Safari Facts

by Larry Gorden & Bob Johnson, updated July 2011


Pontiac began using the "Safari" name in 1955 for the new two-door hardtop style Star Chief station wagon.  The Safari wagon was released Jan 31, 1955, about four months after 1955 model year production began.  It was Pontiac's most expensive car and featured the upscale Star Chief components, including leather upholstery, but it was built on the shorter Chieftain chassis 

180 BHP was engine output when equipped with the standard two barrel carburetor and Hydramatic transmission.  A 4-barrel carburetor was offered as an option beginning in March 1955 (dual exhaust was not available for 1955 Pontiacs).

In addition to the Safari, there were three other station wagon models available, the Chieftain 860 four-door station wagon (three seats) the Chieftain 860 two-door station wagon and the Chieftain 870 Four-door station wagon.  The 870 wagon shares some components with the Safari, including the fold-down back seat.


New for this year were 4-barrel carburetor as standard equipment on the Safari and a redesigned Hydramatic transmission, called the "Strato-Flight" transmission.  All Safaris were built with new Strato-Flight transmission except for 10 equipped standard transmission.  For other changes made in the 56 model year, see  Pontiac Craftsman Service News, Oct, 1955.

227 BHP was standard engine output when equipped with single four barrel carburetor and Hydramatic transmission.  216 BHP with single two barrel carburetor was available as an option.  A 285 BHP "Dual-Quad" (two four barrel carburetors) was available as an option.


Pontiac began using the Safari name for all station wagons in 1957.  The name was no longer reserved for the sporty two-door hardtop style -- as in the 1955-56 model years.  In 1957, the sporty 2-door wagon was called the "2-door Custom Safari" to distinguish it from the other Safaris (Chieftain and Super Chief station wagons).  A "Custom Transcontinental Safari" (aka "4-door Custom Safari" or just "Transcontinental") was a four-door wagon with high-end Star Chief components and trim.

270 BHP was standard engine output when equipped with single four barrel carburetor and Hydramatic transmission.  290 BHP "Tri-Power" was available as an option (three two barrel carburetors).


Pontiac still offered a Star Chief "Custom Safari" station wagon but gone was the sporty two-door Star Chief wagon.  The 1958 Custom Safari was a successor to the 1957 Transcontinental.  It was a four-door with leather upholstery and Star Chief trim.

1955-57 Pontiac station wagons, including the Safaris, were built on the 122 inch wheelbase chassis used by all Chieftain models.  Except for the Safari, Star Chief models were built on the longer 124 inch wheelbase chassis.

  1955 Safari 1956 Safari 1957 2-dr Custom Safari 1957 Transcontinental
Model No. 2564DF 2764DF 2764DF 2762SDF
Weight with std trans 3,636 lbs 3,642 lbs 3,750 lbs 3,845 lbs
Weight with auto trans 3,746 lbs 3,762 lbs 3,860 lbs 3,955 lbs
Base Price, std Trans $2,962 $3,129 $3,481 $3,636
Price with Hydramatic Trans $3,047 $3,213 $3,572 $3,727
# produced 3,760 4,042 1,292 1,894

Engine displacement

287.2 ci

316.6 ci

347 ci

347 ci



For a comparison of various sources of Safari price & weight figures see Table of Price/Weight Sources by Victor Dana, May 2011.


Comparison of 1955-57 Pontiac Safari and Chevrolet Nomad

The Pontiac Safari and Chevrolet Nomad bodies were built in the same Fisher Body plant (in Euclid, OH) and share many body components.  They are the same above the beltline (roof, windshield, windows. liftgate).  They use the same doors, tailgate, and seats.  Other than these body components, the Safari and Nomad share very little.  There are major differences in the trim, dash, floor, quarter panels, heating, frame, front end, engine, and drive train.

Chevrolet Nomad and Pontiac Custom Safari production figures for 1955-57 were as follows:

Year Nomad Custom Safari
1955 8,530 3,760
1956 7,886 4,042
1957 6,103

1,292 (2-door)

1,894 (4-door Transcontinental)

Total 22,375 10,988

Total Safari production, including the 4-door Transcontinental, was less than half the number of Nomads produced!  If you exclude the Transcontinental, and compare only the two door models, this ratio drops to 40.6% at 9,094 units for 2 door Safaris vs. Nomads.  Nomads '55 production alone nearly eclipses total 2 door Safari production!