The Pontiac Bonneville was turning into a popular car, thanks to its luxury trappings. Though it was Pontiac's most expensive offering, it touted its performance capabilities for personal or family use, by offering different models for different tastes -- the snazzy convertible, practical sedan, kid-oriented station wagon, or sporty coupe. In the 1961 Bonneville, the split grille returns after a brief hiatus. The split is marked by a bold V-shaped extension of the deck lid adorned by Pontiac's arrowhead logo. In the back, the Bonneville name sat between 3 taillights on either side.
The new Trophy V8 engine and the unique wide track design were used as the big selling points for the 1961 Bonneville. Matched with a 4-speed Hydramatic, the rear-wheel drive Bonny hit a range of horsepowers depending on whether it had a 2-barrel, 4-barrel, or the TriPower (three 2-barrels) carburetor. It needed a big block engine, because its full-size body weighed almost two tons.
The sedan, convertible, coupe, and wagon featured carpeted, with wood-trimmed, all leather interiors, and rare wheels. Leather seats were optional (standard in the convertible), as were power windows, locks, and seats.
In 1961 brought a major redesign, as General Motors shrunk all its standards a bit and reverted to perimeter-type frames. Pontiac was arguably the best-looking of the bunch, with the split grille returning after a one-year absence to
grace crisply tailored new bodies. Standard horsepower for the Hydra-Matic-equipped Bonneville was 303, same as the previous year, but weight was down by 155 pounds and overall length was cut from 220.7 to 210 inches, resulting in a faster, more nimble luxury Pontiac.
Semon E. 'Bunkie' Knudsen became Pontiac's new general manager in the summer of 1956 and soon after he hired Pete Estes and John DeLorean. Huge changes were in the works for Pontiac. First introduced as mainly a dealer
promotion vehicle, that attempted to highlight Pontiac's new high performance image, the original Bonneville was a largely flashy convertible with a highly powered V8 engine generating 310 horsepower.
Originally introduced as a limited production performance convertible in the Pontiac Star Chief model range during the 1957 model year, the Bonneville eventually became its own series in 1958. Historically based of the Cadillac
DeVille, the Bonneville was built by the Pontiac division of General Motors from 1958 until 2005. Pontiac has been best known for its performance vehicles, especially since the introduction of the Bonneville I 1957. Perhaps a little flashier and faster than than a Chevrolet, it is still cheaper than an equivalent Oldsmobile or Buick. That has remained Pontiac's mission.
First appearing in 1954 on on a pair of bubble-topped GM Motorama concept vehicles called the Bonneville Special, the Bonneville name first entered the lineup as the Star Chief Custom Bonneville, which was a high-performance, fuel-injected luxury convertible late during the 57 model year. The very first Bonneville was a spectacular, chrome-laden convertible with a continental-style spare wheel mounting, fuel-injected engine. It came with an eight-power
front seat, under-seat heater, degroster electric antenna, and many more unique and exclusive features.
During that first year, only a total of 630 units were produced. This small amount made it the most collectible Pontiac of all time, especially since it cost twice the amount of the star Chief convertible. The Bonneville has persisted, and
remained as the division's top of the line model until 2005. Many speed records were being set at the Utah salt flats, and the name was created from the town of Bonneville, the place of much auto racing, and most of the world's land speed record runs.
The public must have liked both the car and its name because in 1958, a coupe was added into the lineup as Bonneville expanded into its own series. In this year it paced the Indianapolis 500. Offering 225 hp and 285 hp V8 engines, the Bonneville sat atop the Pontiac range, also offering a deluxe steering wheel, unique upholstery and chrome wheel covers. The Bonneville also featured wraparound windshields and rear window, two-toning on the roof
and long striking sidespear plus chrome hash marks placed on the front fenders.
During the third and fourth year, the ’59 Bonneville gained a 4-door body style along with a nearly complete line in itself. The Pontiac Wide-Track was born in 1959, when all Pontiac makes and models received new chassis with ‘wide-track' stance. During this year, the introduction of two of Pontiac's greatest marketing inspirations were showcased, the split grille, and the Wide Track slogan, both are still part of Pontiac's image to this day.
Engine Type: V8 Valve-in-hea;, Displacement 388.86 cu. in.
Cylinders 8; Bore & Stroke 4 1/16 & 3 3/4 inches
Compression Ratio-Std 8.6 to1; Brake Horsepower 235@3600
Rated Horsepower 52.81; Torque 402@2000
Main Bearings 5; Valve Lifters Hydraulic
Block Material Alloy cast iron