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A Poncho Legend!

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May 2020 Feature Car


I found this months feature car on our Facebook page. Jon Kauffman is the proud owner of this great looking 1959 Pontiac Strato Chief. With the help of his brother in law, Jon took the tired wagon to a whole new level. When disaster struck he seized the opportunity to improve the performance even further. Jon tells us all about this rare Poncho:

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I haven’t always been a classic car guy and I certainly am not the guy that knows everything about every year and every make but when my sister in law married a guy who is "that guy" in 2003 his passion for classics and his 62’ Bel Air Bubble top project started rubbing off on me.  In 2006 I was helping a friend shingle a roof about 30 miles from home when I saw this beauty over the neighbors fence.  After we finished the roof I walked over where I met the original owners daughter… Her dad bought it new in 1959 in Edmonton.  After some wheeling and dealing we settled on a price and I returned with a trailer and hauled it home. 

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Having grown up farming, which is what I still do, I was mechanically inclined enough but time was not something I had a lot of as we had 2 young kids at home and plenty of work to do on the farm.  It was process to find any one who could/would take on an old wagon and as with most projects, finding parts proved to be quite challenging. 

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Eventually we found rear quarters from an Impala and as well rockers and were able to get started on the body.  A couple more years went by, a few more conversations, recommendations, and connections were made before I was able to find a shop that was willing to take on the balance of the body work and paint.  Turned out the same guy had a good running Buick 340 motor and a 2 speed power glide out of a 69’ Skylark, which soon replaced the original engine and 3 on the tree transmission.  The same car also donated power steering and power brakes which made the car much more driveable. 

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Finally, in the summer of 2011 we were on the road!  From that point, we have slowly made improvements as budget and time allowed, first doing a front disc brake conversion on the farm, with the help of my brother in law and a kit from Toms Classics on eBay in 2015. Over the next few years we dropped the front end an inch and a half and changed out the fuel tank as it was weeping a bit. 

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By the end of 2017 we were starting to have trouble with the 2 barrel carb. It was giving us grief at different temps (it turned out to be a vacuum leak that was causing the majority of the problems).  Instead of trying to learn the art of carb rebuilding and tuning I opted for a FiTech EFI conversion.  This kit was simple to install and again, with the help of my brother in law, we tackled it in a weekend.  This made the car much more reliable again, easy starting, easy idling, and no more hood up trying to get the engine to fire and keep running. 

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We ran the car all of 2018 and the spring of 2019 this way and thought we had things dialled in nicely but sadly on June 29 of 2019, with our family of 5 in the car, the engine bay caught fire on the highway.  Thankfully, we all got out safely and the first 2 vehicles that stopped had fire extinguishers with them!  We got the fire out quickly but lost the engine, hood, wiring, and basically everything in the engine bay. 

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This was sad, scary, and devastating, but thankfully as of April 13, 2020 we are about 2 weeks away from completing an LS swap to a 5.3L with a 4L60E behind it. 

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We are all eagerly anticipating getting back on the road and looking forward to the power, reliability, and drivability of the pro touring upgrades.  We have built many memories in this car as a family. 

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My brother and sister in law with the 62’ live in BC’s lower mainland so that has served as an excellent launch pad for many road trips including BC/s Sunshine Coast, Whidbey Island in WA, Winthrop, WA, Osoyoos BC, Penticton BC and many other local trips. We’ve been to a few drive in movies, car shows, and drive the “cool car" (as the kids call it) to church most Sundays as well.  The car has become a member of our family and we are looking forward to many more journeys down the road!

Jon

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Todd
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Canadian Poncho World Headquarters - Prince Edward Island

 



Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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That is so darn cool, congratulations Jon!



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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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I agree, darn cool and great that the whole family are enjoying it a lot.
Don

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63 Parisienne sport coupe (The Big GTO), black, maroon interior, 409 4 speed; former owner of a 59 El Camino, 63 Corvette SWC, 62 Chev Bel Air SC. 

Mahone Bay, NS Still not old enough to need an automatic



Poncho Master!

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Thats one sweet ride. I look forward to staring at it for a month.



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pontiax- (canadian pontiac X frame)1964 Parisienne 2dr. hdtop lagoon aqua metallic (Q)

 



Guru

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Very Nice! Quite the transformation and looks like everyone is having lots of fun at the Drive-in!

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Now appearing as "68 Grande" 



Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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C'mon, a drive-in with giggling kids and a vintage Canadian wagon! It doesn't get better than that.

I'm sold! Top shelf example.

