Chris Anderson, of Norman, is a vibrant young man who just likes old things and what they can reveal about earlier ways of life in America.
He’s a husband, father of young children and a corporate supply chain executive whose interests include collecting vintage advertising artifacts and railroad memorabilia. Anderson owns, maintains and drives a 1949 Pontiac Streamliner, a “Mayan Gold” fastback coupe.
“When I look at any part of this car, such as a door panel, I see history in it,” Anderson said. “There are scratches here and there, which makes me wonder what the original owner was doing when that happened.”
Seeing something as mundane as wear marks on the steering wheel takes him back to how the driver must have been holding his hands on it over the years.
“I value that history,” he said. “When I was growing up, I’d go to antique stores with my parents all the time. I still do and collect old things. Old movies are on the TV all the time and it’s neat to me to see how life was before modern times.”
Anderson was excited to receive an eBay package that day with an addition to his collection of license plate toppers. Those are metal plates popular from the 1930s to the 1980s that attached above a car’s state tag with a variety of advertising, political or regional themes. His latest topper says “Eufaula Motor Inn” and appears to be from the 1940s.
“Growing up, my dad had a 1951 Chevy, two-door fastback and a 1949 Oldsmobile two-door fastback,” Anderson said. “Being around those as a kid, I was destined to have my own fastback.”
His spouse encouraged him to find the car of his dreams. Anderson sold an Opel GT to finance the acquisition, which involved a six-month online search. His scope included any original or relatively original 1949-1952 model GM product with body lines that swept down from roof to rear bumper. Anderson is a Minnesota native who was living is his hometown Bloomington at the time.
“I searched all over but found only one car to look at and finally put an ad myself on Craigslist,” he said. “Within a week, I got an email from an owner who had one in his garage.”
The 1949 Pontiac was in South Dakota and the seller was related to the car’s original owners. It had originally been purchased in Hosmer, South Dakota, by Royal Orville Stabbe, who was a bookkeeper in the small farming community’s bank. The Pontiac was purchased new at G. Schaible Motors on July 2, 1949.
Stabbe drove the car for several years and sold it to his brother, who drove it until 2001. It then went to a niece, who bought it as a graduation gift for her niece. That’s who Anderson bought it from in 2011. Anderson researched much of this information through online obituaries. He also learned that his Pontiac was assembled in Pontiac, Michigan.
“I like the fact that this car came from the original family,” Anderson said. “That doesn’t add any monetary value for me, but it’s neat to have the history that the owners could pass on. I have an AC Delco battery registration card for the Pontiac, which is in perfect condition. This paperwork documents what the family told me with exact dates.”
But this hasn’t been just a historical pursuit for Anderson. He’s also a hands-on mechanic and enthusiastic driver.
“I love driving this car and have put over 2,000 miles on it,” he said.
The Pontiac’s fenders were repainted at some point, but Anderson spent hours using rubbing compound to bring back much of its original luster. He polished the ornate metal dashboard. Anderson and his engineer father with a shop in Minnesota did the mechanical work to make it run and stop safely.
“The only thing I paid someone to do is have a rebuilt ‘52 or ‘53 automatic transmission installed, which still fits with the car,” he said. “It’s a four-speed Hydramatic that requires special factory tools for a rebuild.”
The engine is a Pontiac 249-cubic-inch, flathead, straight-8 that’s longer than a yardstick. The 1930s era design cranks out 104 horsepower but delivers 190 foot pounds of torque.
“My brother works in a race engine shop and has a side business doing head work,” Anderson said. “So he cleaned up the head a bit, and all the valves and valve seats but the rest of the block looked good in there.”
Brakes, hoses, wheel cylinders, a fuel pump, carburetor, generator and starter were rebuilt or replaced. He didn’t modernize the 6-volt electrical system to a 12 volt.
“It’s an old car,” he said. “I like that long, narrow battery, which is a lengthy rectangle instead of a cube.”
Anderson digs every retro aspect of his 67-year-old Pontiac.
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