Tuesday, November 13, 2012
1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama
Designer: Harley Earl
It's said that Harley Earl, director of GM styling, got the idea for a GM concept car while watching world speed records being set at the Salt Flats in Utah. It would be a sports racer called a Bonneville Special. That was when 1954 models were being readied for production and no GM car had ever carried the Bonneville name. Perhaps Harley Earl gave the assignment to Pontiac as the birth of its upcoming performance image. Under the direction of Earl, Hommer LaGassey and Paul Gilland were directed to build two Bonneville Specials. The bronze car would debut in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf in New York and the Green one in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The Green one would later tour major dealerships around the country. The cars were showbiz and beyond production but realistic enough for the public to identify with them and make them contenders for best remembered Motorama cars.
The outrageous, Corvette-derived, two-seat, fiberglass bubble-top Pontiac Bonneville Special 'Dream Car' roadster was powered by a 268 cubic-inch flathead straight eight, enhanced to produce 230 horsepower. It had a bank of four side-draft two-barrel carburetors and coupled to a two-speed Hydramatic transmission.
The front fenders had 'Bonneville Special' lettering over twin finned-aluminum faux oil coolers. The rear fenders were rounded and arched over the wheels before extending behind them with a round, chrome-rimmed tail-lamp molded in each of their vertical trailing edges. Among its many unique features was the 'Continental Kit' spare tire housing integrated into the rear deck. Its clear plastic gullwing hatches swung up from its roof's center section, allowing for entry and exit.
Pontiac's Motorama star for 1954 was its first sports dream car, the Bonneville Special. Using a name that would make the production cars in 1957 and never let go, the 100-inch wheelbase and fiberglass Bonneville has a transparent plexiglass roof with opening panels over the seat to aid access.
It looks every bit the competition car it was designed to be; however, Pontiac was a year away from having its new V-8 and the 48-inch high machine had to make do with a flathead straight eight and Hydramatic transmission, somewhat limiting potential performance. Hood lines flow back from the open grill to two small scoops, via the traditional Pontiac silver streaks.
Defining the rear is a vertically mounted spare time and wheel with an exposed center. Red bucket seats and full instrumentation, spread across the dash, marked the interior.
Harley J. Earl's trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, was said to be the inspiration for the name, the Bonneville was lucky to survive. Most Dream Cars were deliberately cut up to avoid any possible litigation.
Posted by Palmer at 12:02 PM