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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

1957 Pontiac Chieftain at Wilson Auto Repair

Every classic car has a back story.  Most exchange ownership and continue to find new homes as the decades go by.  The chapters of these vehicle’s journeys can often be written as separate stories.  Occasionally we come across a classic car that has stood the test of time and has remained within the same family since day one.  This 1957 Pontiac Chieftain is one of those stories and has become more than just a collector, it has become a family heirloom.

James and his wife Crystal are currently the keepers of this family inheritance, but it was originally owned by Crystal’s great grandparents.  The great grandparents, living at the time in Colorado, bought this 1957 Pontiac brand new off the show room floor for $2600. For the next 10 years it was driven as the family vehicle with trips to California until it was eventually passed down to Crystal’s grandparents.

They drove the car into town once a week and was also driven to University of Northern Colorado by Crystal’s mother.  After a few years the Pontiac was parked in a barn until it was eventually relocated to an enclosed two bay shop. It’s final resting spot that her grandpa had built in 1980.

21 years later James began dating his soon-to-be wife and upon his first visit to her grandparents’ home he was introduced to the Pontiac.  At the time James was an auto mechanic and instantly had a bond with the car.  Over the next 7 years James talked grandpa into selling him the car.  It wasn’t until 2008 that the grandparents finally decided to part ways with the car.

James recalls a phone conversation from his mother in-law telling him grandpa was selling the car in the farm sale. She said if he still wanted the car he needed to call him and ask him how much he wanted for it. So, James got off the phone and immediately called grandpa. He asked him how much he wanted for the car and before James could make an offer grandpa stopped him and said, “oh no, if you want the car all you have to do is come and get it”.

James was Active Duty Air Force at the time, so it took a few months before he could take leave and go pick up the Pontiac.  When the opportunity arose, James and his wife strapped the vehicle onto a trailer and pulled it back to Shreveport, LA where they were living at the time.

The 1957 Pontiac Chieftain is completely original with little to no rust on the body and an interior that is near mint condition.  Since 2009 James has had most of the major items rebuilt.   The engine, transmission, radiator and fuel tank were all restored.  Frequent deployments put the restoration on hold while James was defending our country.  Although he was working on getting the vehicle back to running condition, being deployed more than at home made finding the time for this project a challenge.

While upgrading the braking system in 2013 James was once again deployed and the restoration was again put on the back burner.  In 2015 James retired from the Air Force and was then ready to see the restoration completed.  He was excited to finally bring this prized possession back to its former glory and with the help of Wilson Auto Repair that is what happened.

James did some research on the Internet where he initially found Wilson’s Auto Repair.  After a couple phone calls, Barry and James had hatched a plan.  After sitting for over 20 years the task for Wilson’s Auto Repair is to get it back on the road and drivable. James wanted to both cruise the Pontiac for enjoyment and take it to shows as well.  The vehicle was brought into Wilson’s in October 2015 and has since been returned to James and Crystal.

Restorations of this type take a great eye for details and cannot be rushed as Barry and James both know all too well.  When asked of James what he has learned through the restoration, he replied with a very important message that should be heard by everyone using a restoration service for the first time.  James replied “Thoroughly communicate what you want done to your vehicle. Then keep the communication lines open at all times. Make sure you have all the parts to the vehicle if the car is dismantled upon delivery.” Two very important things to remember!

Here are some great pictures of the Chieftain.  Starting back when James first got it and then pictures of the restoration process at Wilson Auto.  The final pictures are of the Pontiac back home being enjoyed by a new generation.

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