Book­seller and his Pon­tiac share a birth year

The Washington Times Daily - - Auto -

About the time that Bill Brown was busy be­ing born in 1947, a two-tone green 1948 Pon­tiac Streamliner was rolling out of a Michi­gan fac­tory.

It wasn’t un­til 56 years later that their paths crossed in New York when Mr. Brown, now liv­ing in Fred­er­ick, Md., was search­ing for an an­tique car that shared the year of his birth.

He an­swered an ad that por­trayed the car ac­cu­rately and found it priced fairly. On the last day of June 2003, Mr. Brown bought the Pon­tiac and had it trucked to Ron Butts, a trusted me­chanic in Martins­burg, W.Va.

Records in­di­cate that the Pon­tiac was first sold in Penn­syl­va­nia. The next owner took the car to Nova Sco­tia. Af­ter a stay in Canada, the car was re­turned to Penn­syl­va­nia and later moved to New York, where Mr. Brown found it.

“There were no sur­prises,” Mr. Brown re­calls. “There was no rust, and it was solid un­der­neath.”

When Mr. Brown be­came the fourth owner, the mileage recorded by the odome­ter was slightly more than 85,000.

Most of the rub­ber parts were re­placed, as were the rear shock ab­sorbers.

When the time came to se­lect a set of new tires, Mr. Brown, who didn’t want a show car, opted for black­wall ra­dial tires with in­ner tubes as re­place­ments for the orig­i­nal 6.50x16-inch bias-ply tires. “Steer­ing with the new ra­di­als is un­be­liev­ably bet­ter,” he says.

The Streamliner stretches a hair more than 17 feet be­tween the bumper guards and rides on a 122-inch wheel­base. The

3,425-pound Pon­tiac car­ried a base price when new of $1,724. Op­tional equip­ment in­cludes: •AM ra­dio. •Backup light. •Fender skirts. •Elec­tric clock. •Lug­gage light. •Wheel trim rings. •Un­der­seat heater. •Rear win­dow wiper. •Wind­shield wash­ers. •Un­der-hood safety light. •Hy­dra­matic trans­mis­sion. •Bumper-guard over­rid­ers. Like most other Amer­i­can au­tomak­ers of the era, post­war Pon­tiac of­fered cars that were ba­si­cally 1942 de­signs and spec­i­fi­ca­tions un­til 1949.

The 1948 Pon­tiac was fresh­ened with the ad­di­tion of fender-top chrome mold­ings, rear fender gravel guards and, for $185, a Hy­dra­matic trans­mis­sion with a shift pat­tern from the left of Neu­tral, Drive, Low, Re­verse. There is no park­ing gear. “This trans­mis­sion amazes me,” Mr. Brown says.

The 248.9-cu­bic-inch, 104-horse­power, straighteight-cylin­der en­gine is ac­ti­vated by step­ping on the starter with the driver’s right foot. The starter but­ton is on the fire­wall di­rectly above the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal.

The pis­tol-grip hand brake is un­der the left end of the dash­board.

Af­ter a leisurely phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion, the me­chanic gave the mostly orig­i­nal Pon­tiac a clean bill of health. On Oct. 8, Mr. Brown hap­pily drove his 1948 Streamliner home.

His me­chanic alerted him to the fact that the lug nuts on the left side of the car have left-hand threads while the right-side lug nuts have right-hand threads.

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing in­side the spa­cious car is orig­i­nal from the head­liner on down. The sin­gle dome light is op­er­ated by a switch on the left “B” pil­lar. The wood grain­ing on the metal dash­board shows the ef­fects of the sun but re­mains in good con­di­tion.

Typ­i­cal of Gen­eral Mo­tors ve­hi­cles of that era, the wing vent win­dows are op­er­ated by hand cranks.

With the rear win­dow in the slop­ing fast­back style af­ford­ing pre­cious lit­tle vis­i­bil­ity, the pow­ers that be de­ter­mined a wiper was needed to keep it clear. Very few of the wipers ever worked sat­is­fac­to­rily be­cause the vac­uum hose from the en­gine was nec­es­sar­ily ex­ces­sively long.

Pon­tiac de­sign­ers were not shy about run­ning long lengths of hoses. The ef­fi­cient un­der­seat heater, which throws heat both for­ward and back­ward, is fed by a 9-foot hose from the en­gine.

On the left side of the steer­ing col­umn sup­port­ing the shoul­der-wide three-spoke steer­ing wheel is the turn sig­nal ap­pa­ra­tus, which must be can­celled man­u­ally af­ter com­ple­tion of the turn.

The 360-de­gree horn ring only sightly ob­scures the 100-mph speedome­ter.

Even with the cowl vent open in front of the two-piece wind­shield, the driver has a clear view down the length of the en­gine hood, high­lighted by the trade­mark stain­less-steel stripes and capped by the pro­file of a proud In­dian chieftain.

Mr. Brown, a book­seller at the Barnes and Noble store in Rockville, keeps a keen eye on the au­to­mo­tive sec­tion. “I wanted a car about my age,” he re­marks.

The odome­ter on his 1948 Pon­tiac Streamliner coupe sedan now ap­proaches 86,300 miles. “Th­ese things were meant to be driven,” Mr. Brown says.

Fu­ture plans, Mr. Brown says, in­clude “tours, car shows and hav­ing lots of fun with it.”

The Streamliner pro­file of the 17-foot-long Pon­tiac is a fa­vorite of Bill Brown (left). The car is read­ily iden­ti­fied by the stripes down the center of the hood, capped by the trade­mark In­dian Chief Pon­tiac.

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