Meet the crazy Bonneville Special

Pontiac's sneaky plan to attract younger audience

20w ago
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In early 1950s, GM was trying to represent their Pontiac brand as a sporty and thrilling car maker. In order to attract younger audience to their showrooms, they made a car that was inspired by Bonneville Salt Flat speed machines. Famous American car designer Harley Earl took the Corvette and gave it a complete makeover, with a whole bunch of aircraft-inspired styling cues.

The result was the Bonneville Special concept, revealed in 1954. This sleek fiberglass-bodied sports car was a crowd favorite, but Pontiac never intended to put it into production. Only two were ever made: a copper-orange (first concept) and a metallic green one.

The Bonneville Special had a bubble cockpit with flip-up windows. And, of course, the 1955 styling could have been possible without some chrome. The dazzling chrome could be found on its “afterburner” (which was actually a spare tire), taillights, side vents, front grille and 'shark teeth' on the front, which were there for a more aggressive look.

Pontiac’s interior was very sporty, with small gauges and dials, bucket seats, and a center console that featured switches to open the hydra-matic door. There was no radio, but you didn’t need one because the sound of its 230 hp 2.7-litre straight-8 was the proper music for your ears.

As I said, Pontiac made two of these. The orange one was returned to the factory, and the green one went on a tour to other Pontiac dealerships around the nation. Pontiac was planning to destroy both cars when the green one got back, but thankfully, they didn’t. An avid car collector Joe Bortz bought both of them. He sold the green one in 2006 for $2.8 million, but he still has the orange one which is fully original (he even said that 90% of air in the tires is from 1954). In 2015, the green Special found itself at an auction again, this time being sold for $3.3 million.

Strangely enough, the 2005 Pontiac Solstice carried some styling cues from the Bonneville Special, featuring a long hood, similar pontoon front fenders and a bubble-looking body. It might not be beautiful, but Solstice does pay a bit of homage to a great 2-seater concept that put Pontiac on the map. for the youngsters.

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