1957 Pontiac Star Chief

An Extraordinary Restoration by a bunch of Classic Folks.

Project Diary – 2010

January 2010

206Happy New Year! Well, the hood, trunk lid and front fenders are all done and the doors are about done too. We’re pretty much done with cleaning the frame too. Just a bit more to do on the front end. The fuel filter is hooked up and the fuel tank has be reinstalled. We’re going to run a new wire from the sending unit to the gas gauge…the fuel level will actually register on the gauge when done. The brakes are all assembled and the shocks are on. The master cylinder is waiting on Bob to drill the holes in the firewall. A great source has been found for the paint so it’s starting to come together…everything is hinging on the bodywork and paint right now.


February & March 2010

100_1046Things slowed down a bit as we took a break during the weather changes in January and February but now we’re slowly getting back into the swing of things especially now that the weather is giving us sunny breaks between rain showers.
Rod M. is finishing up on the bodywork and it is looking great! What an artist! So much so, that we will be ready to paint prettty soon. We’ve ordered parts to get the front end put back together. We’ve rebuilt the control arms for the front suspension and ordered the new pins. You should of seen the upper and lower control arms when we first got them taken apart. To say that they were gunky and nasty (Diane’s words) is an understatement. Now, thanks to Richard G, Dave G. and a few others, they’re cleaned up and almost as good as new.

The brakes are almost done too. Bob (aka SOB) has got the original chromed brake pedal set up with the new braking assemby. It took some fancy ‘footwork’ to get the old pedal to work with the new assemby but where there’s a will (or a Bob), there’s a way! All it needs is to be adjusted. So cool!

To say that the finish line is in sight may be a bit of a stretch but it’s starting to get more exciting as we start thinking about painting and putting this project all back together. Thank goodness we’ve been taking lots of photos throughout this whole process. Maybe we can even remember what slot A and slot B look like and which goes where. Hopefully, we won’t have too many extra pieces when we’re done. Don’t you just love the challenge?

If you want to help out and join the project, contact Ron O. at 274-3673. There’s still a lot to do and it’s definitely been a fun project so far. Come on by SOB’s garage and see what’s going on!


April 2010

Pontiac_May101There’s not a lot to report this month. We’re in a gathering mode trying to get all the parts and pieces together to put the front end back together. We’ve got the calipers conversion kit for the disc brakes from a ’69 El Dorado and the rotors from a Chevy pickup. We’ve also got the steering cross thingy to the steering box out to the wheels and the disc brakes are on. (Stopping is good!) All we need now are the seals and bearings. The next ‘move’ is to trailer the car over to Rod M.’s to start the painting process. Wait! Paint?! Yes, you heard right…it looks like paint is in this Pontiac’s near future.

Pontiac_pmache4Paper mashed Pontiac to the right – is a paper version that Diane made inspired by this Pontiac project. It’s a paper mache version of the 1957 Pontiac. It’s roughly 2 feet long, 1 foot high and 1 foot wide…made from grocery bags, newspaper, masking tape (and a couple of hidden pieces of duct tape for good measure) and it’s painted in the project colors of Fontaine Irridescent blue and Kenya ivory, chromed bumpers and front grill…well, ok, not really, but sort of just inspired.


May 2010

Pontiac5_2010_12The Pontiac took a road trip today (Friday, May 28th at 9:30am) and headed down Hwy 174 towards its new temporary home at Rod’s. Rod, with the help of some of his friends, is taking on the daunting task of painting the car. He is setting up a paint booth in his carpentry shop – it has easy access in and out – makes you think that maybe he has some other large projects going on in that shop.

The other big deal (ok, it’s all a BIG deal!) is a group of us participated in the Wyotech Car Show on May 8 in West Sacramento. Great show! Bob M. took the Pontiac seats with us and spoke with the upholstery instructor, Vince Delgado. They are going to take the interior of the Pontiac on as a class project! Now that’s a great big deal!

So, the current status is full speed ahead! Stay tuned…this is one exciting ride!


June 2010

Rod & RonSome people are craftsmen and they pride themselves in doing a good, no, let me rephrase that, great job in whatever they do. Rod is a carpenter by trade and he took on the daunting task of painting the Pontiac. As any craftsman knows, it’s the prep work that makes the paint shine so Rod also worked on a lot of the bodywork himself too (along with a lot of other ‘craftsmen’). Several people showed up to help Rod do the prep work and they even let me (a girl) sand…or do some of the ‘grunt work’ as it is affectionately called sometimes.

The amazing part of this process is just that…the parts. There are so many of them. And they have to be primed, sanded and resanded. Then there’s the HOURS of sanding that goes into the large pieces like the trunk lid or the top of the car and what about all those nooks and crannies!

Just when you’re sick to death with all the sand and your hands look like a relief map, you get to clean everything up and get all the sand and gunk out of all the nooks and crannies of the ‘paint booth’ so you can paint some of the parts. Oh, and don’t forget to clean down the floor too.

