1957-1987 Pontiac Bonneville

1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 Pontiac Bonneville

This 1961 Bonneville convertible had much to brag about: Tri-Power 389, four-speed, and aluminum wheels.
This 1961 Bonneville convertible had much to brag about: Tri-Power 389, four-speed, and aluminum wheels.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964 Pontiac Bonneville evolved rapidly. There weren't a lot of changes for 1960, nor were they needed, at least for sales. But 1961 brought a major redesign, as General Motors shrunk all its standards a bit and reverted to perimeter-type frames. Pontiac was arguably the best-looking of the bunch, with the split grille returning after a one-year absence to grace crisply tailored new bodies.

Wheelbase contracted to 119 inches for Catalina and its new upmarket Ventura derivative, while Bonneville and Star Chief rode a 123-inch span. The now-famous "Wide Track" was still 1.5 inches broader than Buick's or Oldsmobile's tread but a little narrower than before, so the 1961 Pontiacs looked a tad taller than the 1960s even though overall height was actually an inch less.

Standard horsepower for the Hydra-Matic-equipped Bonneville was 303, same as the previous year, but weight was down by 155 pounds and overall length was cut from 220.7 to 210 inches, resulting in a faster, more nimble luxury Pontiac. There were 389s available with up to 348 horsepower for the performance-minded, while comfort was enhanced by the simple expedient of raising seat cushion height from 9.8 to 12 inches.

In all, 1961 was a great year for Pontiac. Helped by its new Tempest compact, the division moved up to fourth in industry sales behind Chevrolet, Ford, and Rambler, and now led Buick by a country mile. Bonneville was more popular than ever, outselling Star Chief by better than two to one.

Pontiac's big-car news for 1962 was the Grand Prix, a posh, buckets-and-console version of the Catalina two-door hardtop. The newcomer's convertible-look roofline was shared by all of General Motors' full-size hardtop coupes that year, while Bonneville shared in a substantial big-Pontiac face-lift -- and helped lift the division to third place in industry sales.

Another corporate-wide redesign for 1963 brought handsome new big-Pontiac styling from the pen of Jack Humbert. Sharply sculpted sheetmetal gave way to soft, flowing contours, while headlamps were vertically stacked.

Bonneville was now being upstaged by the Grand Prix to some degree but, paced by the Vista hardtop sedan, it nevertheless managed 110,000 units. An optional new 421 V-8 was the main attraction for the mostly carryover 1964s, delivering 320, 350, or 370 horsepower depending on tune.

Continue to the next page to follow the Bonneville story through the late 1960s.

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