By on November 22, 2011

Here’s a car that, were it to roll onto the grounds of any Billetproof show, would cause a vast wave of inked-up Lemmy Kilmister and Tura Satana lookalikes to drop to their knees in captive-bolt-to-the-dome-grade stunned worship. But that almost certainly won’t happen, because this fine example of how-they-done-it-way-back-then backyard customization is Crusher bound!
Upon first sight of the engine compartment, I thought: “Hmmm. I didn’t think Pontiac ever made a flathead V8… but I’ve been wrong about so many anorakian car facts in the past that I’m probably wrong about this one as well.”
Well, Pontiac never did make a flathead V8, as it turns out, and I’m pretty sure this one came from a Cadillac.
No, penny-pinching hot-rodders, this isn’t your chance to score a LaSalle 3-speed for 50 bucks; this car has what appears to be some sort of Hydramatic, probably the one that came out of a wrecked donor Cadillac in 1958 or whenever this swap took place.
This car, which came from the factory with a “Silver Streak” flathead straight-eight under the hood, appears to have been sitting for many, many decades. My guess is that it got the engine swap in the mid-to-late 1950s, drove for a few years, and has spent the last 50 years in a field somewhere in the Great Plains (or in a back yard in Denver).
In addition to the painfully vintage engine swap, this Pontiac has some interesting custom touches on the hood. At the leading edge, we see these two “nostril” scoops.
On the sides, these funky vents. Was this setup for looks, or an attempt to aid engine cooling?
Postwar Pontiacs were on the stodgy side, but some of these design touches belong in a museum of modern industrial design.
Some bits and pieces of this car might be suitable for someone undertaking a restoration project, but the glass and trim are mostly bad.
Right next to the ’50 Pontiac is Jacqui’s crypto-lowrider ’64 Chevelle, which has this amazing Aztec-themed hood mural. I think I may have to blow up this photograph and hang it in my office.
But why mess around with photographs? I need to buy the entire hood and hang it on my office wall!

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1950 Pontiac Chieftain With Flathead Cadillac V8 Power...”

  • avatar

    Absolutely! Save the hood!

  • avatar

    What I like about TAC: better shots of the junkyard then the auto show. Sobering. Thought provoking.

  • avatar

    I would have to agree with you MM, that old Poncho is too far gone to save due to the reasons you state, and that many parts have already been pilfered like the radio and the rear taillights and backup lamps for starters.

    Nice find.

    I wonder if the car did indeed get an ancient motor swap but eventually, that motor blew or got worn or seized or something and then it just sat for a long time.

    I’ve noticed belts and many of the hoses and some of the spark plug wires have disintegrated over time and the surface rust…

  • avatar

    That would have been one fun ride back in the day. The final Cad flathead was 346 cubic inches (according to Wiki) and would have been a lot of engine for that lightweight Chieftain, almost an 80 cubic inch advantage over the Pontiac straight 8.

  • avatar

    It amazes me how this thing survived this long. Surely, it was somone’s project car and sat out back for years until the owner died or his wife gave him the ultimatum to get rid of it. Truly, now just a piece of junk – and Murilee, don’t get any ideas, you don’t need another 1965-type project!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan Zachman, for you. This story makes me laugh cause I fear one day it will hit too close to home. I have an understanding woman but I know even she will have limits.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, another “dream” that ended up in rusty reality. If I were to go back to school for a Ph.D in Economics, I’d do my thesis on the economics of old car restoration. I’ll bet that 90+% of dream projects end up like this old tin Indian.

  • avatar

    The transmission is GM s famous cast iron case 4 speed hydro-matic used all through the 1940 s and 1950 s. This car transmission was so strong it was used in the army 2 1/2 ton truck. Early drag racers loved this trans and for a time it dominated the A-B-C-D Gas class.

    • 0 avatar

      Another interesting fact about that transmission, is that it was a 4 speed with no overdrive, meaning it had very similar gear spacing to modern 6 speed automatics 1st through 4th. It also had 3 planetary gearsets like modern transmission as well.

      • 0 avatar

        Also it had a “fluid coupling” instead of a torque converter. The fluid coupling was slightly more efficient but did not have the 2:1 or so torque multiplication that a converter has, hence the need for an extra gear. The modern lock up converter offers the best of both.

  • avatar

    Please enlighten an oldster: what are “billets” in this sense, and why are they bad?

    • 0 avatar

      I think it refers to billet aluminum bits on the engine. Billetproof is a reaction to the high-dollar highly-fabbed modern hot rods, favoring a throwback to 1950’s and 60’s-style hot rodding

    • 0 avatar
      Creature of the Wheel

      It wasn’t just engine bits. Around the mid-90s or so, probably coinciding with the spread of “affordable” CNC machining centers, everyone was selling machined aluminum wheels, gauge clusters, steering wheels, engine dress-up parts, etc. If a part could easily be unbolted and replaced, you could find someone selling a billet aluminum replacement. Billet aluminum spread like a social disease through car clubs and hot rod shows.

      I finished my car around that time and installed chromed steel wheels. I was ridiculed and repeatedly told I should get “cooler” wheels. When I sold the car 15 years later, the potential buyers liked how the wheels “fit the car.” Billet aluminum parts, like certain “Eliminator” paint schemes, really date a custom.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’m loving this custom sled personally. The flathead Cadillac V8 would make a heck of a base for a coffee table. (Perhaps if Murilee had looked at the tires more carefully we could have gotten an idea of when it was on the road last? You know bias ply/radial/brand and model name ect…)

    • 0 avatar

      Well from the pictures the tires appear to be radials, also some of the spark plug boots on the driver’s are from the 90’s at the oldest as Autolite didn’t start making those until then.

  • avatar

    Those gauges absolutely need to be saved, and probably should be mounted to your boombox.

  • avatar

    Here’s a 1950 Pontiac that went on a big Alaska-Yukon adventure this past summer.

    • 0 avatar

      “Here’s a 1950 Pontiac that went on a big Alaska-Yukon adventure this past summer.”

      Yikes! The roads up there would definitely NOT be kind to those big white walls!

  • avatar

    The hood is convict art, so, unless you want folks to think you spent time in the joint, I would avoid buying it.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The amber Chief is missing from the hood. The missing round tail lights were used on my brother’s 57 Corvette powered 52 Chevvie coupe in 1962. Thank you MM, I love the iron from this era.

  • avatar

    Judging by the paint on the front half of the car and the plug wires, etc, I’m guessing an engine fire took this guy out of commission.

  • avatar

    Oddly enough Tom showed up at our local Thursday night car show directly from his Alaskan journey this past summer and the car only had a minor layer of road grime on it. I was amazed.

  • avatar

    Pontiac and its mother company Oakland did use V8 engines left over from the ill-fated Viking project (built by Oldsmobile AFAIK) in the early thirties. However, as this engine – the first mass produced monobloc V8 – used a horizontal valve design with triangular type combustion chambers, it might not qualify as a flathead in the proper sence of the word. It also had a flat crank, so it probably wasn’t the smoothest running engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Years ago my father told me that in the 40s and 50s, the Pontiac dealers would occasionally install Cadillac engines in new Pontiacs. I was led to believe the engines were the newer OHV Cadillac engines though. I have never seen one, so this find is very interesting (even though it’s a flathead).
      Thanks for the pics,


  • avatar
    Andy D

    Speak of the devil. I followed a slightly older Silver Streak mebbe 47 or so. Jet black and shiny chrome. But still frumpy compared to the other GM fast backs of the time.

  • avatar

    A Caddy motor would make more sense for this time period, but Pontiac did have a V-8 in 1932. Neat find and photos!

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