1954 Pontiac Chieftain wagon seats eight

Farm Forum

Returning home from the Navy in the 1950s, Robert Montague went to visit his Aunt Caroline in Lexington, Ky. While there she graciously reacquainted Montague with his cousins, uncles and other aunts. In order to meet the long lost relatives, she drove her nephew about the area in her relatively new 1954 Chieftain Eight Pontiac station wagon.

By the mid-1960s, Montague had settled in southern Virginia. About that time his aunt had died and her son and daughter took possession of the Pontiac. Soon thereafter the brakes failed and the Chieftain Eight was parked in a barn with the thought of eventually restoring the old station wagon. There it slumbered for 27 years, until the decision was made to pass the car onto someone who could appreciate the family history of the Pontiac. That would be Robert Montague.

He went to see the old four-door, eight-passenger Pontiac Chieftain Eight station wagon and discovered that it was fairly sound, with the exception of the failed brake system and the seized straight-eight 268.4-cubic-inch engine.

A local garage was up to the challenge of returning the Pontiac to roadworthy condition. The 127-horsepower engine was overhauled so that it could once more send power through the dual range Hydramatic transmission to turn the 7.10×15-inch tires. The original color of green paint was applied and an artist was employed to recreate the wood grain trim on the flanks of the 3,771-pound car.

He assumed ownership of the Pontiac in 1992. Since then he has enjoyed exhibiting the Pontiac at antique car shows and taking part in parades. He has strived to keep his Pontiac roadworthy. As with anything mechanical, moving parts sometimes need to be replaced. A new water pump had to be replaced and the valve needed to be grounded. A catastrophic fan belt failure delivered a hole in the radiator, which prompted Montague in early May of 2012 to have his Pontiac refurbished.

With the exception of the floor mats the interior upholstery remains original. Because the “wood” trim on the wagon actually is painted on the metal Montague calls his car a “Tin Woody.”

Both bumpers displayed a few nicks and dings, so Montague sent them off to California to be ironed out and replated with chrome. All went well until the bumpers were lost by the shipping company on the return trip. Eventually the now damaged bumpers were located, re-replated with chrome and sent back to an anxious Montague.

Because Montague’s aunt selected a “stripper” model, the 1954 Pontiac has no radio and the two-spoke steering wheel has no horn ring. The one-piece windshield, however, is tinted at the top.

“It has vacuum windshield wipers,” Montague reports, “they do work in a sluggish way.”

When new, the 17-foot, 1.5-inch-long car had a base price of $2,494. As an extra cost option the popular Hydramatic transmission was often ordered. The gear selection from left to right is Neutral, Drive 1, Drive 2, Low, Reverse. The Reverse gear could double as a parking brake, although most Pontiac drivers of the day made use of the emergency brake. The odometer when Montague acquired the car had recorded about 77,000 miles and now is nearing 92,300 miles.

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