1948 “A fine car made even finer”
This was the advertising slogan for the 1948 Pontiac and it proved to be a very unique model year, blending old with new. It was the final year for the Fisher A and B-bodies that had been designed before the war and also for the Torpedo name that first appeared in 1940. The biggest news was the introduction of the well-proven Hydra-Matic as optional equipment; Pontiac was the least expensive automobile on the market offering a fully automatic transmission. Hydra-Matic was available with either the six or eight cylinder engine and proved to be very popular.
The Torpedo series was built on a 119” wheelbase chassis using the A-body that Pontiac shared with Chevrolet; the Streamliner models featured the fast-back styled B-body on a 122” chassis. The interior styling and especially the emblems marked the final appearance of Chief Pontiac done with geometric precision and style that became prevalent in 1930’s to signify everything most modern. (Andi & I are particularly fond of that styling.)
This was the first year that standard and Deluxe styling themes appeared that would continue through the end of the ETC era. The standard models came with rubber gravel guards and a minimum of bright trim while the Deluxe models were adorned with stainless steel gravel guards and additional sweep spears on their flanks.
Silver Streak script appeared on the hood near the cowl, separated by the number 8 on cars so equipped; hence the mistaken belief that Silver Streak was the model designation. You always know when you’re talking to someone outside of the Pontiac community when they refer to your car as a Silver Streak!
The Indian head hood ornament was the same for both six and eight cylinder cars; the tail lights were simply round, a styling theme that would remain for years to come. By the early fifties these basic, round tail lights were a staple of the hot rod crowd and a significant number of custom cars featured them. It’s not uncommon to see them now, a tribute to their clean and simple design.
Pontiac sold every car it could produce in 1948 since auto production had yet to catch up with the post-war demand for new cars. There wasn’t any need for product improvement to enhance sales but Pontiac engineers continued to do what they had always done; make a good car better. The ignition coils were oil-filled and hermetically sealed; a vast improvement over the tar-filled variety at dissipating heat, the mortal enemy of any coil. Neoprene jacketing was used for the spark plug leads and “boots” to seal the terminals.
The blending of old and new technology lead to a “Rube Goldberg” arrangement of connecting linkage regarding the tried and true starter pedal when combined with the safety aspect of preventing an automatic transmission car from being started while “in gear”. This linkage shifted the transmission into Neutral when you stepped on the starter; a system that requires a significant amount of space in the service manual to illustrate all of the pieces and outline the adjustment procedures!
There was another section of the service manual that dealt with a very unfortunate, but all too true aspect of driving encountered following the war; extensive controls for those that lost limbs but still needed the ability to drive on their own. I expect that Hydra-Matic was viewed as a God-send to many returning veterans.
The list of available accessories was growing; both factory and dealer installed. I believe it can be effectively argued that Pontiac accomplished more than any other manufacturer by combining a reliable automobile with an extensive list of optional equipment and accessories.
There’s no doubt that Pontiac automobiles were cast iron reliable; especially when compared to any other cars in its price range. Pontiac also had the distinct advantages of Fisher Bodies, Delco Remy electrical systems and Hydra-Matic transmissions. These elements came together for Pontiac in a way that allowed them to achieve production numbers only exceeded by the low-priced 3, (Chevy, Ford, Plymouth) and Buick.
Bill Harris with his '48 Pontiac. Bill & Wanda Harris with their '48 Convertible