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Pontiac Safari, an expedition into unknown territory

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Pontiac Safari, an expedition into unknown territory

Although the name has an African connotation and conjures up images of wild animals, Pontiac's thinking in 1955 was more centered on a desire to get away from it all. The commercial department contended that it should be a dream car. Thus, the General Motors division proposed an original station wagon in a chic limited edition over a short period of time (3 years were planned).

Sharing body components with the Chevrolet Nomad, the Pontiac Safari used the chassis (the wheelbase was stretched by 18 cm), front doors, tailgate and windows to propose a line that was flashier than the original concept of station wagons intended for large volume loads or the transport of large numbers of people. Its part of fantasy was inspired by another dream car: the 1953 Corvette.

The roof received an ingenious design: the uninterrupted surface of the Vista Dome, inspired by Greyhound buses, was an ornament in itself. The massive front bumper was unique: specifically patented, it gave the design a singular appearance and undisputed power. On the sides, a delicate two-tone rocket-shaped strip was decorated with chrome trim.

Positioned on the luxury sector, the Safari distinguished itself from the Nomad by its size, beauty, power (200 hp V8), comfort and cost. With a capacity of 1020 L and 2010 L with the seats folded down, the Pontiac went for a price of $3077. Over 3700 Safaris sold the first year. From 1956, the embellishment of the baggage compartment was remarkable: the vertical trim and carpeting was a successful touch. The engine evolved to 277 horsepower with the Hydramatic and 285 hp with the Strato. The rear lights were restyled and the chrome bumpers thickened.

In 1957, Tri-Power carburation enabled the Safari to deliver 345 hp, maintaining the car's flamboyant character. Flashy, comfortable and powerful, the Pontiac now came in a 4-door version for easier access.

At the time, many people thought that it was the most wonderful station wagon and over 10,000 units were sold in three years. What if it really was the dream car... In any case, it contributed to an important step in the history of the American car and the desire today to possess a Pontiac Safari remains intact, even if the two-door design is criticized for its impractical aspect. It is the epitome of the incomparable, elegant and exuberant wagon of the fifties.