Monday, March 24, 2014

Improved by Facelift: Pontiac 1955-57

In general, a new automobile design is more attractive than design alterations (facelifts) intended to freshen appearance in order to maintain market appeal.  That is, the initial design tends to be more "pure," with better-integrated details than those found on facelifts where changes are made more for the sake of change than as real improvements.  There are exceptions to this rule-of-thumb that will be discussed here from time to time.

This post deals with Pontiac for the 1955, 1956 and 1957 models years, where the brand used the same basic body.  In my opinion, the 1955 model was the least attractive, and the facelifts were successive improvements -- though none of the versions was an outstanding design.


Here are views of the 1955 Pontiac, part of General Motors' stable of sensationally futuristic designs (how they were perceived at the time) launched in 1954 and 1955.  Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac got new bodies with panoramic windshields for 1954, and the GM "A" body arrived for 1955 Chevrolets and Pontiacs.

The Pontiac version was surprisingly dumpy looking compared to the rest of the GM line.  Much of this had to do with its front end.  The grille was basically a bar with a few strips of vertical, chromed trim, being integrated to a two-segment front bumper.  The headlights featured small "eyebrows," set slightly back, that were faux air intakes.  On the hood were Pontiac's at-the-time traditional Silver Streaks; but in the form of two "streaks" rather than a single streak set, as in the past.

The main changes introduced for 1956 were a revised side trim and two-tone paint pattern along with a redesigned grille.  The paint pattern seems a bit less heavy looking than the 1955 version.  The grille and front bumper ensemble is an improvement due to the bend of the bumper segments, altering what had been a rather dull, horizontal theme.

The 1957 facelift was more drastic than 1956's.  The headlight eyebrows were eliminated in favor of "frenched" (hooded) headlights.  The grille-bumper ensemble became horizontal again, but vertical grille teeth were added to create more interest than the previous designs offered.  Rear parts of the fender were redesigned, yielding an almost-tailfin look, tailfins emerging as the latest styling fad.  Also changed was the side chrome / paint divider, where the area of second-tone paint was greatly reduced -- an important improvement.  And the Silver Streaks were eliminated.  These changes resulted in a crisper, lighter appearance, especially when compared to the original 1955 design.

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