"If you look for the best of everything a car can be, you can rest your eyes right here. Sweeping beauty and an appetite for action make Bonneville the most provocative word in the language of driving. Just say the word. Make '62 your year for a Bonneville. The most luxurious way to go Wide-Tracking!"
It's safe to bet that our pictured 1962 Pontiac Bonneville is the only one of its kind in Cuba. We wouldn't bet, however, that the original "Tri-Power" engine is still mounted under the Bonneville's bonnet. Yet, there must be at least some kind of V-8 installed: the deep eight-cylinder growl and a rapid "lift-off" at every traffic light signal abundant power and bragging rights for the proud driver.
Smartly named after the famous salt flats in Utah, which are known to every petrol head for the many land speed records that were attempted and accomplished there, Bonneville soon became the synonym for one of the most powerful performance cars in America.
Pontiac launched the first production Bonneville in 1957. In an urge to establish the brand as an engineering leader, Chief engineers Pete Estes and John DeLorean simply mated an insanely powerful fuel-injected 347 cubic-inch (5.7 l) V-8 engine to a run-of-the-mill convertible chassis. The result was breathtaking, especially when looking at its astronomic price tag: at that time, the $5,782 sticker price would almost buy you an equally powerful Buick Century, and a standard Pontiac Chieftain on top!
Pontiac, anyway, never intended to sell the new Bonneville in big numbers. Instead, the 630 cars produced in 1957 were meant as an image builder, and the trick worked well. Pontiac's brand image swiftly began changing from being a stuffy old man's brand towards becoming a young racedriver's icon.
Fast-forward half a decade, Pontiac had established the Bonneville as one of the best selling performance cars in the US. Bonneville was now Pontiac's top trim level, but buyers still got the spiciest V-8 engines available, plus a lot of nice performance options such as "Tri-Power" (three two-barrel carburetors), or novel Alloy-wheels with integrated brake drums to ensure adequate stops.
The design was typical of the Bill Mitchell era at GM, with angular shapes and an emphasis on horizontal lines to visually stretch the car. The "Twin-Scoop Grille" was a Pontiac trademark since 1959, and should be kept as an identifier until the demise of the brand in 2005. All in all, however, the Bonneville actually looked quite restrained for being such a powerful car.
Even if not everyone was buying a Bonneville, customers clearly wanted the new Pontiacs, and the strong sales lifted the division to the third place in the annual production statistics in 1962.