1958 was a tough year for Pontiac, with overall sales dropping by about 35 percent. The Star Chief had been the top of the line for GM’s performance division since 1954, and the car was in desperate need of a refresh. In 1957, Pontiac had introduced the Bonneville as a top trim level for the Star Chief, and for the redesign in 1958, the Bonneville became its own line. Star Chief was still the top sedan and wagon, however.
The 1958 Pontiac Star Chief was available as a two-door Catalina hardtop or a four-door Catalina hardtop or Custom sedan, and also as a six-passenger Custom Safari wagon on a slightly shorter wheelbase shared with the mid-line Pontiac Chieftain platform. Star Chief models can be identified by Star Chief script on the front fenders and four stars in the concave rear fender trim inserts.
Base engine power was provided by Pontiac’s 370 cid small-block V-8, rated at 255 hp in manual transmission configuration or 285 hp in Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic automatic transmission trim. Tri-Power could be ordered and delivered 300 hp courtesy of special high-compression heads, high-lift cam, and triple carburetors. Rochester fuel injection was also installed on 200 cars and delivered 310 hp. There was a special engine “PK” option that delivered 315 hp and the “PM” option at 330 hp. It is believed that a total of 500 of these were built for NASCAR homologation.
Transmission options ranged from the standard three-speed manual to four-speed Strato-Flight automatic. Late series models offered a Borg Warner heavy-duty manual transmission, and at least one car was delivered with a four-speed floor-mounted transmission. Various rear axle ratios and limited slip differentials were also available.
Options in this year were typical for the era, mostly including power services and such basics as a heater and defroster. By far the longest section of the option list was for engine, transmission, and driveline choices, befitting Pontiac’s position as GM’s performance brand.
Collectors will want to seek out the very rare high horsepower models in any body style. Both Tri-Power and injected cars carry custom front fender scripts indicating the option. A total of about 45,000 Star Chiefs were built for 1958. The vast majority are Catalina hardtops with automatic transmissions.