Bookseller and his Pontiac share a birth year
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.