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1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina restoration


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i have owned this 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina since may or june of 1973, i was 17 years old then, paid $150.00 of my own money, this was my second car in my high school years, dad had bought me my first car, a 1962 chevy impala sport sedan (four door hardtop) 235 chevy 6 and powerglide trans, it lasted 6 months and 10,000 miles when the headgasket failed. dad sold it before i had the money saved to repair it. anyway, back to the custom catalina. i got the 1950's oldsmobile wheels back from being sandblasted and powdercoated, and i had the front brake drums done also, but in glossy black. the wheel's color matched the laurel green color of the catalina's roof. the wire wheel hubcaps i'm using are 1953 olds optional wire wheel hubcaps that i modified the centers so that i could install the 1953 pontiac rear fender indian chief emblems to match those on the catalina's rear fenders. my car is going through some major changes, but i like to make it appear that these changes looks like the factory did it. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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Looking good Charles. Can't wait to see the rest of the car. 40 years of ownership - wow. That alone, is an accomplishment! Many of us wish we could say the same about that special car we had in our teens. Keep up the good work and bring on the pictures!

Thanks,

Chuck

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here are some of the rare 1954 pontiac factory air conditioning parts that i have restored, waiting to be transplanted into my 1953 custom catalina, so far, the only parts that are not original parts are the evaporator assembly - duplicated for me by classic auto air in florida, and the condenser, which is a modern style condenser. the bottom side of the air tubes that mount up under the right front inner fender still have some undercoating that was applied many years ago. the large sized blower motor has been changed to a nos 12 volt motor, and a nos squirrel cage fan was installed, both by me. in the third picture you can see the original metal air filter, that i had replated. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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Edited by pontiac1953 (see edit history)
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here's pictures of how my 53 catalina's dash looks with the 54 factory a/c outlets and control panel installed, you can also see the autronic eye, the magna-tray, and the nos compass on my dash as well. the nos oversized rear view mirror is 20% larger than the standard size mirror. i plan on removing the inside visors to make room for the nos tinted see-thru visors that i have. the nos factory foglight switch is installed. there's the traffic light viewer there too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

here are two used 1953 pontiac trunk handles, both with nos pontiac lucite trunk handle emblems. the one in front was just put together after buying both pieces on ebay, the other handle in the rear was also put together years ago by me, after buying both pieces of it too. both potmetal handles are in need of chrome replating. charles coker.

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hi, today before the weather turned to wind and rain, i went out to the garage, cleaned the front wheel bearing parts, repacked the inner and outer wheel bearings with new high temp wheel bearing grease, got the right side back together, need to pick up some more cotter pins.

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hi, i mailed off an nos 1953-54 pontiac optional exhaust extension to a lucky buyer, i went on ebay, and bought a 20 amp 12 to 6 volt reducer for my 53-54 nos pontiac chieftain seven tube radio and power supply to operate on, and i bought a neat little voltage reducer for the 6 volt gas gauge to operate with. i had a reproduction rubber bellow that stood straight up, but i needed it to be about 45 degrees, so i cut a slight wedge of rubber out of the base of it, and glued it back together, i think it will be good now to use.

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  • 2 weeks later...

hi, with a 1955 pontiac 287 strato-streak V8 engine and dual range hydra-matic going into my car, and having two air conditioning units, i felt it was needed to change the electrical from six to twelve volts, the only items that will stay six volts are the 53-54 nos pontiac radio and the 53-54 nos pontiac clock. i bought off of ebay, a 20 amp 12 to 6 volt voltage reducer for the radio, and a smaller reducer for the clock.

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hi, i went today, and decided to buy a new 9X12 storage shed to clear out the two car garage, so i can have much needed room to work on my 53 custom catalina. i'll be building the shelves inside the shed to store everything needed. i'm glad that i can set the storage shed right next to the side of the garage.

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today the 9X12 shed arrived, so i'll start measuring to build 2x4 frame work for the shelves i'm going to build inside the shed. also looked over my 53-54 nos pontiac radio and power supply, here's some pictures of the radio.

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here's a speedometer and gauges cluster that i put together, 53 custom catalina's had a laurel green painted speedo bezel where as all the other 53 pontiac models had black paint on the bezel, i had a nos 53-54 pontiac speedo dial face, nos amp gauge, the fuel gauge is a 55 pontiac 12 volt fuel gauge with a 53-54 fuel gauge face, put together for me by fellow old pontiac nut and aaca member mike smith of wetumpka, al. thank you mike. i also had a nos 54 pontiac with a/c water temp & oil pressure gauge, the a/c water temp gauge were caliberated to show a slightly higher operating tempature as being normal. this assembly will replace my original speedo cluster, but the mileage shown on the odometer is almost the same.

