1957 Pontiac Bonneville

Chassis Num: P857H25916
Sold for $115,500 at 2006 RM Sothebys.
When introduced on January 11th of 1957, the Bonneville was the fastest Pontiac ever produced. Zero to sixty took just 8.1 seconds to achieve. A Bonneville won the Grand National Championship with a top speed of 101. 6 mph and broke all existing records during NASCAR trials at Daytona. The 300+ horsepower fuel injected V8 engine changed the image of the Pontiac nameplate into one that was backed by performance. This had been the work of Semon E. 'Bunky' Knudsen who had made it his goal to update the 'bland' mid-range vehicles. The new designs were meant to appeal to a younger generation and were inspired by style and performance.

The Pontiac Bonneville Convertible came with a $5782 sticker price, a rather high figure at the time, though the vehicle came equipped with nearly every option offered. As a result only 630 examples were produced making them one of the rarest Pontiacs ever produced. Each dealership was given only one car to sell. Most of the cars were finished in white with red 'flashes'; a few were given custom colors.

At the 2006 RM Auctions in Meadow Brook this car was estimated to fetch $120,000 - $150,000. It was sold at a price of $115,000.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006
Chassis Num: P857H25797
Sold for $165,000 at 2006 RM Sothebys.
The 1957 Pontiac Bonneville Fuel Injected Convertible finished in white with a blue flash was offered for sale at the 2006 RM Auction in Monterey, Ca where it was expected sell for $125,000-$175,000. It was offered without reserve. The interior is two-tone white and blue. It is just one of eight cars built with factory air-conditioning. Since new this vehicle has undergone a complete frame-off restoration. At the conclusion of the auction the vehicle had been sold for $165,000.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006
Pontiac was in the midst of an image makeover in 1957. Just three years earlier, Pontiac had been a stodgy solid-citizen car for the senior set. In 1955, Pontiac introduced its overhead-valve V8, and by 1957, Pontiac was making a name for itself on the nation's racetracks.

To celebrate this ongoing performance revolution, Pontiac announced the Bonneville Custom Convertible in the spring of 1957. It was powered by a 347 cubic-inch V8 with Rochester fuel injection and a 317 horsepower rating.

The Bonneville's factory list price was an astronomical $5,782 ($2,677 more than a regular-production Star Chief Convertible). For that Cadillac-like price, Bonneville buyers got a Cadillac-like level of standard equipment, including Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, eight-way power seat, Wonderbar radio, tri-blade wheel covers and a full leather interior. Distribution was limited to select Pontiac dealers and only 630 were built.

The Bonneville shown is Kenya Ivory with a Fontaine Blue side spear and Blue/Ivory leather interior.
Chassis Num: P857H24652
High bid of $97,000 at 2004 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
Sold for $137,500 at 2009 RM Sothebys.
The Pontiac Bonneville Convertible generated traffic into Pontiac dealership and the quest towards NASCAR competition meant the customers were very pleased with the performance. These limited production cars saw just 630 units produced.

The Pontiac Bonneville Convertible was unveiled to the public in December of 1956. It had a base price of $5,782 and came equipped with nearly every accessory offered by Pontiac. The only two available options were Air Conditioning and an externally mounted spare tire.

The fuel-injection V8 engine mounted under the hood produced an estimated 315 horsepower. Pontiac never released a specific rating for the engine, they simply stated it produced 'in excess of 300 horsepower.'

This example has been treated to a correct frame-off restoration. It is painted in Kenya Ivory with a tartan Red interior. It comes equipped with a Wonderbar AM radio, a deluxe steering wheel, a padded dash, a clock, cowl vent chrome wheel discs, and whitewall tires. It has the total power group, including a power-operated convertible top, a power antenna, power steering, power brakes, power windows, and an eight-way power-operated seat.

