What Is It?

Last week’s photo showed the 1957 Pontiac Safari, a sporty two-door wagon based on the Chevrolet Nomad. The image itself was taken from one for the U.S. Postal Service’s Fins and Chrome series of stamps in 2008 honoring American cars of the 1950s. It was a beautiful stamp for a memorable car.


Chosen randomly from the correct entries was that of Jeff Keevil, of Martinez, who told us:

“A four-door version was available, too. The photo shows the two-door tailgate that is more slanted than the four-door version. The two-door versions were available as a Star Chief Custom and a Chieftain.

“My Aunt Claire had a green four-door version of this model with the powerful 347 V-8 – and she used it!”

Keevil wins a gift from The Augusta Chronicle.

Here are the other readers who submitted entries in the contest. Unless otherwise noted, they correctly identified the 1957 Safari:

AIKEN: Don Cook guessed a 1958 Pontiac station wagon.

Ann Willbrand recognized the 1957 Safari.

AUGUSTA: Sam Roney said that he had a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief and that the only thing he didn’t like about it was the lack of air conditioning back then: “Other than that, it was a great-riding car. It was a four-door hardtop with the wraparound windshield. Off-white and tan. I traded it for a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop.”

Gary Engen said: “It’s a 1957 Pontiac Safari station wagon, probably the two-door Custom Safari model, or it could even be the top-of-the-line Star Chief Custom. These wagons were Pontiac’s version of the Chevy Nomad station wagon but are much rarer. I’d love to own one today.”

Walker Mobley Jr. said: “I have always been a ‘car guy’ and have tried quite a few things with cars and motorcycles. Some worked great and others did not.

“I got my car interest from my dad, who was with the Packard dealership here in the 1930s-50s. I remember spending time on the showroom floor and service department watching and asking questions. (Liability insurance was not as big of an issue then).

“This week’s 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Safari station wagon body style was used, I believe, from 1955-57. This was the same body style as the Chevrolet Nomad station wagon. A good friend of mine had a ’55 Pontiac wagon that we must have put 10,000 miles on just going places. We even ran it on occasion at the Jackson Drag Strip. These were good cars, and it’s unfortunate Pontiac and Oldsmobile also were dropped from GM’s product line. As always, keep these puzzles coming!”

L.W. Helmly said: “The six bars on the tailgate indicate it’s a Nomad or Safari; it’s not a Nomad, so it must be a Safari. The taillight indicates it’s a ’57. General Motors produced the two-door wagons from 1955-57. Then, as now, most wagons were four-doors. They were expensive, costing about the same as a convertible, so production numbers were very low.

“Most might have been ordered with a V-8, but six-cylinders were available in Chevrolets. Over the years, I have seen a few six-cylinders. I think a flathead eight was available for Pontiac, thought I can’t confirm it. I have a ’57 Nomad, and we have a 1956 Safari in the GASCAR Club, which put on the car show at Boshears (SkyFest).”

John Hayes wrote: “I think today’s auto is a 1957 Pontiac Safari. My parents had various models of Pontiac of that vintage, and they were great cars.”

Dalton Brannen wrote: “Most station wagons were four-door, but this model was comparatively upscale and was a two-door with horizontally sliding windows for the rear-seat passengers.”

Alvin Floyd thought it was the similar Chevy Nomad.

Willie Thomas said: “I had a 1956 Star Chief two-door hardtop.”

Lowell Fritsche said a 1956 Nomad.

Gary Fuller said: “I had one of those and it was a good car.” He bought a 1957 Safari in 1965 for $35 and drove it for two years before someone shot out the back glass with a BB gun.”

Also, Tom Turner, Tom Wall and Billy Schafer

BLYTHE: Jo Ann Holbert

CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “Unless you are a 1950s Pontiac or Chevy Nomad fan, you might not know that at the same time Chevrolet was marketing the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon Pontiac was also offering it as the Pontiac Safari wagon.

“Sharing the cost of the basic tooling for the car both saved Chevy the full cost of development and made the Pontiac Safari a reality. Of course the Safari appears to be all Pontiac with its unique Pontiac front and rear styling along with its interior treatment, but underneath all of that is a Chevy Nomad in disguise.

“The teaser shot certainly identifies this as a Pontiac wagon, and the chrome strips adorning the tailgate further identify it as the Star Chief Custom two-door station wagon, as it was known in 1957. For 1955 and ’56, the Safari moniker was found only on the Nomad-derived two-door station wagon, but in 1957, it was expanded to include all Pontiac wagon offerings.

“I have looked through all of the pictures I have personally taken at car shows, cruise-ins and other old-car gatherings, and I have never seen a Pontiac wagon four-door or two-door. With total 1955-57 production of the Safari two-door wagon less than half of the 20,092 production run of the Chevy Nomad, seeing one of these at all is truly rare.

“For whatever reason, the collector car hobby glommed on to the 1955-57 Chevys and pretty much left the rest of the GM lineup for these model years behind. Seeing a non-Chevy GM offering from the ’50s is a rare site, even at a Pontiac Club-sponsored event because most attention to the Pontiacs is concentrated on the 1960s muscle cars, even among the club members.

“There is a big Pontiac-Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac co-sponsored event this weekend May 2-3. Check out http://bopcshow.com/ for the location and plan on attending if you can. Who knows – maybe we will all get to see one of these rare wagons.”

EVANS: Larry Heath wrote: “Introduced in 1955, it was a two-door sport wagon very similar to the Chevy Nomad. Both were produced in the sport version from 1955 to 1957. The vehicle had only two doors and a tailgate. The front doors were the hardtop design with no window frames. The rear glass slanted forward to give it a sporty appearance. The interior had some additional trim to distinguish it from the regular wagons.

