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Flashback Fridays – 1957 Pontiac Chieftain

Pontiac Chieftain 1957Along with Chevrolet and Buick, Pontiac underwent major design changes in 1955, but the enhancements for 1957 were particularly noteworthy. Bunkie Knudsen, Pontiac’s new chief, is credited with driving much of the change. However, the influence of John DeLorean and Pete Estes was also expressed in the form of more power under the hood.


1957 Pontiac Chieftain – Styling

The look of the Chieftain was certainly changed in 1957 as new “Starflight” styling was introduced. Gone were the shiny trim stripes on the hood, and the hood itself was lowered. Rocket-style side trim was a new feature, and the tailfins grew in size. By 1957, the previous split bumper had been replaced by a one-piece design, accompanied by round bumper guards.

The Chieftain was sold as a two-door coupe and a four-door sedan in both Special and Deluxe trim levels. There was also a Catalina two-door coupe and a hardtop sedan. Two-door Colony station wagons were also a part of the lineup.



The power of even the base 347 cu-in engine was increased to 252 hp, and the most powerful engine was rated at a maximum 317 hp. To put this kind of power into perspective, the base engine of the Chieftain just two years earlier was only good for 173 hp. Some of this added power is attributable to changes in carburetion. Now, four-barrel and Tri-power options were available. In fact, the Tri-power versions debuted in 1957.


Speed Record Set

When Bunkie Knudsen drove a special fuel-injected Chieftain during the 1957 Daytona Beach Speed event, he set a new lap record of 131.47 mph. The legend of the 1957 Chieftain was further enhanced by Pontiac’s Grand National victory. The 101.6 mph average speed was a full 11 mph faster than that achieved the previous year.

The styling changes and engine enhancements combined to drive Pontiac to new levels of sales success. In 1957, it sold over half-a-million units, which was good for sixth place among American auto manufacturers. The Chieftain accounted for 58.2 percent of Pontiac sales in 1957.

The fact that the 1957 Pontiac Chieftain had so much more power than its predecessors has made it a favorite among classic car collectors. Today, expertly restored versions typically bring $10,000 to $16,000 at auction.


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