Absolute Class: An LT-Swapped 1952 Pontiac Chieftain Meant To Cruise


Absolute Class: An LT-Swapped 1952 Pontiac Chieftain Meant To Cruise


Eugene and Patti Bothello enjoy the simple things in life, like going out for date night or just a cruise. The Hamilton, Bermuda couple were looking for something fun, but they needed something modern. They both enjoy 1950s-era cars, but wanted to have that modern peace-of-mind added to the mix. The typical Ford or Chevy wasn't quite what they were looking for.

Bothello Pontiac Front 3/4

Cue the Pontiac Chieftain, a post-war family car that was available in sedan, coupe, and convertible models. These Pontiacs had quite an odd option list, which included a radio with seven vacuum tubes, a tissue dispenser, under-seat heaters, and a Remington Roll-A-Matic Auto-Home shaver. Although not a Cadillac, this Pontiac was slotted up there with the more upscale cars of yesteryear. Pontiac offered four power plants: two "L-head" inline-sixes and two "L-head" straight-eights, a staple for Pontiac from 1933 until 1954. They found the rare big, chrome-laden Poncho in coupe form and liked that almost nobody knew what it was. Prize in hand, the couple tasked Hot Rod Dynamics to begin construction on the project in October 2019.

Bothello Chieftain hood detail

Hot Rod Dynamics is a one-stop shop that builds some of the highest quality cars you'll see. Their facility specializes in restoring and constructing anything, from hot rods and classics to all-out sports car and truck builds. In addition, they take pride in engineering consultation, design, and producing their products in-house.

Bothello Chieftain face lit up

Joe Lutz, the founder, was born into a family of car enthusiasts and learned much of his restoration knowledge from his father, Eddie Lutz, who's enjoyed the hobby for the past 40 years. Joe Started Hot Rod after leaving Roush Yates where he was heavily involved in NASCAR Cup car engineering. Joe's dream was to run his own shop, and he's has managed to surpass all of his customer's expectations with quality design and craftsmanship. In April of 2022, Joe passed the torch along to Eric Reese, a long-time friend, employee, and supporter of Hot Rod Dynamics. Eric brings a drag racing dynamic and wants to extend Hot Rod's ever-growing brand success. The Chieftain has been one of Eric's pet projects, and he couldn't be more proud of his team's accomplishments with this immaculate Pontiac.

Bothello Chieftain from driver's side door

A build of this caliber required a frame-off restoration, so much so that Roadster Shop was called in to replace the factory frame. From that point, a custom air ride setup began to take shape. A combination of Fox air ride suspension by RideTech up front and Air Lift 3H3P bags for a shorted 9-inch four-link rear end support the Pontiac's body. In addition, Roadster Shop provided their pro spindles and A-arms.

Bothello Chieftain Under Car

The smooth body lines of a Chieftain are plenty unique, but Hot Rod Dynamics had to take it to the next level. All body panels remain stock, but the lines look cleaner thanks to some Kindig-It Design flush mount door handles and frenched headlight bezels. There are many details to love about this car, but one highlight has to be the hidden fuel filler, found behind the rear quarter emblem. All of the chrome trim is present, including the chromed "Chief's Head" emblem. The Pontiac can almost lay on the frame, even with 18x8 and 20x12 Schott Accelerator D Concave wheels. The team had to build custom wheel tubs to accept the big meats and fabricated the entire floor pan. Muscle Car Accessories finished the bodywork and laid the ever-so-popular Audi-sourced Nardo Grey over the body and a gloss black over the bill and roofline.

Bothello Cheiftain engine bay

More fabrication work from Hot Rod Dynamics can be seen in the engine bay, where all you gaze upon is a Magnuson-supercharged LT1 crate motor producing 600 horsepower at the wheels.. The lines of the curved engine bay covers blend right along with the fat fenders. The engine and blower case have been smoothed and painted black, keeping with the outside color scheme. Finally, Greening Auto Company machined a valve cover set with the signature "chieftain" logo in red and the Pontiac logo embossed. A factory 10L90 10-speed automatic transmission backs the swap, providing the kind of drivability and fuel mileage that the Bothellos were looking for. Hot Rod Dynamics had to fabricate a firewall to make this happen, but it's shaven like the other engine bay panels.

Bothello Chieftain interior

The interior is just as impressive as the exterior, with no stone unturned. During the 1950s, the entire dash of your average car was metal and generally the same color as the car. The Pontiac is no different, finished in that beautiful Nardo Grey with abundant chrome, just like the outside. JB Interiors made it all pop, contrasting the Nardo Grey with Sureka Monza Red leather. Red flooring and a stitched wool headliner outline the 1965 Thunderbird front and custom rear seats. Red leather continues throughout the rest of the interior, including the custom center console. Classic Instruments retrofitted modern technology into the entire chrome-clad stock gauge cluster. Air conditioning wasn't an option back then, so a Vintage Air Gen 4 Magnum is used for those hot days. The chrome bezel and knobs look perfectly in place next to the chrome-ringed instrumentation. Power steering wasn't an option; a large steering wheel aided with that. The "chief's head" head insert on the steering wheel adds an classy touch, and all of the Air Ride controls are within reach, nicely built into the center console.

Bothello Chieftain Gauge Detail

A nice JBL radio hides in the console, while some Rockford Fosgate speakers mesh into the leather-wrapped door panels and rear window sill. A Rockford Fosgate subwoofer and amp that provide extra punch are hidden under the trunk floor alongside the air ride tank, neatly stowed away. Like the interior, the trunk has leather wrapped panels and the red carpet to bring it all together.

Bothello Chieftain rear

The team at Hot Rod Dynamics officially finished up the Chieftain in January of 2023. Eugene has been able to fly into the country to see his new cruiser and take it out for a spin, but Patty couldn't tag along. He can't wait for the moment when he can take his wife out on a cruise in the Pontiac as they intended, but getting a car onto the island of Bermuda takes time. No matter, though...some things are worth waiting for.


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