The 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970 Pontiac Bonneville underwent several changes, including a redesign and yearly face-lifts.
The full-size Pontiacs were brand-new again for 1965, looking longer -- which they were -- and heavier -- which they weren't. Wheelbases were up to 121 inches on Catalina and 124 on Star Chief and Bonneville.
A fancy Brougham trim package arrived as a new extra for the Bonneville Vista, priced at $161.40 and pushing Pontiac further into territory that was once Buick's alone. Included were Ponchartrain cloth upholstery with Morrokide accents, and a Cordova-grain vinyl roof covering with "Brougham by Fisher" nameplates.
Bonneville two-doors could still be had with bucket seats (a $116.21 extra), and the Sport Coupe gained the same racy, semi-fastback roofline as its divisional counterparts. The 389 V-8 remained Bonneville's standard motive force, with horsepower standing at 325.
Motor Trend clocked a 1965 with two aboard at 9.1 seconds for the 0-60 mph trip, not bad for a car weighing close to 4,350 pounds. Bob McVey, indulging in a little hyperbole perhaps, wrote of its "screaming, smoking, wheel-spinning acceleration." Meanwhile, Pontiac had a quiet lock on third place, a good 30 percent ahead of either Buick or Oldsmobile.
More available horsepower -- up to 376 -- was ordained for the little changed 1966s, after which General Motors again restyled its full-size fleet. At Pontiac that meant wedge-shape front fender tips and a low, heavy-looking bumper/ grille, neither of which helped appearance, plus bobbed tails and a return to creased lower flanks.
Bonneville's standard engine was now a bored-out (4.12-inch) 400-cubic-inch extension of the 389, though horsepower remained 325. Lengthening stroke (to 4.00 inches) yielded a new 428-cubic-inch option and 360/376 horsepower.
Buick traded places with Oldsmobile for number five, but Pontiac's hold on third was still solid. More coordinated big-car styling arrived for 1968, along with the Bonneville's first-ever four-door sedan and an increase in standard power to 340 horsepower.
For 1969, Pontiac Bonneville graduated to the 360-horsepower 428 -- and 390 horsepower was newly available, the most ever offered in a stock Bonneville. Wheelbase also set a record, expanding by one inch to 125.
By now, "Bonneville" was no longer synonymous with speed, at least not at Pontiac, where the performance mantle had passed to the midsize GTO in 1964. Trouble was, the division's luxury leader was slipping, sales falling short of 100,000 for the first time since 1961. Worse, Pontiac's margin over fourth-place Buick had grown perilously thin.
But the troubles were only beginning. Bonneville sales slid a little more in 1970, and Pontiac tumbled all the way back to sixth. Clumsier styling was at least partly to blame, while an enormous new 455-cubic-inch V-8 -- yet another enlargement of the seemingly limitless 1955 block, with 360 standard horsepower for Pontiac Bonneville -- was out of step with rising fuel and insurance costs.
By now, of course, Pontiac Bonneville had long since ceased to be unique or even mildly interesting. It was simply another big car -- a good one to be sure, but no more than that.
To see how the Pontiac Bonneville fared in the 1970s, continue to the next page.
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