1976 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham: Last call for truly large luxury
The Bonneville Brougham. Most primo Pontiac of them all. And my buddy Jason Bagge (you may remember him, as I’ve written about several of his cars over the years) found one in Spokane, Washington. He posted pics. He bought it. I got excited. Because I love these. Absolutely. Love. Them. Let me tell you why.
First of all, I have always loved the bigger is better 1971–76 GM B- and C-body cars—especially the fancier versions. It all started at the rod and custom show in downtown Rock Island, Illinois, in early 1991.
I was 11. My dad took me and my brother to the show. It was January, so car show-wise it was the only game in town at that time. We checked out the classic cars and hot rods, and wandered around at the Expo Center. There were always a few vendors there on the fringe, selling automobilia, and one guy had a bunch of old car brochures.
As a domestic luxury car connoisseur even then (my grandparents owned Thunderbirds, LTDs, and Continentals—I imprinted on them), I immediately zeroed in on the 1971 Cadillac and 1971 Lincoln brochures. What size! What Broughamage! What cars! What happened?
I mean the then-new 1991 Cadillacs were nice and all, especially the Brougham and Brougham d’Elegance, but man, those ’71s! Wow. Awooga!
Well, 1971 was kind of the last hurrah for “bigger is better” over at General Motors Corporation. The 1971 biggies were brand new, Broughamtastic, and fully full sized. It was kind of the end of an era. Never again would an all-new GM full-size car be so large, in charge, and dimensionally extravagant. The 1971 B-body Pontiacs were smooth, comfortable, and powerful. And unlike today when your choices are sedan (maybe), combover, and SUV, a variety of body styles were available.
Yep. Four-door hardtop! Two-door hardtop! Convertible, sedan, wagon! No combovers or truck versions. Trucks? Heck, those were for plumbers, farmers, and tradesman—or maybe outdoor adventurers in Montana. You needed a CAR! And a loaded, luxurious sedan, coupe, or convertible was just the ticket. And the bigger the better. Hey, gas was cheap, wages were great, and the USA was the biggest, bestest place to live, bar none! Why not have a car to match?
From 1971–75, the biggest, bestest Pontiac was the Grand Ville. So Broughamtastic, it even eclipsed the former top-of-the-line Bonneville, with its C-body roofline and spectacular interior and luxury appointments. Of course it was the top of the line—it had “Grand” right in its name, for Pete’s sake!
However … For whatever reason, the Grand Ville name, despite its premium luxury, its velour, its power everything, and its sumptuous ostentation, just didn’t have the same brand recognition and familiarity as the vaunted Bonneville name.
Fun fact: the final full-size Pontiac convertible was the ’75 Grand Ville Brougham. Two door coupes and four door hardtops were also offered. I personally love the coupe. Squint a little and it could be a Coupe de Ville. Despite its beauty and sheer luxury, the Grand Ville disappeared after model year 1975, never to return.
But it didn’t really disappear, for the same car essentially returned for 1976—just with Bonneville Brougham emblems instead, a model name that had last appeared in 1970. Yep, as had been the case from 1957, its inaugural year, through 1970, the Bonneville was once again the most premium Pontiac.
And it showed. From the button-tufted velour interior, same as the outgoing Grand Ville Broughams …
To its opera windows and Bonneville etched-glass model identification …
And the all-important cigarette lighters in the backs of the front seats. If you lived through the 1970s, you know lighters and ash trays were as important then as cupholders and power points are in cars today.
And look at all that glass area! Yep, you could actually see all around you, and you didn’t need any backup sensors or backup cameras. By George, you looked behind you and judged for yourself whether or not the coast was clear, rather than hoping you didn’t miss something that you couldn’t see on the camera, like today.
Yes, the Bonneville Brougham was back! And in 1976, it was your last chance to get it in full-blown, seriously full-size fashion.
As I mentioned earlier, my friend Jason Bagge, The Brougham Whisperer himself, snapped up this Buckskin Tan Bonnie Brougham back in July 2018. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve written about his 1972 Bonneville, ’74 454-powered Monte Carlo, and ’70 454 Caprice previously.
As is his usual M.O., Jason planned to keep the car for a while. But then he found more cool old cars, like a 1973 Imperial LeBaron, and his priorities changed. In the approximately eight years that I’ve known him, I conservatively think he’s bought and sold 50 1970s land yachts of various marques and body styles.
So, despite its magnificence, the Imperial and another new acquisition, a police-package 1976 Catalina four-door pillared sedan (and more recently a 454-powered 1973 Caprice coupe) entered his life, and the Bonnie was sold.
So, the photos offer a close look at an excellent 1976 Bonneville Brougham, mostly original, with 400-cubic-inch V-8 power, power windows, power locks, power steering, power brakes, and pretty much power everything else., with 66,000 miles on the clock. And it’s a Brougham. Velour. V-8. Comfort.
Button tufted velour. And lots of stretch out room!
After 46 years of attrition, you don’t exactly see these on every street corner. In 1976, a total of 20,236 Bonneville Brougham four-door hardtops and 10,466 Bonneville Brougham two-door hardtops were built. No convertibles, as the previously-mentioned final Grand Villes spelled the end of topless Broughamage in ’75.
Despite my efforts to talk Jason into keeping this fine example (he doesn’t care for the color, Buckskin Tan—go figure), he sold it to a gentleman somewhere in the Midwest. And as always, I shall keep you all apprised of Jason’s latest acqusitions. Like the Post Office, you know there will always be more. Until next time, stay Broughamy and always tip your bartender.