[Recommend to read this after the related 1960 Pontiac Curbside Classic]
After shooting the 1960 Ventura Curbside Classic in the driveway, its owner Russ mentions that he just happens to have a couple of other 1960 Pontiacs out back. My heart jumps a bit: is there a Star Chief, please? Anything but. Oh well, the story is about having to adapt one’s dreams to changing circumstances, so let’s see what is out there. In 1960, Pontiac had four model lines spread over two wheelbase lengths. Yes, that was still the era where a couple of inches longer wheelbase put one a couple of inches higher in the social pecking order.
The “junior” Pontiacs rode on a 122″ wheelbase. The Catalina was the entry-level Pontiac, competing fiercely with the low-price Chevy, Ford and Plymouth. A Catalina hardtop coupe cost just $62 more than a V8 Impala coupe. For that amount, you got three inches of extra wheelbase compared to the Chevy, a husky 389 V8 instead of a 283, and that Pontiac look. A bargain indeed. Russ has a pretty intact “stripper” Catalina four door, which he says won’t take much to run again.
The Ventura was the higher trim model of the junior Pontiacs, costing a couple hundred dollars more. And it only came in the two and four door hardtop styles. In many ways, the best way to go.
The senior Ponchos had a two inch graft in the wheelbase, which extended them out back. It’s pretty easy to spot when looking at them, like the ’67 Bonneville in yesterday’s walking tour: there’s an obvious gap between the rear door (shared with the junior cars) and the rear wheel opening. It looks a bit forced, especially on those four doors.
My longed-for Star Chief was the lower level senior Pontiac, and the Bonneville was the top of the line. Russ’ red coupe (at the top) is a Bonnie, but it’s definitely in the parts car category, unless you just have to have one. It has a better trimmed dash and interior, including GM’s pioneering Autronic Eye automatic headlight dimmer.
The Bonnie coupe also has the typical GM hardtop and convertible rear seat design, which includes that distinctive dip to make room for the (optional) rear seat radio speaker, what else would it be there for? But why is there a cutout on the rear package shelf? Have I been deluding myself all these decades?
The final bit of Bonneville pecking order bragging rights are its tail lights, which are more complex than the Ventura’s. According to Russ, the inner lenses are the same as a Corvette’s. GM liked to keep its parts recycled across the lines.