HomePick of the DayNomad alternative 1956 Pontiac Safari

Nomad alternative 1956 Pontiac Safari


Everybody loves the tri-5 Chevy Nomads. With their sleek two-door wagon styling and canted rear hatch, they are favorites among rodders and restorers alike. But much rarer and even more expressive was the Pontiac Safari, which took the Nomad concept and added an extra layer of sporty elegance and chrome, lots of chrome.

The Pick of the Day is a handsomely restored 1956 Pontiac Safari, one of just 4,046 Safari wagons built for ’56, the lowest-production Pontiac of the year. (Fun facts: “safari” is the Swahili word for “journey;” “Surfin Safari” was a 1962 hit by the Beach Boys.)

The Safari is slathered in stainless and chrome

From the photos provided by the St. Louis, Missouri, dealer advertising the Pontiac on, the car looks to be a nicely restored original powered by a 227-horsepower, 317cid V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, Hydramatic transmission and dual exhaust. Both the body and interior are Custom Green and Tan, with leatherette upholstery.

The Safari rides on wide whitewalls with steel wheels and Pontiac hubcaps, and the seller says the chrome and stainless trim are in excellent condition. Upholstery, door panels and headliners are new, the seller adds. The car has just under 77,000 miles showing on the odometer.

The interior looks nicely refurbished

The sporty Nomad/Safari wagons started off with a 1954 General Motors Motorama concept car, a two-door hatchback built from the newly introduced Corvette. It was a hit at auto shows, but GM officials decided they would get more buyers by basing the stylish wagon look on the Chevrolet Bel Air and Pontiac Star Chief, the automakers’ top models.

The then-radical design proved popular, but with more admirers than buyers, most of whom ended up with more-practical sedans and four-door wagons instead of Nomads or Safaris. The style lasted through the tri-5 era of 1955-57, with the names later recycled for “normal” station wagons.

The asking price of $49,995 for this Pontiac Safari seems strong, but the car does look incredibly nice in the pictures. And the next owner is likely to be the only one taking a Safari to the next cruise-in.

To view this listing on, see Pick of the Day

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


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