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Search for oldest Pontiacs ends successfully

Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance went on the search for the oldest Pontiacs, and found them.
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As well, they have discovered the oldest Pontiac still with its original owner.

Both will be honored at this year’s Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance to be held Sept 12-13 in Westport.

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Paul Jaszczak's 1926 Pontiac: the nation's oldest.

The nationwide search for America’s Oldest Pontiac turned up a 1926 Pontiac Two Door Coach, owned by Paul Jaszczak from Minnetonka, Minn. Built in 1926, the year Pontiac was introduced as a “companion brand” next to Oakland, the car was sold new at Fishman-Holm Oakland-Pontiac on Harmon Place in Minneapolis.

Owner Paul Jaszczak revealed what he knows: “The seller told me that this car was ordered as one of the first Pontiac in the United States by the dealer himself as a tribute to his father who had passed away that very year. It was ordered and put into the small two-car showroom on Harmon Place where it resided for years, maybe as many as 50.” The car still sports the original, 83-year-old spare wheel cover made by Fishman-Holm Pontiac back in the day. The car was later sold on to another owner who then advertised it back in 2002 as “1926 Pontiac, 13,000 miles.”

While Jaszczak initially had no idea Pontiacs where built as early as 1926, he convinced his father to have a drive out to see the car. While Jaszczak’s father was still contemplating whether something as ostentatious as a Pontiac would suit him, Paul was taken by the outstanding quality and completeness of the car. He offered to foot half of the cost and thus the Pontiac found a new home.

Over the years Paul managed to accumulate more information about his car and about the model in general. Even an original owner’s manual turned up, which allowed Paul many insights into the operational and technical details of his car. “There even was a recall in 1926 when this car came out brand new. The transmission’s throw-out bearing apparently was originally made out of carbon, and was to be replaced by the same unit made out of Bakelite, according to the Pontiac literature I was given by a close associate of mine who learned to drive in a 1926 Pontiac. I doubt that my car ever received the new part, as it remained off the road for so many years.”

When the nationwide search of the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance made waves across the country, Paul heard about it in Minnesota and entered his car. “At first even I wasn’t sure this car is a 1926 model, but research with the Pontiac Historic Society confirmed it was.”

While Pontiac number 1 resides at the GM headquarters in Michigan, Paul’s 1926 Pontiac Two-Door Coach turns out to be America’s Oldest Pontiac in private ownership.

Also found: The oldest Pontiac still with its original owner
When in 1955 North Carolina residents Ned “Pete” and Elsie Sanders took out their 1954 Pontiac on a trip up Mt. Mitchell, on North Carolina’s highest road, his car had trouble keeping up with Elsie’s father’s much older 1939 Buick. They were having none of this and – as was custom in those days – headed straight for the local Pontiac dealer for the newest model. This time it was to be a no-frills performance version.

Ned "Pete" Sanders' 1955 Pontiac Star Chief: the oldest Pontiac
still with its original owner.

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So at McLean Pontiac in Lenoir, NC, Ned factory-ordered a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief with a clear focus on speed. “No power steering, no power brakes, nothing that would have added weight and compromised performance,” remembers Sanders, who is now 87. The car was delivered on July 15, 1955, painted in popular two-tone paint, brown and cream.

While his wife passed away a few years back, Ned Sanders still owns this 1955 Pontiac Star Chief to this day.

“You have to imagine my mother,” recalls Sanders’ son Doug, “all of her 5ft 2 in and 105 lbs behind the truck-sized steering wheel of the Pontiac, which was known all over the area as ‘Elsie’s car’. She drove it for many years before it was put into storage for the first time. When my youngest sister learned to drive, it was taken out again and she drove it for some years in the 1970s before it was put back into storage for another 20 years.” It was not before the 21st century when the car was taken out again and once more put on the roads of Lenoir, North Carolina.

Today, the car has 65,000 miles on it, the paint is thin and some surface rust is showing, but Ned points out “it is all original. Nothing was ever done to it. This is the way it was when my dad picked it up in 1955. I was 11 then and my brother Gary, who will bring the car to the event, wasn’t even born.”

While Ned will be busy piloting his 1953 Greyhound bus to a local bus show that same weekend, brother Gary and his wife Rhonda will accompany the Sanders’ pride and joy to the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance in Westport on Sept. 12 and 13.

“This search and the award to our father’s car means so much to us. It has spurred a kind of family reunion; we are all busy scouring pictures of our childhood to find images of our family with the car when it was new. We will bring them to the event.”

Both cars will be transported to the Connecticut event courtesy of FedEx Custom Critical, while the owners enjoy First Class travel, courtesy of United Airlines and a three-night’s stay at the world-renowned Mandarin Oriental New York, courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotels.

Both cars will also be participating in Saturday’s Nutmeg Tour for Autism and will be the stars of the Pontiac Display at the Fairfield Concours on Sunday. 

Other notable Pontiacs expected at the event include an early 1927, a 1940 Pontiac Deluxe Six, a ’59 Bonneville, a ’63 Tempest and the original muscle car, the infamous ’64 GTO.

The Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance is one of the leading events of its kind in the United States. It presents 100 years of significant motor vehicles in a chronological display and highlights notable examples of automotive history in special exhibitions and classes. In 2009, the event has expanded to a full weekend of on-field activities with an extended classic car tour and extensive club meet on Saturday as well as the established Concours on Sunday.

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