Congrats Jon!



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67' Grande Parisienne. Ex Ottawa USSR Embassy car, 67- 68.
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Addicted!

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Really cool history and more so a really cool car. I like your upgrades starting with Brakes!!!!, that fire must have been a rush !, really nice car.

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Dale Petrie

1950 Pontiac Silver Streak 2 Dr Sedan

1956 Studebaker 1/2 ton

1967 Beaumont  2 Dr Sport Coupe 

1985 GMC 1500 Sierra 4x4 One Owner



Uber Guru

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Beautiful solution to the problem of getting buy-in from the wife and kids! Nicely put together.

I can attest from airplane and RV fire experiences that engine fires will get your heart rate up faster than anything in the world!

Good way to test the old ticker.

I'd be interested to hear how you managed to repair all the fire damage, find new parts etc.



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ken from northern Alberta

38 Willys pickup electric powered project

39 Buick (327 with 700 r4)

66 Grande Parisienne 396 with AC (built October 26 1965)

66 Beaumont 4 door hardtop

69 Chevy CST pickup

1976 GMC 23'  motorhome



Veteran Member

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That is one great looking car it is certainly something
to be proud of.
Who ever said the old ones die off.
Drive her proudly.

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Uber Guru

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How has these cool wagon slipped under the radar for so long? Great back story and nice save.

I love the shots of the kids at the Drive In. Watching movies at the drive-in from inside a Pontiac wagon, what a "remember when" for many of us, myself included.

 

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it came back even better than the first go-round. It turned out beautifully.



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67 Chevelle Malibu Sport Coupe, Oshawa-built stocker 250 Powerglide 40,000 mile

Also in garage waiting: stroker 296 cid inline six & built TH350

Cameron Milne, Toronto.


I am a walking encyclopedia with numerous pages missing.



Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Well that is an awesome wagon and the story with it is even better. So glad that fire was no worse than it was and there is new life. Congrats on being feature of the month.

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Jerel


A Poncho Legend!

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Oh, the lines on your 59 Pontiac wagon..................absolutely classic. I can't get enough of them.

It's going to be another great month!

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1966 Strato Chief 2 door, 427 4 speed, 44,000 original miles



Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Beautiful wagon and great story (except for the fire bit).



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Prince Edward Island

'64 Parisienne CS "barn find" - last on the road in '86 ... Owner Protection Plan booklet, original paint, original near-mint aqua interior, original aqua GM floor mats, original 283, factory posi, and original rust.

MC


Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Wowwee!  Great car, great story!  Love the '59s.



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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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wow and how great to see it at a drive in full of kids great job!

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http://canadianponcho.activeboard.com/t51640378/timbuks-first-invader/ http://canadianponcho.activeboard.com/t63146560/timbuks-second-invader/  vancouver island



Guru

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Sweet story, before you know it those kids will be adults, great way to plant the classic car seed in their hearts! Beautifully done even if I'm more the type to leave it stone cold stock!

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John

Montreal 

16 1969 American Pontiacs

and a 1969 Canadian 2+2 Hardtop



Addicted!

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Great car , Great pics , and Great story ! Congrats Jon !

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Addicted!

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So cool. Love your ride!!!

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Guru

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Fantastic story and the ride is absolutely amazing! Well done!

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Guru

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Just re-read the thread again and I sure like how the Strato was dropped an inch and a half and eventually converted to the 5.3 and the 460. A blend of original and current systems to create a functional vehicle for today and in the future.

I just think you re-created a real functional gem that is so unique and great eye candy! Those kids in the back watching the movie will never forget that night at the drive in theater!

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Now appearing as "68 Grande" 



Newbie

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Thanks for the comments... its been a fun ride for sure!

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Poncho Master!

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What a great car, you have done so many solid upgrades and made wonderful memories for the children. Congratulations.
Brian

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Poncho Master!

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Great wagon, so nice to see the kids enjoying the car. Modern powertrain and classic lines beautiful.

Al

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Veteran Member

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Posts: 58
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Sweet wagon! Love the LS upgrade. 



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Poncho Master!

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That is one slick wagon. Congrats on a job well done.

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Eric - Regina, SK

The Projects:

1935 Chev 3 Window Std Coupe

1957 Chev 2dr 

1967 Mustang Convertible

1969 Firebird 350HO Convertible

1969 Camaro X11-V8

1969 2+2 was a 396

1969 2+2 427

1978 Chev ShortBox StepSide 4x4

1980 Harley FXWG

1986 CJ7 Jeep

 

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