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.









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  • 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.

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