Car Collector's Corner. This 1947 "Pontota" Police Transport Wagon is Definitely One of a Kind

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland
car collector s corner this 1947 pontota police transport wagon is definitely one

The first thing that drew us to this 1947 Pontiac was its history. It was originally a paddy wagon or “Black Maria,” where a ride in this police vehicle meant that you were running out of luck in a hurry.

These days a ride in Hugh Thurston’s retro-wagon means a whole lot of happiness for him. He calls it a “Pontota”, because it is a Pontiac body on top of a Toyota 4-Runner frame and power train.

It took Hugh three long winters to forge a bond between the Pontiac body and Toyota frame, and he would not recommend the experience to the faint of heart.

The result is a driver quality vehicle that will fulfill its primary purpose as a great road vehicle until the snow flies and the next round of restoration begins over the winter. Right now Hugh wants to enjoy the view from behind the wheel of his Pontota. He’s already logged thousands of miles behind the wheel with many more to come with a journey to the East Coast planned for the fall.

It can double as a camper on road trips for Hugh, plus it pulls down around 30 mpg on the highway although Hugh allowed that a recent trip of several thousand miles was “closer to 27 mpg”. He admits that he “was probably driving the old wagon a lot faster on that trip”.

Nevertheless, the high 20s to low 30s miles per gallon range tell you that this is a very good combination when Hugh and the old paddy wagon hit the open road together.

Hugh seemed mildly surprised when he found that his vehicle drew so much attention when we met him at a car show. We weren’t surprised. A 1947 Pontiac paddy wagon is a story by itself. A 1947 Pontota is in a class by itself.

Together they make one of the most interesting resto-mods that we have ever seen in our travels.

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3 of 20 comments
  • HONDA550 HONDA550 on Mar 16, 2012

    This drivetrain gets 18-20 mpg in its original body. How does is get 30 here? Part of driving an old car to me is the sound and feel of the old drivetrain. Guess that's not important to others.

    • Jim Sutherland Jim Sutherland on Mar 16, 2012

      MPG reports based upon owner's narrative- hyperbole may apply in some cases. Incidentally I agree on a personal level with you about cars that have their original hearts. There is something special about old school sights, sounds and even exhaust smells.

  • Beefmalone Beefmalone on Mar 21, 2012

    Gotta call BS on 30mpg. Even in original form it the 4runner wasn't getting anywhere near that and it's not like the Pontiac body weighs less.

  • Jeffrey An all electric entry level vehicle is needed and as a second car I'm interested. Though I will wait for it to be manufactured in the states with US components eligible for the EV credit.
  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.