When people talk about Pontiac automobiles, names like GTO, Firebird Trans Am, Grand Prix, and Star Chief tend to dominate the conversation. Though the manufacturer's Bonneville was arguably not as sexy as some of Pontiac's more talked about cars, it was one of the company's most enduring models throughout its decades in production — even if its price limited its overall impact on the manufacturer's bottom line in the early days.

You may not realize it, but the Bonneville was one of Pontiac's longest-tenured models, with the automaker keeping some iteration of the build in production for the better part of five full decades. The beloved automobile underwent some fairly radical re-designs over that stretch. But if you're at all familiar with the Bonneville that hit the streets in the '58 model year, you know it was a true original in a Pontiac lineup struggling to keep pace in America's Post-WWII market.

In fact, by the mid-1950s Pontiac was being outpaced by one of its General Motors siblings, Chevrolet, who'd wowed U.S. drivers of the day with celebrated models like the Bel Air and the instantly iconic Corvette. Out to re-establish itself as a performance car player, Pontiac brought in Semon "Bunkie" Knudson to right the ship, with the 43-year-old becoming the youngest General Manager in company history. Knudson's youth-skewing vision directly resulted in the eye-catching '58 Bonneville, with the vehicle's revitalizing mix of style and power helping Pontiac keep up with Chevrolet before it was completely left in the dust.    

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The '58 Bonneville Brought Pontiac Back Into The Performance Car Conversation

The Bonneville that hit the streets in 1958 was not the first Pontiac to bear that moniker, as the super rare, and now insanely expensive Bonneville Special had turned heads in 1954. The Pontiac Bonneville that debuted in 1957 shared little DNA with that concept build, save for some similarly sleeker design elements that distinguished it from Pontiacs past that should have appealed to a younger generation of consumers that had clearly been swayed by sexier cars from Chevrolet.

Produced in hardtop and convertible builds, the massive and overtly ornate, but somehow still racy '58 Bonneville was a legit sight to see on the road, but Knudson and his team understood that the vehicle needed to be just as bold under the hood if it really was going to compete with Chevrolet in the performance car sector. As such, they fit some Bonnevilles with the famed Pontiac 370, a fuel-injected V-8 engine that pushed well north of 300 horsepower and even offered the option to upgrade to the highly-touted "Tri-Power" carburetion setup.

The engine was a pseudo precursor to those which powered the legendary muscle car builds Pontiac would become renowned for in the 1960s and 1970s, and proved potent enough that the '58 Bonneville was selected as the official pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500. The powerful and super-stylish Bonneville stood tall in its class when it hit the market in 1958, and, yes, it almost instantly brought the Pontiac name back into the performance car conversation.

Read the original article on SlashGear.

2024-06-25T23:17:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd