Article and photography by Richard Butschi
In September of 1945, after the end of WWII, Pontiac’s upper level offering was called the Streamliner. The term Silver Streak was actually a “styling theme” with a load of chrome and stainless steel moldings adorning the new sleeker models. The hood had as many as 5 metal strips running its length, along with the iconic Indian hood ornament and bright trim on headlights, front fenders and rear trunk. In ‘48, the number of strips was 3, but still quite prominent. The fact that all this metal trim was intact and had survived severe flooding is the reason that this car is here today.
Dan and Linda Eichinger, of Marion, purchased the Pontiac in 2000 after answering an ad and taking a look in a area resident’s backyard. This owner gave up on the idea of restoring the ‘48, but Dan, who worked at Evergreen Packaging as a mechanical engineer for 45 years, imagined what this car could come to be. There was no engine or transmission. The interior had rotted away. The door cranks, latches and all gauges were rusted beyond repair. The only interior item eventually salvaged was the horn ring, which Eichinger eventually worked into the center of the dashboard. After discarding all that couldn’t be used, Eichinger built a rolling frame to temporarily mount the body and cart it to Brad Johnson at Custom Auto Rebuilders in Marion. Here the firewall was replaced, rust spots, including the floor pans were patched, sanded and primed.
Giving much thought to the exterior color for the ‘48, Eichinger spent a lot of time thumbing through issues of Street Rodder Magazine and ran across a striking two-toned beauty done in purple and gold. He called the shop in CA that did the paint job, where they suggested he use stock colors rather than expensive custom mixes in case he ever had to repaint. With a little help from Dan’s artist/friend, Bob Peterson and catalogs full of paint chips, colors were selected – GM Champagne Gold and Ford Midnight Purple, along with a red pinstripe. Dan had his own ideas on wheels for the Pontiac, but Peterson steered him in a much better direction appropriate for the ‘48. Wheelsmith Artillery wheels were chosen, custom-made with the proper backspacing and spokes. Peterson also helped with color and beauty ring style. Eichinger chose St. Donatus Body & Paint to handle the alterations to the body and apply the paint after seeing a ‘65 Rolls Royce that owner Greg Kalmes and crew had completed, while on a roadtrip with friends. Photos of the job can be viewed on their website.
The drivetrain came from a ‘94 Pontiac Firebird that Eichinger found in Troy Mills. The LT1 engine hooks up to a matched 4L60E 4-speed automatic transmission (rebuilt by Mysak Transmission, Marion) and rear end, with disc brakes and ABS from the same Firebird. The original suspension was modified to handle the donor parts. The ‘48 also sports a/c by Vintage Air, which seques nicely back to the all-but-gone interior, which Eichinger cites as being the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the build. Since little was salvaged from the interior, Dan used parts from the ‘94 Firebird and a ‘97 Bonneville that he found in Central City. He beautifully pieced together parts of each for the dashboard, door panels and center console while “marrying” the two wiring harnesses. Tom’s Auto Trim of Independence handled the final upholstery, including the trunk, adding details like the Pontiac logo into the headrests.
It took this “Phoenix” 17 years to rise from the ashes. The ‘48 has garnered many awards along the way, including two 1st place trophies from Camp Courageous shows. Dan and Linda also showed it at the 2018 Good Guys show in Des Moines. They seem to disagree as to future plans, however. Dan, who had a couple ‘57 Chevies in his early days, ponders the idea of selling the ‘48 and starting a new project. Linda... not so much.