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  • 2 weeks later...

since my 53 custom catalina was built new with the optional continental kit, i decided to buy a nos pair of the longer 1954 starchief lower rear fender stone shield extensions, one picture shows the difference between the two.

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here are some better pictures of the 53 chieftain custom catalina's dash with the 54 pontiac factory air conditioning installed, i did all the work myself, installing all the options and accessories you see in the pictures.

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  • 3 weeks later...

the december/2012 issue of the pontiac oakland club international's magazine smoke signal feature a pontiac air conditioning history article written by me, and the smoke signal editor, don keefe, used two of the four pictures above to show my car with the 54 pontiac a/c dash pieces installed.

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Hi Guy,

I'm really enjoying your updates here. You have great skills on making those things look correct.

Say, I want to thank you again for all your wonderful help while restoring the 1954 Delphi Air Conditioned Starchief.

You are the man!

Also a great knowledgeable source for anyone in the old car hobby. Your wealth of information is terrific.

Regards,

Dave R<O:p></O:p>

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thank you dave, the delphi 54 pontiac starchief factory a/c restoration was so much fun to be involved in. i am honored to have been a part of it. now that the car is done and on display at delphi's lockport, ny headquarters, the friendship between you and i goes on. it was here on the aaca forum where you learned about me, and got in touch with me for help. i hope soon you'll find a 54 pontiac starchief custom catalina to call your own. again i was glad to have been helpful with the restoration, and i am forever thankful for your friendship. charles l. coker, 1953 pontiac technical advisor.

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  • 3 weeks later...

as some of you may know, i'm an over the road truckdriver, next month makes 15 years, i have driven the semi in and out of 46 of the 48 states, montana and north dakota are left, i've been to libby, montana by car to see my sister. this morning, i delivered a load of milk & butter in carlisle, pa. what lousey timing, there's no swap meet for me to go see, lol. at home waiting for me to add to the collection of nos parts for my 1953 custom catalina project, is a nos 1955 12volt delco-remy horn relay and a nos 53-54 pontiac chrome plated dash face plate for the dash between the speedo and the front speaker. i'm hoping the dispatchers can get me a new load today so i can make it home in time for christmas, merry christmas to all here in the restoration forum. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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hi, i got three more goodies off of ebay, and they were waiting for me when i got home today. a thick paper sleeve that the factory slip over the driver visor, with "how to operate and enjoy pontiac's dual range hydra-matic drive", the other side has information for push starting the car, towing the car, hydra-matic fluid, use premium fuel with the high compression head, and tire sizes, pressure, rotating tires for longer tire life. 2nd goody is a nos 53-55 delco remy 12volt horn relay, and the 3rd goody is a nos 53-54 pontiac chrome plated dash face plate. the visor paper sleeve will be a nice touch to display when showing the car. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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i brought in from the garage, the nos 1953-54 pontiac power antenna to compare the nos motor with a used motor that was partly disassembled. over the years of bidding on ebay, i had gathered the nos power antenna switch, the wire harness, the fender mounting chrome bezel, and from aaca member j. mike smith, i got the nos power antenna motor and mast assembly. since i had it inside the house today (it was real cold outside today) i applied chrome polish to the fender bezel, the chrome nut, and to the antenna mast. i'm waiting to hear back from tucson packard - expert power antenna restoration shop, to hear if a 54-56 buick 12volt motor will interchange. if not, i'll have to get another heavy duty 12 to 6 voltage reducer so the nos pontiac motor doesn't get hurt. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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Edited by pontiac1953
correction (see edit history)
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here's a very hard little pontiac accessory to find, when new, it was the lowest price accessory, customer paid $1.70 for one of these. please don't ask me what i paid for it in 2012. my wife swears that nothing will ever hang on it, lol.

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CHARLES, great thread. I love the work you're doing to build this car your own way. Nothing will look hacked or jerry-rigged, which will be a real puzzler for Pontiac experts.

Notice how the purse hanger was meant to be installed on the passenger's side. Of course, hubby will do the driving...

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thanks rob, i see that you have owned your roadmaster longer than i have owned my custom catalina, you have me beat by about four months, lol. the catalina instruction for the purse holder mention the driver's door too. happy new years rob, charles.

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as some of you may know, i'm an over the road truckdriver, next month makes 15 years, i have driven the semi in and out of 46 of the 48 states, montana and north dakota are left, i've been to libby, montana by car to see my sister. this morning, i delivered a load of milk & butter in carlisle, pa. what lousey timing, there's no swap meet for me to go see, lol. at home waiting for me to add to the collection of nos parts for my 1953 custom catalina project, is a nos 1955 12volt delco-remy horn relay and a nos 53-54 pontiac chrome plated dash face plate for the dash between the speedo and the front speaker. i'm hoping the dispatchers can get me a new load today so i can make it home in time for christmas, merry christmas to all here in the restoration forum. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

Charles: I'm jealous - does your company permit you to haul old cars and old car parts on your way home when you are deadheading back or do you own your own rig and do as you please? I've known a couple of over-the-road truck company owners who gave their drivers very specific instructions to always be on the lookout for interesting old cars to pick up on their way home.

