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What is “Special” about Pontiac in Canada for 1938?


As I have started on a Canadian 1938 Pontiac coupe street rod project I thought I should learn a bit about the car before I begin as I am told these coupes are rather rare with a total production of only about 270 cars. Two and four door sedans were more common than the coupes but total 1938 Pontiac sales in Canada was only about 6500 cars split between two very different series of cars.

Below you will find are some of the interesting facts I have learned about these unique cars.

I have been using original owners manuals, sales brochures and parts / service manuals printed by GM Canada in 1938 in my research and I have found some discrepancies regarding the available models. The sales brochure shows the Canadian models as the “Deluxe” and “Special” six series while the parts books lists three series:

2500 Canadian “Special six” 112” wheelbase (Chevy chassis) and 216 ci Chevy engine

2600 Canadian “Deluxe six” longer (117”) wheelbase (American Pontiac type chassis) and the 224 ci Chevy engine.

2800 – Imported from the USA flathead 8 cylinder engine

My two Canadian owners manuals are different. One manual shows the models as the Deluxe and Special six while the other is for a “Model 224” only. I have seen some of the Deluxe six cars with “224” hubcaps while others have “Pontiac” on them. The Canadian GM Heritige service responded to my questions on the matter; The "official" production records refer only to the series numbers (2500,2600,2800). The "official" vehicle ordering guide for 1938 that went to all Dealers for ordering purposes describes only the models by these series numbers. Neither of those refers to either "Series 224", "Deluxe Six", or "Special Six". This nomenclature may have been used as emblems to differentiate these cars. Could they have been called that in other publications? Quite possibly.”

It turns out GM made two very different series of Pontiac cars for the Canadian market in the 1938.

Both of the Canadian series of cars were different than the models offered in the USA.

GM Canada offered the Pontiac “Deluxe six” and the less expensive “Special six” series both of which were available as a coupe, two or four door sedan.

My coupe is of the “Special six” series and most of this article will describe what I have noted as being different from the “Deluxe” series and that of the American six cylinder cars.

The “Special six” series Pontiacs for 38 used a Chevrolet body and frame with a replica of the American Pontiac front sheet metal although I am told none of the front end pieces will interchange with the USA cars.

I am not so clear on the “Deluxe six” series of cars. They used a body and frame that was much more like (perhaps the same as?) the American six cylinder cars. Some people tell me that the body / chassis parts interchange with the USA models because these used the design of the American six cylinder models, while other tell me they are uniquely Canadian. I tend to believe the chassis and body were based on the American 6DA Deluxe models but had the Canadian Chevrolet drivetrain.

Both series of the 1938 Canadian Pontiacs used Chevrolet overhead valve six cylinder engines (above left) while the American models still used a flathead design (above right) available in both an inline six or eight cylinder. The “Special six” had the same 215 OHV engine the Chevy had but painted a different colour. The “Deluxe six” used a Chevy engines as well but it had higher compression and was over bored to provide an extra four horsepower from the larger 224 cubic inch displacement.

Chassis ; The “Special six” used the Chevrolet 112 ¼” wheelbase chassis with a straight axle front end. The Deluxe used the American 117” wheelbase X frame supported chassis with a knee action independent front end. While my “Special six” coupe has a Chevrolet chassis it came with a front antiroll (sway) bar that was not included on the Chevrolet models.

Canadian "Deluxe Six" with the American Pontiac chassis and Chevrolet motor

Canadian Pontiac "Special six" with Chevrolet chassis and engine.

Rear window- Canadian “Special six” had a one piece rear window while the Canadian “Deluxe” and American models had a split rear window in all models.

Rear Fenders 
on the Canadian “Deluxe” and American cars had a horizontal body line (above right) that matched the line found on the rear of the front fenders. The Canadian “Special six” models used the smooth Chevrolet rear fenders without the body line (above left).

Front Door The Canadian “Special six” had the Chevrolet diagonal body line in the front doors (abovve left) and is the easiest way to spot the “Special six” Pontiacs. American and Canadian Deluxe models used doors that did not have this distinctive body line (above right) .

Dash on the Canadian “Deluxe” and American cars bolted in place while the Canadian “Special six” Chevrolet dash was welded to the cowl assembly. The “Special six” instrument cluster appears to be the same as the American cars offering. The rest of the dash openings were Chevy but were filled with items that were uniquely Pontiac “Special six”

Tail lights on the “Special six” were mounted on the art deco Chevrolet curved stands (above left) while the Canadian “Deluxe” and American cars (above right) used a much shorter  and squared off stand and light assembly.

Gas tanks were located under the chassis and were filled through the rear passenger side fender on the Canadian Deluxe and American coupes. “Special six” coupes had the tanks inside of the car and were filled through a filler located on the passenger side behind the door.

Seating for three on a single bench seat was standard on the Canadian “Special six” coupe (above left) while the Canadian “Deluxe” and American car’s longer wheelbase and body permitted Pontiac to offer jump seats for rear seat passengers (above right).