The Pontiac Chieftain is an automobile which was produced by Pontiac from 1949 to 1958. The 1949 Chieftain and Streamliner models were the first all new car designs to come from Pontiac in the post World War II years. Previous cars had been 1942 models with minor revisions.

The Chieftain was initially introduced with four models: Sedan, Sedan Coupe, Business Coupe, and Deluxe Convertible Coupe. In 1950, a Catalina Coupe was added to the range while a station wagon was added in 1952, with the demise of the top of the line Streamliner wagon.

1949 Chieftains came with a choice of four engines:

a 239.2 cu in L-head 6-cylinder engine making 90 horsepower (67 kW) at 3400 rpm
a 239.2 cu in L-head 6-cylinder engine making 93 horsepower (69 kW) at 3400 rpm
a 248.9 cu in L-head 8-cylinder making 103 horsepower (77 kW) at 3800 rpm
a 248.9 cu in L-head 8-cylinder making 106 horsepower (79 kW) at 3800 rpm
The horsepower differences between each of the 6- and 8-cylinder engines were due to changes in compression ratios.

Some of the more interesting optional items available for the first generation Chieftain included a radio with seven vacuum tubes,[2] tissue dispenser, under seat heaters, and a Remington Auto-Home shaver. In 1951, the horsepower on the 8-cylinder rose to 116.

The Chieftain came with a gas gauge, ammeter, oil pressure gauge, and a temperature gauge which had marks for 160, 180, and 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the 1952 model year, Pontiac discontinued the Streamliner leaving the Chieftain as their only offering. The Chieftain continued with the 120 inch wheelbase.

Engine offerings were basically the same except for the 8-cylinder which got a .2 cubic inch enlargement. Horsepower did increase by 10 on the 6-cylinder and by 15 on the 8-cylinder. Also, a red light to remind the driver that the parking brake was on was new.

In the May 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics, the Chieftain was rated 14.9 seconds for a 0-60 mph time. Front head room was 36 inches, while rear head room was 35.75 inches.

In 1953, Pontiac came with a new body style, offering a 122 in (3,099 mm) wheelbase, and sleeker lines. The windshield was now one piece, and a panoramic rear window was standard. Pontiacs sported accentuated bubbled-up fins in the rear for the first time in 1953.

The six-cylinder engine was standard. There was a lower-equipped Chieftain Special and a better-equipped Chieftain Deluxe line, as well as the Custom Catalina two-door hardtop coupe. A light-up plastic Chief Pontiac hood ornament that illuminated with the headlights adorned the front end.

The Star Chief was added to the Pontiac line in 1954 and the Chieftain was moved down to entry level status. Both cars were built on the A-body shell, but the new Star Chief had an 11 in (279 mm) extension added to its frame. Also in 1954, 8-cylinder engines increased by about nine horsepower due to carburetor changes, up to 122 hp (91 kW) for the manual and 127 hp (95 kW) for the Hydra-Matic. The 6-cylinder engines remained unchanged.

Pontiac was the last GM division to abandon its prewar inline eight engines as Oldsmobile and Cadillac had adopted modern OHV V8s in 1949 and Buick in 1953.

The 1953-54 Pontiacs had been meant for the division's new OHV 287 V8; however, Buick division managers succeeded in delaying its launch until 1955 to avoid upstaging their "Nailhead" Buick V8.

Partially because of competition from Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Buick, and partially because Pontiac still lacked a V8, total sales fell by 30% in 1954.

Also in 1954, power brakes, "power lift" windows (only for the front doors), as well as air-conditioning were offered as extra cost options for the first time.

The 1954 Pontiacs have the distinction of the first production car in the US to have an air conditioning system in the modern sense with in-dash controls. In addition, a far more responsive and fully adjustable front seat was added.[2]

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