The advertising slogan proclaimed: "The Most Beautiful Thing on Wheels" and I believe that most would agree the 1949 Pontiac was a very pretty automobile. The body shells were completely new, the first true post-war styles to wear the Pontiac nameplate. There were still 2 model lines; the Streamliner name carried over from '48 on the "fastback" style B-body while the conventional-trunk A-body was now known as the Chieftain. The Torpedo name, in use since 1940, was retired along with the pre-war bodies.
The Chieftain line consisted of 2 and 4 door sedans with roll-down side windows; a short roof 2 door sedan with sliding rear windows, available as a "club" coupe with a rear seat or a "business" coupe without one; and finally a 2 door convertible.
The Streamliner offered 2 and 4 door sedans; 2 station wagons, either wood with a metal roof or all metal construction; plus a sedan delivery. Standard trim station wagons featured the 3 seat/8 passenger configuration while Deluxe trim station wagons were 2 seat/6 passenger jobs. All models were available in Standard or Deluxe trim except for the business coupe and the sedan delivery which were only available in Standard trim. Standard trim models can be identified by hub caps, rubber gravel guards and body colored headlight trim rings. Deluxe trim offered full wheel covers, stainless steel gravel guards plus body-side trim and stainless headlight rings. The belt-molding trim also flared beneath the rear windows on all but the Deluxe station wagons.
Standard interior trim featured rubber floor mats, gray pin-stripe upholstery in sedans and coupes, dual sun visors, cigar lighter plus front and rear ash trays and a plain tee-spoke steering wheel. Standard upholstery for the station wagon was tan imitation leather; brown for the sedan delivery. Deluxe station wagon upholstery was a fabric and leather combination; the same for convertibles. The Deluxe trim offered rear carpet, dark gray wool broadcloth upholstery with button-tufted seat backs and steering wheel with chrome trim and full horn ring.
The Chieftain and Streamliner both rode on a 120" wheelbase chassis; the first time since 1934 that only one wheelbase was available. The wheel diameter was reduced by 1 inch and mounted low pressure 4 ply tires, the standard size was 7.10 x 15 with 7.60 x 15 optional for sedans and convertibles only. The standard tires for a station wagon or sedan delivery were black-wall, 7.10 x 15, 6 ply and the only available option was the same tire as a white-wall.
Styling was the big news; the drivelines basically carried over from '48 with regard to engines and transmissions. Probably the biggest change for the driver was push-button starting; the foot-operated starter pedal was retired for the final time. All models were available with either the 6 or 8 cylinder engine and your choice of synchromesh or Hydra-Matic transmission. Pontiac was the lowest-price automobile available with Hydra-Matic, and in 1949 none of the big 3 even offered a fully automatic transmission.
There were numerous minor mechanical/engineering changes; eight cylinder engines came standard with the compound fuel/vacuum pump. It was optional on six cylinder models. The synchromesh transmission was lengthened so that the driveshaft could be standardized for either application. The cooling fan saw an increase in diameter combined with a decrease in the blade pitch; the water pump was mounted lower on the front of the block as well. Radiator hoses were changed to a butyl-rubber compound and the accessory fuse panel was relocated from the outside of the firewall to the inside.
An extensive list of optional equipment was available for the 1949 Pontiac; there is no doubt that the option list played a major roll in the coming domination of the middle-priced family sedan class by Pontiac. Dodge and Mercury were direct competitors and they couldn't begin to offer what was available to the Pontiac buyer even as late as 1954.
The 3 millionth Pontiac was built in February of 1949. The model year saw 304,819 Pontiac's produced, 235,165 were 8 cylinder cars and 203,964 were equipped with Hydra-Matic. Pontiac sold 21.2% of vehicles in its price class this year.
I need to thank Bill Brecht and Bob Graves for sending material for this article; I also need to thank Bob Graves for what he sent last month! I completely forgot as we worked to finish the issue and get it to the printer.