As with any American automaker, Pontiac was on hiatus from producing civilian passenger cars during early 1942 until the end of World War II in August1945. By the final months of 1945, Pontiac started producing 1946 model year cars based on the short-lived 1942 designs. With all the pent-up demand for new cars after a three year period, plus hundreds of thousands of returning servicemen with money in their pockets, sales were more than brisk.
Pontiac met the postwar demand with two lines of cars—the lower-priced Torpedo series and the premium Streamliner series. The Streamliners were based on GM’s large B-Body platform, comparable to the Buick Special, Oldsmobile Series 70, and Cadillac’s Series 61. Production of the 1946 Pontiacs commenced on September 13, 1945; the first cars produced were Streamliner coupes, with sedans and wagons following some time later.
The Streamliner body styles offered included two-door fastback coupes, four-door fastback sedans, and the four-door standard or deluxe station wagons. The unique wagons were the classic postwar “Woody” Pontiacs, and quite different from their passenger car brethren. Standard wagons held eight passengers with three rows of seating, while Deluxe models had two bench seats for six.
Customers had a choice of an inline six-cylinder or inline eight-cylinder flathead engine. The six-cylinder model displaced 239.5 cid with a single-barrel carburetor and offered 90 horsepower, while the eight-cylinder engine displaced 248.9 cid and delivered 103 horsepower from a two-barrel carburetor. All 1946 Pontiacs used a three-speed column-shift manual transmission.
By the end of the model year, 1946 Pontiac Streamliner Six production amounted to 43,430 cars, and Streamliner Eights totaled 49,301 cars. Changes for 1947 were limited to minor exterior trim. Another 128,660 Streamliners were built in that year, with the eight-cylinder cars amounting to about two-thirds of that production.
For 1948, more styling adjustments were made; the words “Silver Streak” appeared on eight-cylinder cars, and all models of Streamliner could now be ordered in Standard or Deluxe trim. Engines remained the same, with one single horsepower boost to the eight-cylinder, and an optional “high head” that boosted another two horsepower, making a total of 106.
The big news for 1948 was the Streamliner’s new GM Hydramatic automatic transmission. Buyers strongly preferred the automatic, and about 120,000 of the 160,000 cars produced were so equipped, with the remaining 40,000 opting for the standard three-speed manual. In 1948, eight-cylinder production greatly outstripped the six-cylinder. Only 37,742 Streamliner Six cars were built, against a total of 123,115 Streamliner Eights.
Collectors of this series have been looking for the Woody wagons since the 1960s, so it may be difficult to find one at an attractive price. However, time has been kind to the styling of Streamliner coupes and sedans, making those cars a good choice. Engine choice is not a deal-breaker – both deliver about the same power. Buyers should instead focus on the fundamentals of quality, completeness and condition.