, though. Besides, maybe if we keep them intact, future generations of snarky jerks like me can make fun of the pictures on the holographic blogs of the future or whatever? Or, maybe we'll cut them up and sell them when they can go for $100 a page? Who's laughing now? No, really. Who's laughing? I have no idea what people in the outside world are doing unless someone tells me in the comments.

Anyway, this car straddles the fence of old-and-cool / old-and-ridiculous. On one hand, it's way more sculpted and elaborate than any car you can buy today. On the other hand, all of the doo dads, chrome stars and rocket motor shapes look like it was designed by a ten year old boy. Your mileage may vary, of course. In any case, it's got two tone paint, one of which is orange. You don't see a lot of orange cars these days.

Here's something interesting, maybe. This ad spans the groin of the magazine. The magazine probably billed Pontiac for two ads - one full page ad on the right and one half page on the left. The half page probably cost less because there's no color in it... just black. So, Pontiac maybe saved a few pennies by buying a full page color ad and a half page in B/W, thanks to a thrifty designer. This adds up when you're buying space in a magazine that has a print run in the millions.

So, the man in the picture. What's his deal? The space guy looks like he's explaining to the man that he can't park his stupid car here, nomatter how rockety he thinks it is. "You'll have to move your vehicle to a minimum safe distance of 2200 yards, sir. Also, unless you're involved with the launch, I'll have to ask you to  move yourself also. Yes, it looks a lot like our rocket. In twenty minutes it'll look a lot like a smoldering pile of slag if you don't move the damn car... sir.

Pontiac mentions in tiny print that the windows are "safety plate" glass, as if this should reassure us that the car is thereby  immune to the effects of rocket exhaust. At least, that seems to be how the owner interpreted it. A little knowledge can be dangerous.

At least he should have put the top up if he's expecting to enjoy a rocket launch from 200 feet. Sure he'll get  a better view of the rocket as it heads for space, but it may be the last thing he sees. Maybe that's why this was the last year of production for the Chieftain? All the owners incinerated themselves because the car was too darn rockety.

Click for big.



BrainThought said...

Just a side note, the Chieftain was pretty much a casualty of GM platform engineering. The Chieftain sat atop the GM A-Body platform, which was dropped in '59 in favor of the Catalina - which itself was just a "badge-and-tag" GM B-Body which is mechanically identical to a ridiculous number of other GM cars.

The B-Body debuted in 1936 (Oldsmobile Series L/Buick Special) and through various updates (12 in all) lasted all the way till 1992 (Buick Roadmaster/Chevy Caprice) when GM wanted front wheel drive full-size cars and the H-Platform took over.

Oddly, the A-Body came back in 1964, but this time Pontiac got the Tempest, instead of a new Chieftain. The A's held on till '81 when it was re-engineered for FWD, and the remaining RWD moved to the G-Platform. Upon the G, eventually sat the legendary Buick GNX, before it too went away in favor of FWD in 1988.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Jeez oh man, brain. That's some damn good car lore. Thanks for contributing!

I have question. What constitutes a "platform". I mean, when they take the A-body and re-engineer it to be FWD as you describe, in what way does it still count as the same platform? What I mean is, I would imagine that the driveline configuration is part of what defines a platform and distinguishes it from another. Once you change a RWD to a FWD, doesn't that pretty much make it a new platform? Obviously not, but I'd like to understand why. Thanks in advance for clearing it up.


BrainThought said...

Actually, that’s very astute. The A-body redesign in ’82 (to FWD) wasn’t really a redesign at all. GM was seeing imports of the era and wanted to move the mid-sized car to FWD. Since the GM A,B,C and D platforms were their ‘breadwinners’ then the new FWD designs got the old designations.

FWD is also WAY cheaper to build from an automotive manufacture perspective. Your engine and transmission just become one neat, easy to ship, package and all the rear-axel and drive shaft assembly boils down to a couple of CV-axels that just hang out the side of the transmission. The rest of the car then, is just an after-though to hold up the front.

The true successor to the A-Body went into the G-Body platform, and the A-Body was mostly new. Lots of stuff stayed the same though. The wiring harness is pretty much indistinguishable. Most of the interior parts and trim are the same. The big difference was the rear axle (or lack of), even though the uni-body for the ’82 – ’96 still has the very defined center “hump” for the drive-shaft which became a pathway for exhaust.

The ‘new’ ’82 A-Body itself is very close to the much maligned FWD X-Body of the Pontiac Phoenix, Olds Omega and Chevy Citation. At the time, GM really had no clue how to design FWD but saw Camry and Stanzas coming and had to cut costs, so they knew something need to be done.

In RWD design, GM has always seen a car as three boxes – that dated back to the old Fisher bodies in the ‘40s. The front box was engine, center was passengers and the back was trunk and pushed the other two. That works fine, until you throw away most of the frame and don’t stick the boxes together very well and then pull from the front. So it becomes less like being pushed on a bike and more like being yanked by a big dog – which is an apt metaphor for driving a Citation. Luckily they fixed the linkage issues, mostly, by the time they made the X-body the A-body. Anyhow, I digress.

Oddly, there was an option for the Pontiac 6000 that got AWD, so it was technically front and rear wheel drive – so there was kind of, one, last, RWD A-Body after ‘82.

BrainThought said...

But to directly address your question:

Yes, platforms are usually a common set of components and parts. GM's kind of a bad example, but for the most part Platform "X" can use the same subframe bits as any other "X". Redesigns usually consist of maybe shrinking the engine compartment front a few centimeters, or sliding the rear seat floor pan back a few inches, but the vast majority of the car is still interchangeable on the platform. Ford's Fox bodies, for example, all had pretty much interchangeable engines, transmissions, rear axles, suspensions, interior trim, dash components, etc. etc. etc... This is nice in some ways because you can get comfy power electric seats out of Lincoln Mark VII and they'll bolt right into a Ford Fairmont.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Kablam! Critical info blast there, from brainthought! Thanks very much for the education, brain! Interesting and thorough. I hope we can count on your insight 'round the blog for a long time to come. You and Craigf may have to have a car geekdom showdown some time. You're both obviously industry insiders and are an asset to P.A.G. Whatever I'm paying you, I oughta double it.

Thanks for commenting!


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