Restoring an old car to its former glory helps preserve it. Automakers have produced billions of vehicles, many of which will end up in the scrap heap, and only a handful will remain. However, some old cars are beyond restoring but not so far gone to warrant a death sentence. That’s what Shawn did, buying an abandoned 1955 Pontiac for $500 and turning it into a rad-looking off-roader.
The Pontiac’s raised ride height comes via a new chassis borrowed from a 2000 Chevy S-10 pickup. The two have similar dimensions. The Pontiac wasn’t famous for its superb suspension or braking capabilities, so the modern truck chassis provided those comforts. Shawn built the car over a year with his wife and son, which required a lot of work. He bought the car in a terrible condition, with a lot of rust and much of the chrome long gone. It had a borked engine and seized brakes, too.
A 5.3-liter V8 engine from a Chevy pickup resides in the Pontiac, which pairs with a four-speed automatic gearbox. Inside, the Pontiac retained its original dash and steering wheel, though Shawn added cup holders and a fire extinguisher. At the front, the Pontiac wears a pair of fog lights Shawn’s father bought in 1975 when he worked at Kmart. The car sports KC lights across the roof, perched in front of a roof rack, but they’re not used much. They look neat, though, and that’s the whole point of the build. The 33-inch tires help sell the off-road aesthetic.
“I like to build cars that are outside the norm,” Shawn says early in the video. “I’m not really interested in building cars that are going to command a lot of money or attention on the show stage.”
Many design decisions were necessary, like the leather straps on the lower hood. It doesn’t have a secondary latch, and the straps help keep it secured. Much of the fort-end design is there to replace the missing chrome and rusted-out bits. The project cost $5,000.
The car looks a bit like a rat rod – it spots a “Please Do Not Tow” sticker just in case – but the raised ride height gives it a lot more character. It can cruise the highway or navigate some off-road terrain with ease while drawing all sorts of attention.