History of the 1959-1960 Pontiac Bonneville
The 1959 Pontiacs were perhaps the most radical year-to-year overhaul conducted in Detroit in the 1950s. It was even more amazing, considering that the 1958 models were a complete change from the 1957s, and nothing was carried over to 1959. The new Bonneville was wild, with “Strato-Star” styling, lower and longer bodies, split grilles, twin-fin rear fenders, and a 40 percent increase in glass area due to a huge windshield and flat-top roofs on the Vista pillarless sedans. The track was increased five inches for a “wide-track” stance which would be advertised for years.
The Bonneville’s 389-cid V-8 could be ordered in a variety of tunes, with power ranging from 215 hp, to 260, 300, 315, 330, or 345 hp depending on carburetion and transmission. The famous “Tri-Power” carburetors were offered on a 315 hp street engine and its 345 hp racing sibling. Car Life rated the Bonneville as Best Buy Between $2,000-$3,000. All Bonnevilles came with more brightwork and oval taillights.
As Pontiac’s top model, the Bonneville used the longest available wheelbase, which was 124 inches (122 inches on the station wagon). The Bonneville came as a convertible, two-door hardtop, four-door Vista hardtop, and a four-door Custom Safari station wagon.
Many of the Bonneville’s more elaborate styling cues were dropped for 1960, and the result was a much more elegant car. The roof and glass area was unchanged, but below the beltline a full-width horizontal grille led to smoother “Air-Foil” sidelines and a more successful rear treatment. The fins were gone, and round taillights were tunneled into long fender bulges. Mechanically, the suspension gained nylon bushings, the Hydra-Matic transmission was redesigned with a smaller case and four-speed transmissions were now offered as a performance option. The Bonneville remained the most expensive Pontiac for 1960 with prices starting at $3,255 and topping out at $3,530.
While survivors for 1960 Pontiac Bonnevilles outnumber the 1959 models, and most buyers gravitate towards the latter model’s styling, either year can be a good purchase. This generation of Bonneville is a solid example of late 1950s GM engineering, and the cars are simple to maintain, durable, and fast.