In 2009, this Pontiac Bonneville Convertible was offered for sale at the Automobiles of Arizona presented by RM Auctions. The lot was estimated to sell for $150,000 - $180,000. It was sold for the sum of $137,500, including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009
Chassis Num: P857H30450
Sold for $115,500 at 2009 RM Sothebys.
Pontiac built a limited run of 630 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Custom Bonneville Convertibles in recognition of the Bonneville Salt Flats where land speed records were set. Each Pontiac Bonneville had a 347 cubic-inch V8 engine with a 10.25:1 compression ratio and fuel injection, instead of carburetors, to generate 315 horsepower.

Nearly every Bonneville was painted Kenya Ivory with either blue or red side spears. This example has a red and white interior and a Kenya White exterior and red side spears. The interior features a Wonderbar signal-seeking radio with an electric antenna, eight-way power driver's seat and power top, windows, steering and brakes. It has had a frame-off restoration from new and remains in excellent condition.

In 2009, it was offered for sale at the Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $80,000 - $100,000. The lot was sold for the sum of $115,000 including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2009
Chassis Num: P857H35445
Sold for $137,500 at 2007 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $126,500 at 2009 Gooding & Company.
Sold for $176,000 at 2013 Gooding & Company.
When 'Bunky' Knudsen took over, Pontiac was one of General Motors most mundane nameplates. His vision was to revitalize the brand with a healthy dose of performance and dramatic styling. He began with the 1957 fuel-injected Bonneville, a deluxe convertible with plenty of power, performance and style.

The car was named after the famous salt flats where so many speed records had been earned. The Bonneville utilized the Rochester fuel-injection unit - tuned and prepared by Harry Barr and Zora Arkus-Duntov. Along with performance, the Bonneville was fitted with every luxury feature available. Priced at a hefty $5,782, a total of 630 examples of these Pontiacs were built.

This example is a superb example of the quintessential high-performance Pontiac halo car. The car wears the popular Kenya Ivory with red trim and a Tartan Red interior. It has the famous tri-blade wheel covers and the correct chrome spears on each side ahead of the taillight bezels. Standard features include a Wonderbar AM radio, a deluxe steering wheel, a clock, and period-correct whitewall tires. Power options include top, antenna, steering, brakes, windows, door locks, and an eight-way power seat.

The car has been treated to a restoration to factory specifications, and even the original inspection marks on the firewall have been carefully re-created. The fuel-injected engine displaced 347 cubic-inches and offers 310 horsepower. There is a 3-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.

In 2013, the car was offered for sale at Gooding & Company's Scottsdale, Arizona sale. It was estimated to sell for $150,000 - $180,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $176,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2013
The Bonneville name was taken from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the site of early auto racing and most of the world's land speed record runs, which was named in turn after U.S. Army officer Benjamin Bonneville.

In 1956 the Pontiac brand was in trouble and everyone at General Motors knew it. Pontiac sales were lagging, they were considered outdated by younger buyers - mostly the G.I.s of World War II, who were becoming a major force in the marketplace. Everything changed when Semon 'Bunkie' Knudsen became the youngest general manager of a GM division. His famous statement 'you can sell a young car to old people, but you can't sell an old car to young people,' set the tone for Pontiac.

Pontiac built 630 Bonneville Convertibles for 1957, one for each of its 630 dealers. Every car was fitted with a Rochester fuel injection system and all but 12 of the cars were painted Kenya Ivory with either red or blue trim.

The 1957 Bonneville remains one of the rarest, most desirable and collectible Pontiacs of all time. From the very beginning people who were lucky enough to obtain one of the 630 cars Pontiac produced knew they had something special. It is considered to be of particular historical significance because it was 'the' car that represents Pontiac's performance legacy, which ultimately culminated in the Catalina, GTO, Firebird, and Trans-Am and set the stage for what Pontiac Motor Division was to eventually become; the performance division of GM.
To celebrate General Motors' 50th Anniversary 'Golden Jubilee', all stops were pulled out by the designers on the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville Sport Coupe, undoubtedly one of the flashiest of all 1950's vehicles. A one year only body was featured as a final staement by longtime GM styling chief Harley Earl before his retirement. The entire 1958 lineup litterly sparkled chrome. Unique two-tone exterior color combo's and delxue interiors were showcased on interiors on all 58 models from Chevrolet's, Pontiacs, Buick, Oldmobiles and Cadillacs. There motto for this year was ‘The Boldest Advance in Fifty Years!'

