Inspired by Pontiac’s prestige model Star Chief, the 1957 Bonneville was built in an effort to rework Pontiac’s image. Named after Utah’s famous Bonneville Salt Flats, the “Bonnie” started as a limited-edition convertible carrying the brand’s first-ever fuel-injected engine. In its early years, the “Bonnie” broke new grounds in terms of car luxury and performance. For half a century, the nameplate Pontiac Bonneville had worked its way up to the top—setting the bar for prestige—until its poised fall in 2005.
1954-1958: Designed for greatness
First introduced at the General Motors Motorama in 1954, 630 units of Pontiac Bonnevilles were built in 1957, and were sold as expensive as Cadillacs. The first generation of Bonneville debuted in 1958 as a two-door convertible and a two-door coupe.
1959-1960: Car of the year
A four-door hardtop sedan and Safari station wagon body styles added up to the Bonneville top-line series. Also, the Bonnie was hailed the best-cornering full-size car due to its wheels pushed toward the fenders. The next year, the Bonnie underwent massive reskinning—removing the tailfins and the distinctive split grille.
1961-1964: At its prime
This generation marked the prime years of Bonneville. Although it was dubbed as the costliest, most luxurious Pontiac, it still bagged the third place in sales in the early 70s. It had massive interior changes which include more lavish trims in upholstery, walnut veneer trims in instrument and door panels, and center armrests in all seats.
1965-1970: GM B platform
The 1967 Bonnie sported a larger 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 as a standard engine after the General Motors corporate edict led Pontiac to discontinue the Tri-Power engine. It was replaced with the Quadrajet spread. In 1969, the standard Bonneville engine is the 360 hp (270 kW) 428, which evolved from then on. Still, the General Motors’ B platform was the fourth best-selling in history, which included this generation of Bonneville.
1971-1976: The Grand Ville
Pontiac introduced the higher luxury model Grand Ville, replacing the Bonneville in 1971. This is the brand’s move to completely restyle its full-sized cars. The dethroned Bonnie was resurrected after four years, with a Brougham model featuring the lavish interiors of the Grand Ville. Turbo-hydramatic transmission, power steering, and power front-disc brakes also became standard in this gen.
1977-1981: Downsizing to upsize
The full-size Bonnie was downsized, but brought about upsized headroom, rear seat legroom, and trunk space. This smaller Bonnie had shown improved fuel economy, making it well-loved during the energy crises. In 1981, however, the Brougham model was discontinued, as consumers eyed for more fuel-efficient compact cars.
1982-1986: The Parisienne
This gen is the smallest and last of the rear-wheel drive of Bonneville. In 1983, the Canadian-built Bonneville known as Parisienne debuted in the American market.
1987-1991: New face
Bonneville regained its full-sized status, and topped the GM’s new front-drive family car platform. It revealed a new face with exaggerated sporty styling and high-tech gizmos in 1991. Despite this move, consumers were looking for large, sport-oriented FWD sedans.
The following year marked another major overhaul for Bonnie. Breakthroughs include standard airbags and antilock brakes for safety, a new Generation III Eaton M62 supercharger for higher torque and horsepower, and a resonator for seamless driving experience.
2000-2005: Bonnie’s end
“Luxury with attitude,” this has been the battlecry of the final gen of Bonneville with its driver-centric features. With its prestige still intact, Pontiac had to end the production of Bonnie in 2005. Now, the rear-wheel drive Pontiac G8 is the known successor of the luxurious and stylish Bonneville.