25 July 2000
As mentioned before in my earlier article on the 1958 Chevrolets and Canadian Pontiacs, the "Forward Look" 1957 Chryslers had caused GM Management to order new cars for Chevrolet and Pontiac for 1959, ordered in December 1956. However, no one could foresee the production quality problems that Chryslers suffered from!
However, as we now know, Harley Earl supervised revisions on the laid-in 1958 designs, and then went (or as has also been said. was sent) to Europe where some of his influence was extended to both Vauxhall Motors in Luton, England and Adam Opel in Germany. Of course, the other General Motors overseas marque, Holden in Australia, was also technically under his supervision, although very autonomous, and no pseudo-1959 designs were produced in Australia - 1955 style designs ran on in all three marques to at least early 1963. Whilst Earl was away, William "Bill" Mitchell oversaw "rebel" alternative designs which not only went beyond the 1958 designs, which relegated the 1958 models to one-year only but also became based not on the Chevrolet designs, or even Cadillac, but the Buick Studio’s. Earl’s proposed extensions of the 1958 models for 1959 proved to be so hideous, that the unthinkable had to happen, and Mitchell had to produce completely new alternatives whilst Earl was away. Collectible Automobile magazine published examples of the abortive ‘59 designs, and it could be readily seen that they were extensions of the 1958 Models.
When Earl returned from his trip abroad, he found that Harlow Curtice, GM President and the Divisional General Managers had come down on the side of the alternative rebel designs, and come Spring 1957 had accepted the situation and began to add his thoughts to the "new" 1959 Buick designs were ready first, all Divisions shared the 1959 Buick floorpan, cowl, windshield and front doors of the 4-door body styles, although some Divisions were allowed a restrike of the door skin to produce different shapes. E.g. Cadillac, and Pontiac.
Cadillac, however, were allowed a modified roof to create what they argued was a "C " Body but their "B " Body sharing extended to 1960 model year, reversion being made to "A ", "B " and "C " Bodies for 1961. "B " Body Chevrolet Impalas ran to 1985 Model year (production ending in November 1984 in Oshawa, Canada plant) before the resuscitation of the Caprice-based Impala SS for 1994 to 1996.
The "Flying Wing" look on the Chevrolets owed their look to Bob Canaret who designed the gullwing tail fins for Chevrolet and Buick and also the "Vista " (Spanish for "View") top. The 4-Door Hardtop owed its design for 1959 and 1960 to Bud Sugano, adopted by Paul W. Gillan, Pontiacs Chief Designer, on the ‘55 Pontiac Strato Star Motorama car, and then by Carl Renner who was Deputy to Chevrolet Design Chief, Clare MacKichan, which eventually extended throughout the five Divisions. Carl Renner had been responsible for the Tri-Chevy RHD Dash with colleagues, adapting the LHD to a mirror position for RHD cars.
The 1959 Pontiac "Twin-Fins" were first used on one of Harley Earl’s proposed 1959 designs, based on the 1958 "A"" Body, and this carried over to the Canadian Pontiacs which would again share the Chevrolet running gear, chassis and powerplants and some other components (see below). However, Chuck Jordan came up with the idea of widening the front and rear-tracks to push the wheels out more. This, of course, was adopted, termed "Wide Track " by the publicity men, and paradoxically, also improved handling. This re-engineering cost a small fortune in re-tooling, but was repaid in sales.
However, Canadian Pontiacs adopted U.S. sheet metal, but using Chevrolet running gear/chassis were relegated to the Chevrolet track for some years to come, which Americans thought odd when they went on sale. In fact, it was only in 1968 that the Canadian Pontiacs were allowed the Chevrolet Wagon running gear with its slightly larger track compared to the regular cars.
Paul W. Gillan took up the idea of the distinctive twin-grille for the feet59 Pontiacs, and which was adopted for the 1959 Canadian Pontiacs. Like the 1960 U.S. Pontiacs, the grille was changed back to a "V" grille for 1960, because of a mistaken thought that the customers did not like it, then back again to a split grille in 1961 Model year. Of course, U.S. Edsels (Canadian Edsels ceased production in June/July 1959) adopted the split grille feet for 1960 which buyers liked: the reason why the Edsel adopted this grille is possibly because one of the Pontiac design staff left GM and went to work for Fords instead.
Of course, the Pontiac "Wide Track" principle involved a degree of re-engineering to accommodate a wider track of over 1½ inches each side, and this would have prevented Canadian Pontiacs assembled at Oshawa plant, and overseas, to use common parts.
G.M. Overseas Operations in New York decided which models would be exported either S.U.P. (Single Unit Packs) or C.K.D. (Completely Knocked Down). and which models would be exported Left Hand Drive and Right Hand Drive components, i.e. the same Saginaw Steering box that was used to 1964, different manifolds, starter, clutch actuation etc. What is known is that G.M.O.O. oversaw exports of a least one Model Chevrolet and Canadian Pontiac (and presumably also U.S. Pontiacs out of Pontiac, MI plant) to overseas subsidiaries complete with drawings and plans for local Engineers to learn how cars went together (by pulling them apart) and deciding what local parts would be needed, e.g. wheels, tyres, trim, lights, jacks etc. to qualify for sufficient local supply/content to satisfy governmental dictates.


