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1958 Pontiac Bonneville

The 1958 Bonneville was an exercise in excess

Jim Black - September 21, 2011 12:00 PM

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It’s hard to believe that the storied career of the Bonneville, spanning nearly half a century, ended in 2005 when the model was finally laid to rest.

Many question Pontiac’s decision to kill it but declining sales was probably the culprit. For many of us, it was like losing an old friend: trustworthy, reliable, and always ... well, predictable.

In 1956, a rebirth was occurring at Pontiac when Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen took over as general manager prior to the release of the 1957 models. Seemingly overnight, Pontiac was catapulted from a “stodgy” old man’s car company to a performance car company with his guidance and vision.

To celebrate the rebirth, the all-new 1957 Bonneville was created, but it was only offered as a convertible and with fuel injection. In fact, the entire lineup of Pontiacs that year had the best styling that GM offered for any of its marques, a fresh new design that reflected the change of times ... the jet age. When it was first introduced on Jan. 11, 1957, the Bonneville served to create a stir of excitement and be an image-changing car. At $5,782, the limited production Bonneville sold 630 units, making it among the rarest and most desirable of classic Pontiacs.

In 1958, the Bonneville (Series 25 Super Deluxe) became its own car line and was now Pontiac’s flagship. It was an all-new, one-year-only design, available in convertible and sport coupe. The styling continued to build on the jet-age theme. The Bonneville was now smaller and shared a 122-inch wheelbase with entry level Chieftains. It featured Bonneville front fender scripts in gold; Bonneville block lettering on the hood and ribbed rear deck; massive chromed front and rear bumpers; honeycomb grille; full-length rocket shaped spears on both sides with painted inserts; special chromed front fender chevrons; quad taillights that resembled jet exhausts; a roof edge rear vent on the sport coupe models; and (first for 1958) quad headlamps. Standard equipment included a deluxe steering wheel, chrome wheel discs, and a special interior with stardust carpeting and metallic threads. New options for 1958 included bucket seats, the Sportable radio that could be removed and played away from the car, and Ever-Level air suspension.

The engine lineup took the previous year’s 347ci V-8 and bored it out increasing displacement to 370ci. The Bonneville’s standard overhead valve V-8 (with synchromesh transmission) was now rated at 255hp at 4,500 rpm and 8.6:1 compression topped with a Carter AFB four-barrel. All engines in this series featured a cast-iron block with five main bearings and hydraulic valve lifters. Next in line was the 370ci V-8 and 10.0:1 compression (standard with Hydra-Matic) that developed 285hp at 4,600 rpm and a Carter AFB four-barrel. Other optional engines included the 370ci tri-power V-8 with 10.5:1 compression, 300hp at 4,600 rpm, and a trio of Rochester two-barrel carbs, a $94.00 option. Top of the line was the 370ci fuel-injected V-8 with 10.5:1 compression, 310hp at 4,800 rpm and Rochester fuel injection, a $500 option.

Transmission choices included the three-speed synchromesh gearbox as standard with column-mounted gearshift or the optional four-speed StratoFlight Hydra-Matic transmission (a $231.34 option). Rear axle ratios included Safe-T-Track differentials at 3.42:1 or 3.64:1 for synchromesh (3.90:1 or 4.10:1 could be dealer installed), and 3.08:1 or 3.23:1 for the Hydra-Matic equipped cars.

Even though 1958 was a recession year, the Bonneville still had a good production tally with 9,144 units for the coupe and another 3,096 for the convertible (12,240 total). A tri-powered Bonneville convertible was also chosen as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500 race.

The stunning 1958 Bonneville sport coupe featured here is owned by Gus and Mary Frics of Omaha, Nebraska. It’s not the first ’58 Bonneville that they’ve both enjoyed. “I became a fan of the ’58 Bonneville when I purchased my first one back in 1976,” said Frics. “Ten years later, I had to sell my beloved classic to put a down payment on our new home. To this day, I regret selling it!”

Some 13 years later, Gus and Mary decided to find another one. Within a few months time, they saw an ad which ended the search. They purchased the beautifully restored ’58 model from a gentleman in Texas.

Gus and Mary’s Bonneville is painted Mallard Turquoise and is nicely equipped with power steering, power brakes, deluxe radio with rear seat speaker, dual exhaust with chrome tips, white sidewall tires, special wheel discs, two-tone paint, E-Z eye glass, electric clock, deluxe steering wheel, tissue holder, traffic light reflector, and fender skirts. The drivetrain includes the 370ci V-8 with 10.0:1 compression that makes 285hp at 4,600 rpm and 395 lbs-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. It has the optional four-speed StratoFlight Hydra-Matic transmission with a 3.23:1 rear end and Safe-T-Track differential.

After a restoration, Gus decided to take this Bonneville to the next level. “I decided to make a show car out of her,” he said. “I replaced most of the interior moldings, polished all the stainless trim, and had most of the chrome re-plated.” He also detailed the undercarriage and engine bay and his efforts were soon rewarded with a growing collection of trophies and special awards. “We drive the car to all the shows and she’s no trailer queen,” he says. “I think the ’58s were by far the flashiest and most flamboyant of the breed.” Gus, we couldn’t agree more!

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