The 1949 Chieftain is highly notable, being among Pontiac’s first new designs in the aftermath of WWII.
The Chieftain was Pontiac’s entry-level car. It was built on the same A-body platform as other General Motors vehicles. Its predecessor, the Pontiac Torpedo, was a mid-range car with plenty of amenities. Thus, it offered great value to shoppers, even without the whistles and bells of top-ranking models.
Chrome and other optional comfort features make the Chieftain a very appealing vehicle. Pontiac tried something new with the Chieftain in 194.
Like the rest of GM’s brands, Pontiac’s design evolved toward a lower, broader profile. In the first major redesign after World War II, the hoods of cars continued their trend of pushing forward toward the tops of the front fenders.
Instead of sticking out like pontoons, the front fenders are now flush with the side doors. Two examples of mechanical progress include a starting switch that has been moved from the floor to the dashboard and a counterbalanced trunk lid.
In 1949, Pontiac introduced the first vehicles to feature Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions. But a sedan delivery body style is available. This year, the Pontiac Chieftain replaced the Pontiac Torpedo as the 3M worth automobile ever produced.
In 1949, Pontiac redesigned its lineup under the leadership of Harley Earl. They looked more like Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs, with their long and lean silhouettes. The Chieftain stood out for its gorgeous good looks and powerful engines.
The Chieftain was the best option for the postwar and early cold war years of the 1950s. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the modern collector-car market. With fewer collectors exhibiting severe interest, the price of the Pontiac Chieftain has been steadily falling.
The First-Generation Pontiac Chieftain Overview
Both the 1949–1958 Pontiac Chieftain and the 1955–1958 Pontiac Streamliner were the first vehicles from the brand to feature an entirely new design since World War II ended. However, they were not the first Pontiacs produced after the war. In earlier iterations, the prewar design was tweaked ever-so-slightly.
In 1949, Pontiac introduced the Chieftain in many different configurations. These include Business Coupe, Deluxe Convertible Coupe, Sedan, and Sedan Coupe. There were four different engine options: a 106hp L-head 4.4L 8-cylinder, a 93hp L-head 3.9L inline-six, a 90hp L-head 3.9L inline-six, and a 103hp L-head 4.4L 8-cylinder. The engine’s compression ratio was the determining factor in its power output.
The A-body-based Chieftain succeeded the Torpedo. Also, the B-body Streamliner bore a striking resemblance to the A-body-based Chieftain in trim levels, size, powertrain, and optional features.
The two cars even had an optional automated interior light system. A Catalina Coupe joined the Chieftain lineup in 1950. The station wagon replaced the Streamliner wagon, discontinued in 1952.
The 1949 Pontiac Chieftain Features
Despite the 1949’s significantly redesigned exteriors and new wheelbases, Pontiac was almost indistinguishable from its 1948 predecessors. Under the hood, the six- and eight-cylinder engines saw slight alteration. It had kingpin-mounted coil springs on the front independent suspension and a leaf-sprung open rear axle.
Silver Streak straight-eight engines were the best of the bunch. At the same time, the base 239 CID six-cylinder engine was adequate. The autos were available with manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic and came in coupe, 4-door body, and sedan styles.
Pontiacs were merely fancier variants of the six-cylinder Chevrolet, differing primarily in appearance. They had a larger nose, unique grilles, and trim. Besides, Pontiac’s Herman Kaiser redesigned the entire lineup that year, 1949. He did it in large part by adopting the Harley Earl design lexicon.
Two of the manufacturer’s vehicles, the Chieftain, and the Streamliner, had a 120″ wheelbase.
An appealing Chieftain 8 caught our eye; it was painted in a sleek black and retained its original fabric interior trim. Despite the antique limousine’s disappointing collector value, its 4.4-liter 8-cylinder engine with a manual gearbox is beautiful. It is estimated that the unit is almost 70 years old. But its 109 horsepower is more than adequate for a swift getaway at the time!
Last but not least, the Chieftain’s reputation as the ideal gangster ride was earned by its less-than-noble history in the criminal underworld. For instance, the 1949 Pontiac Chieftain, with its silver streak eight engines, was the king of classic gangster cars and the envy of every hoodlum.