Chevrolet Engineering, as with the feet58 models adapted the Pontiac trims etc., to the Chevrolet bodies - but this time, of course, there was a divergence from the U.S. Pontiacs by the use of the Chevrolet chassis, as all Export U.S. Pontiacs (mainly Bonnevilles, including convertibles) were L.H.D. and used the new Wide-Track.
Chevrolet: Wheelbase: 9 feet 11 inches; track: front 5 feet 0¼ inches: overall length 17 feet 7 inches; overall width 6 feet 4 inches
Pontiac Bonneville: Overall length 18 feet 4 inches: overall width 6 feet 8 ¼ inches:
Track: front 5 feet 3 ¾ inches: rear 5 feet 4 inches.
Pontiac Parisienne: Wheelbase 9 feet 9½ inches ; track front and rear 4 feet 10 ¾ inches: overall length 17 feet 6 ¾ inches overall width 6 feet 8¼ inches
The Chevrolet and Pontiac Studios then handed over to General Motors Products of Canada Ltd., Engineering in Oshawa, Ontario for model designs, etc. As before, Oshawa would build R.H.D. and L.H.D. Chevrolets and Canadian Pontiacs, and Tarrytown, New York plant, all U.S. S.U.P. and C.K.D. kits for export.
However, although there are no known figures for model availability, it seems as though, firstly, Oshawa Chevrolet exports outstripped Tarrytown exports, especially as will be seen below, and secondly R.H.D. equipment was restricted to certain body styles only and certain models were not available R.H.D, ex-Tarrytown.
It is believed that U.S. 1959 Model availability was restricted, ex-Tarrytown, NY Plant, to Bel Air 4-Door Sedans Models 1519 and 1619 (235 in.3 6-cylinder and V8 283 in.3 respectively) and Impala 4-Door Sedans, Models 1719/1819, (235 in.3 and V8 283 in.3 respectively although there were probably 4-Door Sports Sedans (Vista Hardtops) Models 1739/1839 (235 in.3 6-cylinder and V8 283 in.3) as there were in 1960 model year.
Export Canadian Chevrolets were available S.U.P. and C.K.D. as follows:
235 6-cylinder* V-8 283**
Biscayne 2-Door Sedan 1111*
Biscayne 4-Door Sedan 1119* 1219** ?
Bel Air 4-Door Sedan 1519* 1619**
Impala 4-Door Sedan 1719* 1819**
Impala 4-Door Sports Sedan (Hardtop)1739* 1839**
Export Canadian Pontiacs only seem to have been available in 6-cylinder form - 261 in.3 as before, as can be seen in the separate table.
261in3 6-cylinder
Strato-Chief 4-Door Sedan 7119
Laurentian 4-Door Sedan 7519
Parisienne 4-Door Sedan 7719 ?
Parisienne 4-Door Sports Sedan 7739 (Hardtop)
Further G.M. Diplomatic sales also sold R.H.D. (and L.H.D.) cars, which had "DOM" prefixing "RHD" instead of "EXP". Again, so far as U.S. cars were concerned, RHD equipment was an "ACCessory", so again, this appeared on build plates. Some U.S. cars were sold to Embassies and Diplomatic offices abroad as well.
Examples of known cars are set out below. Note the Canadian V.I.N. number is different from the U.S. style, and that Canadian colours had different names from U.S. and Canadian from codes were different on occasion.
Example of U.S. Chevrolet, R.H.D. [Tarrytown, New York Plant]
F59T 152512 Style: 59-1619
Body: TA 9618
Trim: 822
91519 08790 Style: 1519 EXP RD
Body: 103814
Trim: 822
Paint: 1005
BSO: 357
91739 55700 Style: 1739 DOM RD
Body: 157323
Trim: 825
Paint: 1008
compared to a 1960 Pontiac Laurentian as an example:
07619 04065 Style 60-7619 EXP RD
Note: No Code for Oshawa plant again.
Also, "Level-Air" suspension was in theory available on some models in 1959 no example has ever come to light, and Fuel Injection is never mentioned, but see below.
The R.H.D. Chevrolets and Pontiacs used the L.H.D. ‘59 Chevrolet Dash adapted, in ‘59 and ‘60, except that the model name script on the Dash read "Pontiac " and the right-hand dial on the Pontiacs had a clock, and finally the Pontiacs had a round High-Beam indicator, the Chevrolets a "Bow-Tie " indicator.


