Rare Rides: A Stunning 1978 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a stunning 1978 pontiac bonneville coupe

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]

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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.

  • YellowDuck This is a completely vulgar vehicle. I understand that that is the point, but still...pretty douchey.
  • IBx1 ...and it's automatic, so you get the same driving experience as a camry or an Ioniq 5. What a waste.
  • SCE to AUX Love it, and the price is a bargain, actually. The clean exterior is nice.Also, this caught my attention: "105mm throttle body"... that's a lot of air flow.
  • Tassos I predict this will be a big hit and conquer new markets. Housewives will be lining up to grab them, and the dealers will charge $200k a unit. Why? Because they already buy SUVs and crossovers they never needed, which have much less interior space than their minivans. So they will sacrifice a bit more of that space, but at least they will not drive identical looking crossovers with their accursed neighbor's wife.I also predict the Tesla Plaid and even lesses Teslas will beat the living daylights of this idiotic vehicle, and without even breaking a sweat.
  • Bobbysirhan I fully expect to be reading about the last-of-the-line Challenger Demon 170 Redeye Widebody three years from now.