The Bonneville name first appeared in 1954 on a pair of bubble-topped GM Motoramaconcept cars called the Bonneville Special, sharing an appearance with the Chevrolet Corvette.
It entered the production lineup as a high-performance, fuel-injected luxury convertible version of the Star Chief in 1957, and was loaded with every available option as standard equipment to include leather upholstery, power adjustable front seat, power windows, power steering, power brakes and power convertible top with the exception of air conditioning and a continental kit.
Standard only for the Bonneville was Pontiac's first-ever fuel injection system. A mechanical system built by Rochester, it was similar in principle, but not identical, to the contemporary Chevrolet Bel Airinstalled with the Rochester Ramjet continuous mechanical fuel injection (closed-loop). Pontiac did not release official power ratings for this engine, which had only been introduced earlier in 1955 replacing the straight eight, saying only that it had more than 300 hp (224 kW). Contemporary road tests suggest that it was actually somewhat inferior to the Tri-Power engines, although it did have better fuel economy.
This put the Bonneville in a Cadillac-like price range of US$5,782 ($53,278 in 2020 dollars - more than double the base price of the Chieftain on which it was built, with the result being a fully equipped Bonneville could cost more than a larger, entry-level Cadillac. Only 630 units were produced that first year, all of them fuel-injected, making it one of the most collectible Pontiacs of all time and was introduced to compete with the Chrysler 300C. The following year it became a separate model, and it would endure until 2005 as the division's top-of-the-line model. Bonneville became a separate model in 1958, available as a two-door hardtop or a convertible. It paced the Indianapolis 500in its first year. As a separate model Bonneville had a significantly lower price tag of around $3,000 thanks to the demotion of most of the luxury items found on the 1957 Star Chief bodystyle from standard equipment to the option list. Also a 255 hp (190 kW) 369.4 cu in (6,053 cc) V8, marketed as a "370", with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts was now standard equipment. In its third year, the 1959 Bonneville became a full top-line series with the addition of the four-door hardtop sedan and Safari station wagon body styles. The Bonneville played an important part that year in the introduction of two of Pontiac's greatest marketing inspirations — the split grille and the Wide Track slogan. The latter was not just ad copy, either, as Pontiac pushed its wheels further out toward the fenders than anyone else and created what were considered to be the best-cornering full-size cars in the industry. Both the grille design and the Wide Track phrase remained part of Pontiac's image up to its termination. The Bonneville remained Pontiac's costliest and most luxurious model throughout the 1960s and was instrumental in pushing Pontiac to third place in sales from 1962 to 1970.The distinctive protruding grille made its appearance on all Pontiac products during the early 1960s, and was a modern revival of a similar appearance on Pontiac products during the 1930s and early 1940s, as demonstrated on the Pontiac Torpedo. In 1965 B-Body Pontiacs received a dramatic restyle, featuring fastback rooflines on coupes, rakish fender lines and even more pronounced "Coke Body" styling. Bonnevilles followed largely the same styling cues as on other 1965 Pontiacs, but was 8 inches longer thanks to its new 124-inch wheelbase chassis. The interior featured new instrumentation and dashboard styling as well as new upholstery.Engine options remained unchanged from the 1964 model year, with a389 cu in (6.4 L), 333 hp unit being standard, equipped with a Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetor. A 421 cu in (6.9 L) engine was an optional upgrade. Both engines had choices of Tri-Power multi-carburetion setups and higher compression ratios. New for Pontiacs in 1965 was GM's Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission, which was released the year prior. This new 3-speed unit had a torque converter, unlike the old fluid-coupling based Super-Hydramatic featured on past Bonneville models. The new transmission also changed the shift pattern from "P-N-D-S-L-R" to a safer and ultimately more modern "P-R-N-D-S-L."In 1965 Pontiac Motor Division received the Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award. As part of this award, Motor Trend reviewed GTO, Grand Prix, Catalina 2+2 and Bonneville.In 1966, Bonneville featured a minor update, with new front and rear sheet metal, trim and bright work. The interior saw some updates, including a more squared-up dashboard and minor changes in instrumentation. Powertrain components were the same as 1965.Bonneville for 1967 received a major update over the previous years. Styling was changed dramatically and featured a new grille-in-bumper front design, more creases to accentuate the "Coke body" styling and an updated rear fascia. The interior featured a new wrap around style dash with new switchgear, instrumentation and trim. As per the up-and-coming US Title 49 legislation, 67' Bonnevilles were equipped with seatbelts as standard, as well as other government mandated safety equipment.1967 also saw a large power-train and chassis refresh for Pontiac. The 389 cubic inch plant was replaced with 400 cu in (6.6 L) one, and the 421 cubic inch plant was replaced with a 428 cu in (7.0 L) one. As per GM's internal edict, the multi-carburation setups found on earlier cars were replaced with the new Quadra Jet "spread bore" carburetor. Carter AFB carburetors were still standard, but the Quadra Jet was featured as the new "High performance" upgrade. A myriad of horsepower ratings were optional. A dual-circuit master cylinder was standard as per legislation and disc brakes became an optional extra.
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