The Catalina looks like it's coming along great!

Happy New Year!

Fred

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hi fred, i'm a company driver, so i don't own the truck or buy the fuel, lol. once in a great while i might get a chance to carry some small part for me or for a friend, small enough to fit inside the cab. i have a good used fuel tank waiting for me just below dallas, tx. but lately i can't seem to get a load passing by there. the catalina is very slow progress, hard to think that next summer we'll have 40 years together. thanks for your interest and happy new years.

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Charles:

I live about 165 miles south of Dallas (just north of Austin); lived in Dallas for 30 years before moving here. Yeah, time does get away from us - I've owned one of my Model A Fords for 40 years and my kids are 34 and 31 so she seems to be more a part of my family than they do.:P They can't remember when their Dad wasn't foolin' around with old cars (wonder why?).

Take care,

Fred

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i have over the years collected just about everything related to my 1953 custom catalina in the way of paperwork, brochures, and warranties. i thought i would share them with the forum, the 1954 pontiac air conditioning operating instructions is one of my most prized pieces, there's two 1953 pontiac mechanical pencils, instructions for the autronic eye, 1953 motorama information, two different factory tours from 1953, two different option and accessories price list amd model prices for 1953. all of the pieces fit inside an open sided storage paper pouch.

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CHARLES, thanks for posting these instructions. I bet the A/C in my '57 Buick is very similar and, if so, I've learned a couple of things from this. I have not found a washable filter in my evaporator box but now I'll look for it. I also didn't know one can open the fresh air intake through the A/C system, without operating the compressor. Actually, that may not apply to my car because the regular dual fresh air vents, included in Buicks with or without heaters, are also operational in cars with "Car Cooling" (Buick's name for air conditioning).

You have an amazing collection of showroom paper. Guess that comes with four decades of car ownership. Although I don't have quite as much of this stuff, my Buick and I will be celebrating our 40th next month. Please, no gifts.

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hi rob, the '54 pontiac air conditiong leaves the driver's side standard fresh air vent intact, leaving it to work just like it did in a non-a/c car. on the a/c equipped cars, pontiac removed the right vent control cable and knob from the lower dash, and covered up the hole in the dash with a chrome plated pan head bolt. charles.

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I've been following your thread and enjoying it.

Congratulations on what will surely be a great car - a pleasure to use, as well as to build.

Some thoughts may be transferrable as I consider the idea of A/C for my '54 Caddy convertible.

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whenever i think of ways to improve the performance of the engine, i always stick with what was available in the fifties for this, so when i decided to improve the stock 1955 pontiac 287 distributor, i found several new dual-points conversions on ebay, i ended up buying three of them, the price was right. i also had a nos vacuum advance to installed. i also have good distributor caps with brass contacts. i plan on using a judson ignition coil also from the fifties. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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  • 5 months later...

hi, recently i was able to buy a pair of 1955-1957 casco 12 volt power antenna motors that were listed on ebay. one motor is in excellent working order. casco made power antennas for many different car makes, my nos 1952-1954 pontiac power antenna was made by casco, they also made the 12 volt power antennas for pontiac, packard, chrysler, buick, and others. so rather than run a voltage reducer, i decided to find a 12 volt motor and swap out the 6 volt motor and install the excellent 12 volt motor. it was fun to carefully take apart the assembly, to change the motors, and then reassemble it. the 12 volt motor is slightly larger in diameter, but the length of both motors are the same. i bench tested the new assembly, and it works perfectly. the picture shows the 12 volt motor already installed and the 6 volt motor next to it. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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  • 3 weeks later...

quite some time ago, i spotted and bid on ebay, a NOS '53-'57 buick power antenna motor and wire harness, i was on the road, driving truck, so i don't always get internet access. i had my wife penny, at home get online and up my high bid to $200.00, i thought i was safe, ha ha, i got outbidded by $2.50, dang i thought, it got away from me. then later as posted above, i bought the used pair of '57 lincoln power antenna motors. then two nights ago, i'm surfing on ebay, and wow, there's this NOS '53-'57 buick power antenna motor with wire harness, i can't believe i'm seeing this rare awesome find on ebay again, now with a buy it now price of $150.00, did the first time winner not pay for it, and the seller waited all this time to relist it ?. well i took the plunge and paid the buy it now price. so i'll have the nos motor for a back up if the excellent used motor ever quits on me.

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  • pontiac1953 changed the title to 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina restoration

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