Launched in 1957 as a low-slung, sexy, convertible limited edition at the top of the Pontiac range, the Bonneville was flashy and fast. It was good enough to pace the 1958 Indianapolis 500 (a first for any Pontiac), but it missed its intended mark.
That was a blessing: a necessary redesign coincided with Pontiac’s Wide Track policy on all its models, and the 1959 Bonneville benefited more than any of them. It became emblematic of Pontiac’s resurgence. Already low, the extra inches on the wheelbase banished any suggestion of top-heaviness. It looked even more glamorous, handled with precision, and cornered more tightly than any other full-size car. Motor Trend Magazine made it their 1959 ‘Car of the Year’.
The 1959 Bonneville also carried the Pontiac flag for the styling edict that applied to every Pontiac model of that year. It was the first appearance of the signature split grille and integrated arrowhead emblem that has characterized Pontiacs ever since, and the Bonneville’s styling carried the idea through to the detail, blending it into the flamboyant features beloved of the era.
From any angle, the Bonneville looks sleek, broad and powerful. From the rear, you can see how the body line resolves into a three dimensional V-shaped fin, with the rear brights a round circle at its point; and the inner facets of the ‘V’ are all chrome! Other options include power brakes, steering, windows and bucket seats; signal-seeking radio; and interior luxury trim.
The Bonneville was no longer a limited edition in 1959. It was far too popular. Pontine re-drew its rather stodgy pre-1957 image with its dramatic styling and technology; and the 1959 Bonneville is important historically as the car which integrated glitz and good taste, on the cusp of yesterday and tomorrow.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1959 (until 1961)
6.0 l (370 cid) V8
Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Since 1959, Pontiac have regularly revived the Bonneville marque for their high-end limited editions and series. The most recent, the Bonneville GXP of 2004-5 uses Cadillac’s 4.6 l Northstar V8 engine giving it an acceleration of 0-60mph (97 km/h) in 6.5 secs, but the split grille is still a giveaway.