Don and Jackie Heidt’s 1952 Pontiac Chieftain Convertible
One easy way to stand out in the hot rod and custom car crowd is to build something other than a common Ford or Chevy. Another way is to have your car built by a shop with a distinctive and definitive style. Don and Jackie Heidt did both when they had Kindig-It Design build their custom 1952 Pontiac Chieftain convertible.
A longtime GM fan, Don jumped at the chance to buy the drop-top Pontiac two decades ago, though it languished in his shop as a “someday” project for years while Don got other projects on the road. A chance meeting with Dave Kindig at the Colorado Nationals led to a series of conversations that ultimately saw the Pontiac being built at Kindig-It, right as the shop’s star ascended with the beginning of the Bitchin’ Rides TV show.
Rather than substantially modify the Pontiac frame, the team at Kindig-It started with a new Art Morrison chassis with performance-based independent front and rear suspensions. This not only delivered superior ride and handling and large-diameter four-wheel disc brakes, but also got the stance where everyone wanted it. EVOD custom machined the wheels, which feature a Chieftain emblem center cap and Kindig’s signature built-in “whitewall” for a classic look.
Don wanted substantial modern power and got it with a Magnuson-supercharged LS3 turning out 650 horsepower. It’s beautifully detailed with red paint, old-school Offenhauser finned valve covers, and plenty of polish. A stainless Borla exhaust handles spent fumes, while a 4L80E overdrive transmission takes care of the shifting duties.
Considering how uncommon a Chieftain convertible is, Don was comfortable leaving the body mostly stock. The Kindig-It crew fixed the rust and massaged the panels to fit better than stock but limited exterior mods to subtle touches like frenched headlights and the shop’s signature flush-mount door handles. When everything was smooth and straight, the body was sprayed in a Porsche color called Panamerican Platinum.
The classy and classic looking interior incorporates a host of custom elements, starting with Thunderbird bucket seats in front and a modified stock rear seat, all beautifully upholstered in red leather by JS Custom Interiors. Dakota Digital custom fitted VHX instruments into the original gauge cluster, while a Vintage Air system was integrated behind the dash. An Ididit tilt column mounts the modified original steering wheel.
Built in just 18 months, the 1952 Pontiac Chieftain was finished in early 2016, just in time to win Best Custom at that year’s Sacramento Autorama. It has earned scores of accolades since, proving the lasting appeal of a tastefully designed and well-executed contemporary custom rod.
Photos by John Jackson