Rare Rides: A Stunning 1978 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Pontiac is one of the most featured marques of the Rare Rides series, and to date there have been seven of its models represented here. Today’s Rare Ride was in showrooms the very same time as the odd and short-lived Sunbird Safari Wagon, but was intended to entice a much more traditional customer.

Let’s have a look at the upright and respectable Bonneville coupe.

The well-known Bonneville nameplate entered its sixth generation for the 1977 model year. Riding on a new version of the B-body platform, Bonneville was accompanied by Buick, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile brethren that formed General Motors’ mass-market large sedan offerings. Consolidation and downsizing occurred at the end of 1976, and new B-body designs debuted with wheelbases decreased by seven inches and overall lengths shortened by 14. The Chevrolet Caprice and Pontiac Bonneville were the largest sedans on offer at either brand; Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac still offered larger C-body cars in the Ninety-Eight, Electra, and De Ville respectively.

The new Bonneville was available with two doors like today’s coupe, or with four doors in sedan and wagon guise. Stylish hardtop versions of the prior generation were gone, but customers were consoled with optional opera windows on the coupe. For those who could not abide by the luxurious Bonneville’s price, its plain-Jane entry-level sibling was the Catalina.

Engines were many, ranging from a 3.8-liter Buick V6 (available in 1980), through V8s of four, five, and six liters displacement. The top of the range was the 403 Oldsmobile V8, with a close second given to Pontiac’s own 400 cubic inch (6.6L) version.

Worth noting here is Pontiac’s interesting branding strategy in Canada. GM did some badge work for Canadian customers, and rebranded the Catalina as the Laurentian. The Bonneville was not sold in Canada, but a light rework of the Caprice was marketed as Parisienne. But all the names in the world couldn’t help the full-sizers at Pontiac sell. Their sales were the worst of any B-body offering, and 1979’s recession helped to seal their fate.

1981 was the final year for the sixth-gen Bonneville and Catalina. 1982 saw the Catalina disappear and the Bonneville name fall to the mid-size class. It joined the Chevrolet Malibu on the rear-drive G-body platform. That same year, Pontiac’s new American-market full-sizer arrived from north of the border: bonjour, Parisienne. The brand was mostly downhill from there, really.

Today’s Rare Ride is a loaded up Landau trim coupe, with magnificent color matched mag wheels and green on every available surface. 1978 was the last year customers could order their Pontiac with the Pontiac 400 V8, and so the original owner did. With 69,000 miles and already repainted in its original factory Sea Foam green, the Bonneville asks $10,995.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 65 comments
  • MeJ MeJ on Mar 11, 2020

    That is a damn fine looking car!

  • St301gpman St301gpman on Mar 17, 2020

    It was all about emissions. Oldsmobile redesigned its heads in the late 60's and one of the improvements was emissions. Both the Chevrolet and Oldsmobile engines were cleaner burning than the Pontiac. Those cars were typically the California emissions cars. Any late 70's Pontiac that was the top high-performance model still got the 400 Pontiac motor.

  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
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  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.