The Midwest’s largest old car show held will again be held in Iola — the headquarters of Old Cars Weekly — on the second weekend in July. This year’s theme “Four for all in ‘14” will spotlight four-door vehicles.
Now, there is a notion that four-door cars just aren’t very collectible. However, when you give it some serious thought, you realize two things. First of all, four-door cars are becoming more appealing to collectors for several reasons. And secondly, there are some really rare and interesting four-door models like four-door T-birds, 1960s Lincoln-Continental phaetons and the car I’m writing about here today-the 1957 Pontiac Custom Star Chief Safari Transcontinental.
In the fall of 1956, Pontiac introduced a line of new 1957 models with modernized “Star Flight” styling. General features included missile-shaped side trim, flatter tailfins, extended rear fenders with V-shaped tips, lower hoods, a more massive bumper grille, longer horizontal taillights and 14-in. wheels.
The 1957 Pontiacs dropped the Silver Streak trim and were marketed as Chieftain, Super Chief and Star Chief models. The two-door Star Chief Custom Safari—a limited-edition hardtop station wagon like the Chevy Nomad—remained on the smaller Series 27 platform and again had a four-barrel V-8 as base engine. It had Star Chief trim. At midyear, a companion four-door Custom Safari Transcontinental station wagon was announced.
The Safari Transcontinental was a special car. In fact, it was introduced on Jan. 11, 1957, together with the very special Bonneville fuel-injected convertible. The Transcontinental had Bonneville-inspired side trim, a special bench seat with off-shoulder upholstery and a roof rack. It was priced at $3,481, which was going some for a car in ’57. That may be one reason why only 1,894 were built.
I believe the first time I ever saw a Transcontinental was in a junkyard in Indiana while on a trip for Old Cars Weekly around 1980. If I remember right, Ken Buttolph and I, along with Bob Lichty, were on our way back from the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction. Bob-who owns Motorcar Portfolio today-knew about the car in the junkyard. It was that metallic pea green color that looks great on this model. The wagon was good enough to restore and I should have bought it.
Some of you may have seen the Transcontinental wagon that my friend Lou Calisibetta of Old Stillwater Garage (www.oldstillwatergarage.com) customized with wood trim on the outside. He first did a ’58 Safari that way, then followed up with the coolest Transcontinental you’ll ever see.
Oh well, I didn’t buy the one in the junkyard. I wonder if someone else bought it and restored it or whether it went to the big crusher in the sky? In any case, I would love to see an original or restored (or customized) Transcontinental show up at the Iola Old Car Show this July.