Here’s what makes all that hard work pay off. The coat of paint is sprayed on and viola! It looks like…glass. Does that ever make you smile! Time to pat yourself on the back, call it a day and have a beer! (Ron’s words, not mine)

To date, the body is done in two colors. The original Kenya Ivory and an alternate color, Chalet Blue – which is actually a 1960 Pontiac color. The Fontaine Irridescent Blue was a special mix (can you say cha-ching?!) Chalet Blue is a nice alternative…it lighter than the Fontaine color and resembles a beautiful sky blue day in Nevada County. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the photos, oh, and the short movie clip too.

You know, Ron and Rod…it’s time to put up your feet, call it a day, and have a cold one. Great job!! Can’t wait to see what’s next. Oh, and Happy New Year! It’s been a year since this journey started and we’re still having a good time.

A special thanks to all of the craftsmen who have worked on the bodywork and prep work for this project. Because of you, this is turning out better than any of us thought it ever would!


July 2010

100_1304It’s a good thing when a plan comes together. It’s even more exciting when you can visually see the transformation. Ok, well, maybe this is more like one of those 1,000 piece puzzles and you’re sitting with all the pieces scattered around you wondering which piece to pick up. Lets start with the big pieces and see how it goes from there.

The car is painted! (now that’s a big piece) There are 4 doors and they’re attached where they look like they should go. (more big pieces) The trunk lid has been added. (this is one of the larger pieces) Wow! If seeing this transformation doesn’t inspire you, refer back to June 2009…we’ve come a long way, baby! This car is starting to smile!

Ron was inspired and decided to POR15 the trunk. While he was at it, he redid the floorboards. He had a little bit more left so he painted on the rims. Remember those rust ridden rims (try saying that 3 times really fast)? They look pretty good right now and they definitely look better than those rusty counterparts on this gorgeous transformed beast.

The guys had a bit of a scare the other day when one of the tires exploded.You may recall, Larry Eckman had submitted an article sometime back about tires, expiration dates and what can happen after about 7 years. Well, these tires were definitely past their fresh date. Luckily, it exploded while it was just sitting there and not when the guys were trying to transport it somewhere! Now, the other three tires are pretty suspect.

Ron and Chuck L. have been busy putting the doors back together. It’s been slow going but they figure to be ‘experts’ by the time all four are done.

Well, it’s getting closer to when all the puzzle pieces need to be brought together. Does anyone remember where all the pieces are? And what goes where? Everyone has their own way of doing a puzzle and not any one way is the absolute right way. The thing to remember is the goal is the same on all sides…put the puzzle together in the best way possible with the fewest extra pieces leftover. The big pieces are the easiest to find…the challenge are all those left and right side parts, little and littler. But, hey, look at this beast! The transformation is incredible.


August 2010

100_1349There’s a balance to working on a project like this…working out the various problems sometimes to the point of frustration, knowing when to walk away for a minute or three and coming back to a solution. A lot of work and time has been put into the car this month. By looking at it, it may not seem like a lot but it is coming together. We’ve put a lot of time, experience and expertise and now is not the time to cut corners.

Have you ever thought about car doors…who ever thought up the mechanics that goes into the opening, shutting, locking, unlocking, winding, unwinding? All the different mechanics, gracefully balanced and working together. Well, that’s the hope anyway. After many, many (how about one more ‘many’) hours, the doors are almost done and are doing what they’re suppose to do.

Steve Matthews from Broken Thunder Body Shop joined the guys one morning. He fit and adjusted the doors, which is a tricky proposition. When the doors are fitted properly, the entire side view of the car looks finished…level. Check out how even the doors look in balance with one another and close with a ‘click’. Great job Steve! Be sure to check out the movie on the doors.

We’re finally to a point where we’re ready to start taking parts off of the Super Chief. SOB (Bob M.) trailered the car over to the garage area at his house where the Star Chief is being housed. Ron spent some time trying to get the back bumper off of the Super Chief only to find that parts had been welded. (please refer to the first paragraph…the process of frustration to solution) Coming back the next day, he was able to find a work-around and get the bumper released from the frame.

Speaking of ‘a lot of work’…have you ever looked at the channel that the window glass slides up and down in? Well, inside that 53 year old window channel use to be this fuzzy material that was ‘stapled’ in. Have you ever thought about replacing that? The original stuff is pretty old and dirty to say the least and not fuzzy anymore. Well, Ron took mega-hours carving out the old material, then he spent several more hours putting in the new fuzzies and realigning the new clips into the old clips’ holes that held it in place. Now if that isn’t an exercise in balance and patience! The window channels are now good as new and waiting ‘patiently’ for the glass to be put back in.

Album-august2Ever have one of those moments the beauty of something causes you to catch your breath? There have been a few of those moments during this project. In this case, lets call it ‘sparkle’. The first pieces of stainless were mounted onto the window frame. The photo to the left is the new rubber in place with the crown of shiny stainless. Thanks to Dave G. for his luminous work.

Balance. This project has all the aspects of life. Problems, pitfalls, rust, aggravations, infirmity balanced with hard work, humor, friendship, solutions, rejuvenation and triumphs. It’s not done yet but man, is it pretty!

Thank you to everyone who contributed and worked at the yard sale. It was a beautiful day and big success. Special Thanks to Gin and Duke from Gins Little Valley Auto for loaning us their parking lot to hold the yard sale. We will be having another one after the car show as we have some stuff leftover. Details to follow.


