Low, sleek, full-width bodies were the hit of 1949 at Pontiac. This was some compensation for the rather unexciting pre-war L-head six-and eight-cylinder engines. Pontiac's all-new postwar cars finally arrived in dealer showrooms in March of 1949. Everything was new from the ground up, except for the powertrains. The inline 6- and 8-cylinder engines, and 3-speed manual and Hydra-Matic transmissions soldiered on with no more than refinements.
In fact the sales brochure was so bold as to proclaim, "So enthusiastic has been the praise of (the Pontiac Six and Eight) by discriminating motorists all over America, that Pontiac engineers have confined their efforts to the refinement of Pontiac's Famous Power-Packed Engines rather than undertake radical changes for the 1949 model." On the exterior, all Pontiac models shared the GM corporate A-body with Chevrolet. This was the first time in over ten years for Pontiac not to have a version of either the corporate B- or C-body. Fortunately the A-body was a very clean lined car that looked good in either fastback-style Streamliner or the newly named notchback-style Chieftain. While the Chieftain replaced the Torpedo, it was now the top-line series, and was an indication of the future for Streamliner fastback body styling. Flush mounted front fenders and rear fender lines that were nearly fully blended into the body side were characteristics of all new Pontiacs. The greenhouse area of all models was common between Chevrolet and Pontiac, but the rest of the car, although slightly smaller for '49, was distinctively Pontiac.
The grille began a new theme for Pontiac. The top bar, attached to the leading edge of the hood and front fenders, curved down under the headlights to meet the center bar. The center and lower horizontal bars were full-width, and rectangular parking lights were placed in-between at each end. Between these two bars were eight vertical bars, four to a side. In the middle a vertical bar ran between the top hood bar and bottom horizontal bar, with a round Indian head medallion at the intersection with the center bar. A new Pontiac hood emblem was the start point for the "Silver Streaks," this year consisting of five strips separated by body color paint. These were again used on the decklid of most models, ending at the trunk handle. A new "Chief Pontiac" hood ornament was used, with the face being an opaque reddish color, and could be illuminated if desired. Taillights were again of a round design placed low on the rear fender ends, just above the full wraparound rear bumper. Exterior trim on base models was virtually nonexistent, limited to stainless steel windshield and rear window trim, a beltline molding and rocker panel molding. DeLuxe models featured a chrome strip running from the back edge of the front wheel opening, straight back over the rear wheel opening to the taillights, and a chrome rear quarter gravel shield. A new interior accompanied the all-new exterior. The centerpiece was a round grille decorated with stainless trim. The clock, when fitted, was mounted in the center of the grille. In cars equipped with a radio, the speaker was placed behind the grille, and the radio controls below. Instruments consisted of a curved speedometer mounted directly above the steering column and two gauges on each side of it. Thinner pillars meant more glass area that greatly improved visibility, although the Streamliners still had limited rearward vision. Upholstery and instrument panels were done in two-tone gray, with DeLuxe models featuring the popular button-tufted seats.
Model choices in the Streamliner series continued as in 1948, with the addition of an all steel wagon using Di-Noc vinyl simulated wood paneling and trim. The only visual difference between the all-steel and wood-bodied wagons was that the steel wagons' Di-Noc paneling had a rounded end at the back, while the real wood panels were squared off. The Chieftain replaced the Torpedo model for model, with the exception of the Sport Coupe being dropped, and the 2-Door Sedan being available in both trim levels. On a historical note, this would be the only year for the wood wagon on the new body style, and the last year for Streamliner wagons of any type, as they would move to the Chieftain series next year. Also, this year marked Pontiac's short-lived entry into the light-duty truck market in the U.S. with the introduction of a Sedan Delivery. Distinguished by having only two doors and a metal wagon body with no windows, it was sold as an alternative to the Chevrolet Sedan Delivery, since it could be had with an 8-cylinder engine. Since it is technically a truck, it is not covered in detail here, but most specifications are similar to a base Streamliner Wagon, sans the wood trim. The Sedan Delivery offered only a driver's seat as standard.