The first Chevrolet Bel Air 4-Door Sedan and Pontiac Laurentian (Models 1519 and 7519) were shipped from Canada to Australia in January 1959, and the Bel Air was registered for road trials in February "59. The Bel Air was stripped of its trim, and replaced by leather trim, although the Laurentian’s wasn’t.
The cars were assembled with local glass (except for the windscreen), tyres, tan or maroon leather seats and door trims with piping on the seats, cut pile carpet. Hydraulic Jack, and Power steering on the Pontiacs, Heaters, Radios ( "NASCO " Brand-GM Holden’s own). Sunvisors, venetian blinds, mud flaps, white wall types, and wheel trims were all extras available from dealers. No tools were supplied as standard.
Cars had six-cylinder engines (235 in.3 Chevrolet: 261 in.3 Pontiac) and Powerglide transmission. However, the 1960 Models had V8-283 in.3 engines and Powerglide, though they used the same dashboard in ’60 as ’59, namely the ’59 Chevrolet dash transposed.
V.I.N. NUMBERS [with thanks to Mr Peter Kelly and Mr Norm Darwin]
All bodies were built at Woodvlille manufacturing plant, Adelaide, South Australia. Assembly plants that received chassis and bodies separately (by rail save for Elizabeth, S.A.? were Elizabeth Adelaide, S.A. ( "A " Code), Acica Ridge, Brisbane, Queensland ( "B "), and Dandenong
Melbourne, Victoria ( "M "), Perth, and Western Australia ( "P ") and Pagewood, Sydney, New South Wales ( "S "): Fishermen’s Bend, Melbourne was a manufacturing plant as well.
All bodies were numbered on assembly and on completion each plant applied the chassis number (V.I.N.) GM-Holden "s Model number was "104 " for the Chevrolet Bel Air 4-Door and "254 " for the Laurentian 4-Door. For 1959 and onwards each plant began chassis numbers at # 1. Melbourne plant used the full model number but other plants used abbreviations e.g. Chassis # 91519067M from Melbourne
BODY 59-104-227 4-Door Bel Air
TRIM 355-744 Red leather interior
PAINT Ascot Grey
There is also 91519067S, and 915067B (note abbreviation deleting the "19" Sedan code by Brisbane Plant).
There are no production figures, but sales figures are:
Chevrolet (6) Pontiac (6)
1958 1415 116
1959 1723 245 including some 1958 Models
1960 684 81
Colours were Holden’s standard colours, as were roof linings
In addition, dealers and Diplomats also imported cars, S.U.P. In addition, there is a known car, imported S.U.P. that seems to have been a "pilot" 1960 Model car, and added on to the last of the ‘59 cars.
STYLE 60-274-152 (Pontiac Laurentian)
TRIM 507-874
PAINT 585-9900
It is a non-standard car with the 1960 V8 283 in.3 engine.
All Chevrolet cars had amber "Guide " reversing lamps with Amber lenses hanging down from the rear wings to satisfy local regulations. The Pontiacs had an amber lamp added above the stop/tail lamps.