“The concept for these vehicles was not that different from the crossover utility vehicles of today. It was a practical vehicle with a sporty flair.”

Wayne Wilke wrote: “Both Safari and Nomad were two-door ‘sport wagons’ with unique and attractive designs vs. stodgy standard four-door station wagons. The ’57 Pontiacs had the new 347-cubic-inch V-8s, which heralded the influence towards high performance and sportier cars brought by new General Manager Bunkie Knudsen.”

Delmage Taylor wrote: “It’s a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Safari station wagon, maybe the two-door model? I don’t remember if there were both two- and four-door models.”

Glenn Frostholm wrote: “I immediately identified the picture of a fiftysomething Pontiac, but was unsure if it was a ’56 or ’57. Google helped. Keep the oldies coming.”

Bill Harding wrote: “Pontiac manufactured its two-door Safari station wagons for the 1955-57 model years, sharing body and frame components (and thus, tooling costs) with the Chevrolet Nomad. However, Pontiacs had unique front and rear bumpers, side moldings, grilles and taillights. Interiors were uniquely Pontiac, too.

“Under the hood, Pontiac’s V-8 engine (enlarged to 347 cubic inches) was available in several power variations, including Tri-Power (three two-barrel carburetors) with either the three-speed manual or the four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.

“Safari sales were not good, with Nomad outselling it more than two-to-one, making Pontiac’s 1957 Safaris quite rare and very collectible. The postal service has issued a commemorative 42-cent stamp honoring the ’57 Safari as part of its ‘America on the Move’ series.”

Paul Perdue wrote: “If you look real close, you can see letters ‘PO’ in the picture. Thanks for the hint ... ”

PJ Rodgers wrote: “It’s a 1957 Pontiac Safari, the cousin to the Chevrolet Nomad.”

Phillip Dominy was just a tad off but still in the General Motors family, guessing the 1956 Buick station wagon.

Also, Jerry Paul, Pam and Richard Gilmer, Jim Williamson and Sam Cruse

GIRARD, GA.: Henry Glisson said: “It was equivalnt to the Nomad and the Buick Caballero station wagons. It lasted one more year and then quit production on account of low sales.”

GROVETOWN: Yvonne Rolling knew it was a 1957 but thought it might be a Chevy or Ford station wagon.

Jack Williams said: “(The Safari) looked a lot like the Chevrolet Nomad of that year. It was a beautiful car, but you can hardly find one today, and if you could it would be a treasure.”

Woodrow Youngblood said he thought it was the Chevy wagon for 1957.

Also, Carolyn Wiggins

HEPHZIBAH: Ralph Whitton said: “It is the Pontiac version of the 1957 Chevy Bel-Air Nomad.”

Leo Bennett said it might be a 1956 or ’57 Buick wagon.

Also, John Williams and Eddie Cleaves.

JACKSON: Michael Tilley settled on the Nomad: “I had a ’56 Nomad myself.”

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner said: “The Star Chief Custom Safari was Pontiac’s answer to Chevrolet’s Nomad. 1957 Safaris came with a 347-cubic-inch engine with two- and four-barrel carburetors or even a three two-barrel setup.”

LOUISVILLE, GA.: Bob Holbert said: “Pretty easy one this week. It is a 1957 Pontiac station wagon, probably a Star Chief, given the extra chrome around the taillights. Otherwise, it is a Safari model. My father had a ’57 Star Chief four-door sedan that I loved to drive because of the big V-8 it had. Lots of chrome front and back. Notice also the exhaust through the bumper. That caused the chrome to look sooty most of the time.”

MARTINEZ: Jim Muraski said: “This week’s vehicle is a 1957 Pontiac Safari. It’s a cousin to my dream car from last week’s question, a Chevy Nomad. I saw one of these sitting in someone’s yard several years ago about 40 miles from here. Makes me curious if it’s still there!”

Lloyd Schnuck said: “A total of 1,292 were built, sister to the Chevy Nomad and originally exhibited as a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Motorama concept car. Production shifted to Chevrolet and Pontiac to build as full-size vehicles. Pontiacs were built by General Motors from 1926-2010 and was considered the performance line.”

Christopher March Sr. wrote: “In 1957, Pontiac applied the Safari nameplate to all its station wagons in all its production lines. This would include Chieftain Super Chief and the Star Chief. This was a two-door with a 347-cubic-inch engine.”

MCBEAN: Robert Lamb


PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “This week, it’s a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Safari sport wagon two-door.”

TIGNALL, GA.: Gene Wilson said: “I thought it was a Nomad but go to looking at the bumper and taillight and saw it’s a Pontiac Star Chief Safari.”


NO CITY LISTED: Jose Torres.

BEECH ISLAND: George Dunaway said: “It was the Pontiac version of the Nomad.”


All we need this week is the year and make of this automobile. For example, your guess might be in the form of “1959 Edsel.” (If you have any trouble identifying this week’s photo, just imagine what television’s Hazel Burke might say to describe this car.)

Send your e-mail to glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com or leave a message at (706) 823-3419.

Tell us your name, telephone number and city. Please spell your name if you call. And although we love to hear your reminiscences or comments on the car, we can’t print published material lifted whole-cloth from the Internet.

The deadline to enter is midnight Tuesday. We might edit your entries for space, style and content, and we will pick a winner randomly.

– Glynn Moore, staff writer



Thu, 11/23/2017 - 17:28

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