Pontiac Bonneville Special number two. Photos courtesy Barrett-Jackson.
In the early 1950s, GM was desperate to portray its Pontiac brand as sporty and exciting, in order to attract a younger demographic to showrooms. Reportedly inspired by the cars he saw vying for speed records on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, Harley Earl tasked designers Homer LaGasse and Paul Gilland with building a car worthy of the Bonneville name, one that would give the rival Chevrolet Corvette a run for its money. The result was the Pontiac Bonneville Special concept, of which only two were ever built. Next January, Bonneville Special number two, which sold at auction in 2006 for $3.08 million, returns to the block in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of Barrett-Jackson’s Ron Pratte Collection sale.
Like the production Chevrolet Corvette on which it was based, the Pontiac Bonneville Special concept was a low-slung sports car with a fiberglass body. Unlike the original Corvette, however, the Pontiac concept featured an enclosed bubble cockpit with flip-up side windows, along with eight cylinders beneath its long hood.
Though rumors of a V-8 from GM had been building since 1953, company executives feared that showing such an engine in the Bonneville Special, even in dummy form, would potentially delay already sagging Pontiac sales. Instead, the Pontiac concept carried a 268-cu.in
. inline eight-cylinder engine fitted with four side-draft carburetors, good for a claimed 230 horsepower.