September 2010

100_1433There comes a point where things seem to crawl along but that’s mainly due to the fact that well, it is. Yet, there were some big deals too. Like the back end is together! From this angle, the car is ready to go!! Well, not really but it sure looks great.

The car show put a halt on work on the car. Now we’re just trying to get it put together enough to set it up for when the weather changes. Dan Fletcher is installing the windshield and back window. Ron worked on the door seals and used chrome paint to spruce them up.

The biggest news is the interior. Once the glass is all in, we’re going to bring the seats and door panels down from the storage unit and set them inside the car. That way, when WyoTech is ready, we will be too.

There’s not a lot to report this month. Unfortunately, the green beast didn’t sell at the car corral. Got two phone calls, but no takers…darn. The next plan is Craigslist, Swap Shop and Cruisin News. Anyone who wants to buy a rusty (that’s an understatement) 57 Pontiac, call Diane. Hey, the engine and the transmission were in good working order when it was running. All it needs is a battery…and oh, some brakes. Stopping is not part of the options right now.

There’s still quite a bit to do so if you’d like to help, give Ron a call (274-3673) to see what and when they’re working on it. All help is appreciated. This is turning out so great and it’s definitely been quite the experience!


October 2010

100_1474So shiny, ya gotta wear shades! The one thing that the ’57 Star Chief has is bling. Just about all the stainless is on the outside except for the front…because the front isn’t attached yet. Dan Fletcher put the front and back glass in. Bob Madsen is working on hooking up the brake system.

An issue came up with the windshield wipers. Ron and Bob applied 28lbs of pressure to the vacuum and they wouldn’t work. The wiper arm mechanism…well, let’s just say 50 years has taken its toll. A remanufactured vacuum system was going to run about $115. A new electric system and all the switches, etc. would be about $250. Diane opted for the electric. Ron and SOB were relieved. Much better decision for the long run or sure ‘wipe’ process.

Next, the rest of the door glass is going to be put in and Ron is going to put the stainless on the dash. If you come by to check out the progress, don’t forget your sunglasses!


November 2010

Ricky_Lucy_in_StarChiefThe holidays are quickly approaching and the weather has turned colder so the car is tucked away in Bob”s (SOB) garage. Most of the glass is in and actually functioning. Darrel Lenox is going to be finishing up the passenger side windows here soon and then the car will be sealed up against the elements. SOB ran the brake lines and the front brakes are in. Once the heating and A/C unit (from B&F Auto Airconditioning) is installed then Ron O. will start putting the dash together. So, for the most part, the car is getting assembled a piece at a time. Right now though, there’s not too much to report. Stay tuned!

To all of you who have participated in this project in whatever capacity, a heartfelt ‘Thanks’ and to all of you who have enjoyed watching the progress, ‘Thanks’ for joining us! Happy Holidays however you celebrate! Pontiacs Rule!

Sorry, no photos this month. The photo from “I Love Lucy” – the Ricardos are driving a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible.


December 2010

100_1799Neccesity is the mother of invention. When something comes up that needs special attention or, lets say, a special tool, who do you call? Well, in the Pontiac’s case, ‘Oxy-Moron Mfg’ (aka Ron O. and Bob ‘SOB’ M.) came to the rescue with a custom made windshield wiper tool. They needed a deep socket tool with ‘ears’ to adjust and tighten the wiper unit so instead of purchasing one (for a lot of $$), Bob made one. It’s a thing of beauty and works like a charm. So, now, the electric windshield wiper unit has been installed.

The windows are finally all done and are in great working order. The doors are also nicely balanced and open and shut easily. Bring on the weather…this car can take it!! But we’ll leave it garaged right now.

Also in the works, is the evaporator unit that will be snuggled in under the dash. One of the design considerations is how to get the new unit to work with the old dash. SOB is going to design a special console that will house the control knobs for the heating and a/c as well as the radio/cd player. He is also designing it to include 2 cup holders. It will fit where the old speaker unit used to sit on the floor in the front seat and curve up to meet the seat. The hope is to have it all constructed before the car goes to Wyotech in February so that the carpeting can cover the unit as well.

Yep! You heard right…the car should be going to Wyotech mid-February to get the upholstery done. The interior design has been submitted to Vince Delgado, the instructor at Wyotech, who is in charge of this part of the project. Diane will be going down to the school to meet with the students as well… That way they can get the real customer experience. After checking into various possibilities, Diane decided that the upholstery design out of the ’55 Pontiac would look pretty cool. Not sure on the fabric choices yet. Vince was going to pull choices and then the decision would be made before February. The goal now is to have the interior done so that the door panels, flooring, headliner, seats, etc. can all be completed without having to take anything apart once it’s finished at Wyotech.

As a little side note, David and Diane had family here for Christmas. One of the things that they wanted to do was to go see the car. SOB graciously gave them a tour around the car. Diane felt like a proud parent as they oohed and awwwed over the Pontiac…and the car actually sparkled a bit brighter under scrutiny.


Pontiac Project Progress 2011