All Cars were imported from Canada and assembled at Petone near Wellington, New Zealand, and were either Chevrolet Bel Air 4-Door Sedans with 283 in.3 V8 (Model 1619) and I believe 4-Door Pontiac Laurentian 4-Door Sedans with V8 283 in.3 engine (model 7619)
All cars would have had local content of parts similar to. but not nearly as extensive, as in Australia.
For example the Build Plate would state:
SERIAL : xxxxx
where the serial is a sequential number. No production figures are yet known, but 924 vehicles were exported to New Zealand from Canada in 1960, and it is anticipated that around 400 Chevrolets were exported in 1959 Model year and Pontiacs 80 ?
In addition, personal imports and Diplomatic cars would have been brought in.
All cars were imported C.K.D. from Oshawa, Canada in 1959 Model year, although L.H.D. 2-Door Hardtops are known, which would have been imported at great cost: 100% duty! for rich farmers etc. Convertibles were also imported L.H.D. from the U.S.A., with some addition of local parts to comply with local Government laws, and Fuel Injection is also available reputedly, for economy reasons!
Models available were:
Chevrolet: Biscayne 2-Door Sedan Model 1111 (manual transmission)
Biscayne 4-Door Sedan Model 1119 (manual)
Bel Air 4-door V-8 Sedan Model 1619 (Powerglide - Power steering/brakes - optional extras)
Impala 4-Door Sedan V-8 Model 1810 (Powerglide - Power Steering/brakes.
Pontiac: Strato-Chief "6 " (261) Model 7119 (with Manual transmission)
Strato-Chief "6 " (261) Model 7119 (Powerglide - Power Steering/brakes
All cars had local content much the same as the ‘58 cars, except that Impala models (1819) had local leather trim, and differently trimmed leather seats compared to Australian cars, with a white embossed "V " in the rear seats and Impala symbol and "crossed-flags on the front ". After all the Impala as an African gazette.
Impalas and Strato-Chiefs, had tinted windshields (possibly local glass from Pilkingtons).
Local lights were as for Canadian cars, with a red reflector on the rear and a white one on the front grille each side. Heaters were extra - from Smith’s Industries in S.A.
Located on a screen-printed "plate " on left-hand passenger door pillar, e.g.
General Motors of South Africa Pty.Ltd., Port Elizabeth
STYLE: 1819
BODY: SA M 52528 ( "N " for "60 and so on..)
PAINT: xxxxx
TRIM: xxxxx
A 4-Door Biscayne is # SAM 51603 ( "6 " engine)
Engine Number fore the above is T 505 D 52528. On the above car (now in UK) date stamps indicate a build date in mid-August 1959, yet the engine is from Tonawanda plant (May 1959). Like Australian and New Zealand cars, production was undertaken from around April 1959 to March 1960, and some cars were exported S.U.P. to Australia and New Zealand, and a Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala 4-Door Sedans have been imported recently to the U.K. The Bel Air was Red/White and carried a nest of Black Widow Spiders into the U.K.!
Also cars were exported to Rhodesia, Kenya, and other Southern African countries, some coming back with owners when they left for South Africa.


