The 1963 Pontiac Bonneville “Nudie Mobile” formerly owned by Roy Rogers. Photos by Nathan Leach-Proffer, Speed-Photos, courtesy RM Sotheby’s.
New York City’s gun laws are among the strictest in the nation, and the only cowboy with a regular job in the Big Apple is one who prances around sans (much) clothing in Times Square. That makes it an odd place to sell a Western-themed 1963 Pontiac Bonneville convertible festooned with pistols and rifles, designed for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans by Nudie Cohn, but the one-of-a-kind convertible heads to auction there on December 10, part of RM Sotheby’s “Driven by Disruption” sale.
Nudie Cohn billed himself as the “Rodeo Tailor to the Stars,” best known for the outlandish costumes he created for stars like Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Glen Campbell and even Robert Redford, specifically the illuminated suit worn in
The 1963 Pontiac customized by Nudie for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans didn’t deviate from stock beneath the hood, meaning that power comes from a 421-cu.in. V-8, mated to a three-speed HydraMatic automatic transmission.
On the outside, the most obvious touches are the three Ithaca lever-action rifles, one on each rear quarter panel and a third on the trunk, pointing forward, along with the revolvers that double as door handles. Up front, a pair of six-shooters ride atop the fenders, though one’s eyes are also drawn to the six-foot horns that span the Pontiac’s grille. Horses and horse shoes ride on the hood, rear fenders and oversize platform bumper, which also holds the Nudie-trademark Continental kit.
Compared to the inside, however, the exterior is a bit subtle and understated. In place of the standard fare, Nudie reupholstered the seats and door panels in hand-embossed leather, while replacing the center console with a silver-trimmed saddle. Interior panels are adorned with 150 silver dollars, and the pistol theme carries over inside as well, with 13 more real-but-rendered-inoperable handguns used throughout. The door handles are pistols, as are the armrests (which can’t be too comfortable, given the exposed hammers). A revolver rides atop the saddle bag that replaces the glove box, while a pair of derringers operate, the parking brake release and the turn signals. The column gear selector is a pistol (and changing gears requires a pull of the trigger), while two more holstered six-shooters are there for rear-seat passengers to enjoy.
Other Western themes abound, too. Seat belts are quite literally belts, made from hand-tooled leather and fitted with ornate, if somewhat less than functional, buckles. Horse-head handles are used on vent window cranks and radio controls, and front passenger foot wells are lined in cowhide. Even the sun visors have been wrapped in hand-tooled leather, leaving only a scant few patches of the interior’s original red color.
Such a car isn’t exactly a daily driver, and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans reserved the Pontiac for parade use and display in their Victorville, California, museum. Later, the car was displayed in the Roy Rogers Museum in Branson, Missouri, but as the population of the star’s fans aged, attendance dropped with each passing year. In 2009 the museum closed its doors, and in 2010 the contents, including the Nudie Mobile Pontiac, were auctioned off by Christies.
What’s the value of a car like this? At the Christies auction a Denver business man paid $254,500 for the car, while at RM’s 2010 Amelia Island sale, Kid Rock paid $225,000 for a similar 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Nudie Mobile convertible, built for Audrey Williams but later given to her son, Hank Williams Jr. Five years later, RM Sotheby’s predicts a selling price between $250,000 and $350,000 for the truly unique 1963 Pontiac.
For more information on the upcoming Driven by Disruption sale, visit RMSothebys.com.