Pontiac Bonneville in the 1980s brought slicked-down outer sheetmetal for improved aerodynamics, Buick's 231-cubic-inch V-6 as standard Bonneville power (except in California, where Oldsmobile's 350 V-8 was employed), and Pontiac's first-ever diesel, the ill-starred Oldsmobile 350 V-8. (We offer no comment on the last except to note that according to the Spring 1986 N.A.D.A. Used Car Price Guide, you can deduct 40 percent from the value of a 1980 Pontiac if it's diesel-powered.)
Then, a miscalculation. For 1982, Pontiac dropped the B-body from its U.S. line and applied the Bonneville tag to a slightly restyled version of the 108.1-inch-wheelbase A/G-body platform previously sold as the LeMans. Unfortunately, the move coincided with an upsurge in big-car demand, thanks to the start of a general economic recovery from the severe recession triggered by "Energy Crisis II" in late 1979.
But there was a way out. Pontiac had never stopped building the B-body in Canada, where it was sold as the Parisienne, so it was rushed south of the border in late 1983 to answer dealer demands for the return of a full-size model.
Then came a vastly different Pontiac Bonneville, though the all-new 1987 was as much a "corporate car" as any of its predecessors. Based on General Motors' H-body platform introduced with the 1986 Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile Delta 88, the 1987 was the smallest and lightest Bonneville to its time, and the first with front-wheel drive.
Wheelbase was a sensible 110.8 inches, and power came from a 231-cubic-inch Buick V-6 with fuel injection (electronic, not mechanical, but some things never change). At the time, an American performance car was either a traditional hot rod like the Trans Am, or a trendy European-style "sports sedan" like Pontiac's suave 6000STE. The 1987 Pontiac Bonneville bore definite signs of STE influence -- particularly its appearance.
In fact, the 1987 shaped up as the most balanced Pontiac Bonneville to date. It was definitely in tune with the times, even if that meant being far less fiery than its 1950s forebears.
Carrying a name with a long and checkered history, the 1987 Pontiac Bonneville continued the Pontiac tradition of offering comfortable, stylish transportation with more than adequate performance for a few dollars more than lesser makes.
Thank goodness we still have those fuelie 1957s, the flashy 1958s, and the early Wide-Track Bonnevilles to contemplate and covet. If nothing else, they serve to remind us how much cars have changed in the past decades, even when names don't.
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