Pontiac may have been the maverick marque from the 1960s, but it wasn’t long since Pontiac was General Motors’ most boring brand. Having a reputation for being fine, competent cars fit for a librarian, it wasn’t until 1955 (a pivotal year for many brands) that Pontiac received its first V8 and started to make its way towards shedding its stodgy image for something better.
Bunkie Knudsen, Pontiac’s general manager, was the brainchild of this transformation. He joined Pontiac in 1956 and immediately started working on tweaking the 1957s. However, Pontiac began offering multiple carburetion in 1956 for its fledgling racing efforts, a 316.6ci job that put out a cool 285 horsepower − 58 horsepower more than the 4bbl. motor. Besides having twice as many venturis, the 2×4 received a more radical cam and a compression bump from 8.9 to 10.0.
But it was in 1957 when Pontiac came into its own. Bunkie removed the famed “Silver Streaks” (that his father first started in the 1930s when he was at Pontiac) and managed to bring to market a fancy convertible with fuel injection called the Bonneville. But perhaps the most notable − yet oft-overlooked − things that appeared in 1957 was 3×2 “Tri-Power.” The V8 was bumped up to 347ci and, when equipped with Tri-Power, a customer could expect 290 horsepower with 10.0 compression, which was 20 more than the 4bbl. Those wanting to go faster could opt for the same motor Pontiac used for its NASCAR efforts, which put out 317 horses.
Of course, by 1959, Bunkie’s vision and transformation was complete − Pontiac was now a contender every which way, with sleek “Wide-Track” styling, a V8 punched to 389ci, and Tri-Power for both regular and high-performance applications. It all was enough to win Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” award and get Pontiac on its way to being #3 in Detroit a few years later. All that couldn’t have happened if not for Pontiacs like this Tri-Power Chieftain on eBay. As the cheapest model in the lineup, the Chieftain was the perfect model for that special customer to go fast. Seller says this Tri-Power Chieftain is an AACA National Winner from 1990 so for their $45,000 asking price, you can expect a near-concours vehicle.