Junkyard Find: 1981 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 pontiac bonneville brougham

Here’s a Junkyard Find that really takes me back. My dad bought a Bonneville new in 1979, and it seemed like a very nice car when I was 13 years old. A few years later, I borrowed the Bonneville to take my date to the high-school prom (in spite of this being the early 1980s, I did not wear a robin’s-egg-blue tuxedo, though now I wish I had), and I felt classier than Frank Sinatra in a brand-new ’61 Imperial. A few years after that, I was given the now-quite-worn-out Bonneville to make the drive between the San Francisco Bay Area and my new home in Southern California… and it crapped out every 100 yards while trying to climb the Grapevine. So, mixed feelings when I saw this very similar ’81 Bonneville Brougham in a Denver self-service yard.

I’m not sure what luxury touches the Brougham option package got Bonneville buyers in 1981. Maybe just the Brougham emblems.

Perhaps the diamond-tucked velour upholstery was a Brougham-only option for ’81. Make sure your prom date doesn’t ralph up her Boone’s Farm on these impossible-to-clean seats!

I recall the Bonneville being a very smooth-riding, comfortable car. Quite underpowered with its 301-cubic-inch V8, and the electrical stuff started failing right away, but pretty decent by the low standards of the Middle Malaise Era.

Join the conversation
2 of 50 comments
  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Apr 15, 2012

    The old man purchased a Bonneville sedan when it bacame a downsized mid-size I believe in 1982 .He didn't like it for some reason - might have been the v-6 which ran poorly and idled roughly . It was the first Bonneville he bought since a 1960 Bonnevile Safari but it no longer was any kind of luxury car as it had been then .When the Parisienne - believe that was just the same car as the previous full size Bonneville but built in Canada- came out he promptly traded the smaller Bonneville for one of those .

  • Angelo Angelo on Apr 29, 2013

    So you are aware, the engine in the Bonneville pictured is a Oldsmobile Diesel 350. The Pontiac 301 has a distinct profile, very similar to the bigger Pontiac V8's, they share the same timing covers, valve covers, etc... The oil filling tube sticking high into the air is a dead give away you're looking at an Oldsmobile engine. That Oldsmobile diesel V8 has it's own sad story.

  • Dot65699986 Making money online is more than $15k just by doing simple work from home. I received $18376 last month. It's an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office jobs and even a little child can do this and earn money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info on this page..... 𝐖𝐰𝐰.𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝟐𝟒.𝐜𝐨𝐦
  • Tassos extinct. It is a mickey mouse vehicle -toy that was always extinct for me. Its current interior room is fit only for small females. No wonder it is very popular with chicks. An Adult male can fit in, but can';t comfortably stretch on a longer trip, not to mention the non-existing trunk. The stupid car does not even have room for a young couple and their weekend luggage. So, it's JUST A TOY. When you grow up, you want something much more than a DAMNED TOY. Zoom-zoom?
  • Theflyersfan I need to find the numbers but I remember reading that when back in 2020 when global lockdowns took hold, Mazda had the best sales year in years on the MX-5 given people wanted to drive something fun, top down, and get outdoors given everything indoors was closed. I daily my 2022 MX-5 RF GT and in 11 months, have just broken 15,000 miles. It's been out east twice, all over parts of the Midwest, and does my daily commute. All to the tune of 34-35 mpg in mixed driving, compliments at stoplights and getting gas (the Soul Red looks so good on that car), and with excellent winter tires, got me through the light snow and moderate ice on my way into work this morning. I'm able to fit two carry-on size bags, one large backpack, and some odds and ends in trunk. One of the few things I wish I could change is interior storage. Why Mazda couldn't carve out door pockets or install nets is beyond me. The center cubby can only hold so much. The stereotype of this being a chick car, a sorority car, etc., died a long time ago. It is a track car, one you can have serious fun in, one you can take on trips, cheap to fuel (even with wanting 93 octane) and insure, and still looks good. If you love to drive, and are at a stage where you can live with this as a daily, don't mind renting something larger if you need it, and know how to drive a stick and want some fun, get one. New, used, whatever. And I'll add my future predictions in the new MX-5 posting.
  • FreedMike It shouldn't be offered in the color shown in that picture, for starters. Make them all Soul Red. I would say there should be two: a "classic" Miata with conventional power, and an EV version. Imagine a Miata with 300 lb/ft of instant torque. I'd be interested.
  • Bobby D'Oppo A relatively mild price increase over the CX-9 for what appears to be a genuine, thoroughly premium effort from them. The styling looks understated and handsome to my eye, but is understated really what a buyer in this class wants today?