US Chevrolets and Pontiacs ?
No VIN numbers known, but possibly "M " was the code for Mexico City plant.


Canadian Chevrolets and Pontiacs
No VIN codes known yet, nor production figures before 1962
All the following plants assembled U.S. Chevrolets (and U.S. Pontiacs)
Almost certainly C.K.D. cars were painted in different colours from U.S./Canadian cars.


L.H.D. exports were, of course, widely exported including to the U.K.
The L.H.D. export Chevrolets, either U.S. or Canadian, S.U.P. or C.K.D. used the U.S. L.H.D. Dash, yet Canadian Pontiacs used a Dash adapted from the ‘59 U.S. Pontiacs, fitted into the Chevy-based body. However, as before, Chevrolet running gear was used, and Chevrolet engines, etc., except that the six-cylinder engine was the 261 in.3 basically as used in some Chevrolet Trucks, namely the "Jobmaster Six" called the with 2 more b.h.p. than ’58, namely 150 b.h.p.
As to which models were exported, it is believed that all of the U.S. range was available, including wagons, some of which were assembled C.K.D. in South America and Mexico, yet Canadian cars did not include the 2-Door Utility, and the nine-passenger wagon. As to Canadian Pontiacs it is believed that all models were available, yet possibly only the six-cylinder cars, since U.S. Pontiacs, especially Bonnevilles, were widely exported with V8 power. It seems as though C.K.D. kits may have been concentrated mainly on the Laurentian 4-Door Sedan and Parisienne 4-Door Sedan (Models 7519 and 7719).
Known Assembly Plants were:
Code: "CA " prefix to the U.S. or Canadian V.I.N.
U.S. Chevrolets and U.S./Canadian Pontiacs
Production figures: 1959 1960
Chevrolet 3080 3818
Pontiac 448 303
Exports were made to France, Germany, and the U.K. (LHD) and sold to NATO Servicemen.


Code "IC " and sequential number
U.S. Chevrolets and Canadian Pontiacs
No production figures available. However, Danish cars were exported to countries in Scandinavia.

GENERAL MOTORS SUISSE SA, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

Code "SS " prefixing US/Canadian VIN ?
U.S. Chevrolets and U.S./Canadian Pontiacs:
Production figures:
Chevrolet 1959: 689 1960: 872
Pontiac 1959: 48 --
Note: Pontiac assembly ceased in 1959


[1959] .......................................[1960]
BLUE FLAME SIX 235.5 in.3 | HI-THRIFT SIX 235.5 in.3
145 BHP @ 4200 R.P.M. | 135 BHP @ 4000 R.P.M.
8.25:1 C.R. | 8.25:1 C.R.
TURBO-FIRE V-8 283 in.3 | TURBO-FIRE V8 inches 283 in.3
185 BHP @ 4600 R.P.M. | 170 BHP @ 4200 R.P.M.
8.5:1 C.R. | 8.5:1 C.R.
STRATO-SIX inches 261 in.3 | STRATO-SIX inches 261 in.3
148 BHP | 150 BHP @ 4000 R.P.M.
STRATO-FLASH V-8 283 in.3 | STRATO-FLASH V-8 283 in.3
185 BHP @ 4600 R.P.M. | 170 BHP @ 4299 R.P.M.
The Canadian Pontiac "Strato-Six " was also used in commercial vehicles.
(1957) "JOBMASTER" engine 6-Cylinder 142 BHP @ 4000 R.P.M., 7.3:1 C.R.
The 348 in.3 "W" series engine was not available in R.H.D. and export L.H.D. cars. Fuel Injection was not available on Canadian Pontiacs in 1959, and not on export Chevrolets. The 348 was available in Canadian Pontiacs in the same levels of tune as the Chevrolets.
Note Del Ray dropped for 1959 and Impala becomes seperate series
Note Pathfinder dropped for 1959 and Parisienne becomes seperate series
Wagons and 6-cylinder/V-8 were all in seperate series.

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