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 largy 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 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-injeted engine. It came with an eight-power front seat, underseat 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 became 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 an 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 its third year, the ‘59 Bonneville gained a 4-door bodystyle 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.

Sales peaed in 1966 at 135,401 units sold. In 1969, the main highlight became the new V8 engine that provided 360 horesepower. Considered Pontiac's most expensive and most luxurious model throughout the 1960s, the Bonneville was extremely instrumental in moving Pontiac to third place in sales from 1962 until 1970. Bonneville's constantly received updates, changes and restyling, along with new features for all of its trim models throughout the 1970's.

During the early 1970's, the Grand Ville name was being used for Pontiac's highest-price model, and though the Bonneville was de-emphasized slightly, it never went away. In 1976, the Bonneville emerged in the top spot. This was the final year before the down-sized full-sized Pontiacs began to appear in 1977.

The Bonneville nameplate was quite abruptly moved from a full-size vehicle to the mid-sized car in 1982. The mid-sized car was previously known as the Pontiac LeMans. This change was not taken to very well by customers, so Pontiac was forced to reintroduce a full-sized vehicle. They brought over the Canadian-built Pontiac Parisienne, which was basically a re-styled Chevy Caprile that was powered by a Chevrolet V6 or V8 engine. Once again, Bonneville was placed one notch below the top of the line.

Just like the previous time, downsizing became the salvation that the Bonneville needed. The Parisienne was discontinued in 1987, and the Bonneville was redesigned completely as a front-wheel drive vehicle and once again rejoined in pre-1982 platmform buddies, the Buick LeSabre and the Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. It again regained its status as the senior Pontiac and the SE Bonneville was placed on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for that year.

The decision was made by Pontiac to change the Bonneville from rear wheel drive with a V8 engine to a more economical front wheel drive 3.8 V6 vehicle in 1987. The V6 that was installed was a 3.8L V6 with the RPO code of LG3. A dive in the performance market soon followed, as this engine only produced around 150 hp, though it had a kick of 210 ft-lbs of torque power.

The following model that was introduced in 1989, the Bonneville LE may have been Pontiac's attempt to add a bit more of pep and pizazz to the Bonneville line. This new model moved up to 15 hp and 10 ft-lbs of torque, and this engine has the RPO code of LN3. The Bonneville was once again redesigned in 1991, though it did remain as an H-body.

A total redesign was done in 1992 to the exterior of the Bonneville, though the interior experienced very few changes. The LE trim was also taken off the lineup. Available trims for 1992 were SE, SSE, and SSEi, and airbags now came as standard features in Bonnevilles. Nearly 100,000 Bonneville models were sold in 1992.

Things once again changed in 1993, though the exterior remained the same, the interior did go through a slight update. A sport Luxury Edition was made available for '93, which was basically a base SE, with an SSE exterior, an all of the same available options as an SE. Much remained unchanged for the 1994 model. Much of the vehicle has remained the same throughout the next few years, making way for a total redesign for the 2002 model year.

The Bonneville regained a V8 option on the GXP trim for 2004, which has been a first since 1986. On February 8, 2005, GM announced that the Bonneville would be dropped from Pontiac's lineup for 2006. The high-end Pontiac Grand Prix GXP trim replaced the Bonneville.

For many years, the vehicle fondly called the 'Bonne', the Pontiac Bonneville has showcased a mix of luxury, performance with the aid of a supercharged 3.8 liter engine.

By Jessica Donaldson
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