In-Motion Classic: 1969 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible – Time Flies, Especially During Summer

I’m learning to be more thankful when friends and acquaintances ask me to participate in fun activities that would fall outside my normal routine, at times when I usually wouldn’t be anywhere but home.  As I’m sure I’ve stated before, my summer life in Chicago brings with it a plethora of available activities to the point where judicious choices need to be made to avoid burnout.

It also brings an expanding roster of many friends I’ve known and kept in contact with throughout the years, from different places I’ve lived, who will be in the Windy City for business or pleasure.  It can sometimes make me feel like I’m the star of my own sitcom or talk show, with a cast of revolving “very special guest stars”.  I take my friendships very seriously, and I’m always grateful when someone has thought enough of me to reach out and arrange for us to spend time catching up.

With my ’88 Mustang in the college university dormitory parking lot. Sophomore year, 1993 – ’94.


My college buddy, Jason, happened to be in town for a convention on the day when I had spotted our featured car.  It was a sobering (but awesome) thought that he and I have been friends for over twenty-five years since starting as college freshman in one of the honors dorms back in the early ’90s.  What’s cool about Jason’s and my friendship is that even though we’ve gone very long stretches of time without seeing each other in person, when we have had a chance to hang out, it hasn’t been just about reliving the past and the “good, ol’ days” of yore.

One of the great realizations from this particular visit after work was how we were able to keep a great conversation going, inclusive of current world and life events.  It was a great reminder of why and how he and I (and others in that same group) had become friends in the first place, more than half our lives ago.  Part of the running joke on this evening, however, was how even though we’re pretty much the same dudes as we were back then, there are definite “creaks of adulthood” that are now clearly visible, audible, and feel-able.  I choose to view my receded hairline (and I do shave my head) as a badge of honor, having made it thus far in life.

In the midst of Jason’s and my conversation as we had left the restaurant under the Loop tracks, I heard this ’69 Bonneville before I saw it.  There’s something about the way a car’s engine and exhaust system will reverberate underneath the elevated train tracks and between the buildings that seems to pulse through your body as well as in your eardrums.  Even with my SLR (versus the camera on my phone) and with its flash off, it’s really hard to get a decent shot of a moving car in low light, but I managed one (at the top of this essay).  In my conversations with Jason earlier that night, I had cited writing for Curbside Classic as one of my adulthood hobbies of which I’m the most proud.

I had to wait to get home in order to research a few facts about our featured car.  For example, Pontiac offered convertibles in two of its three full-sized lines for ’69: the 122″-wheelbase Catalina, and the 125″-wb Bonneville.  (There was no convertible offered in the Executive line, Pontiac’s mid-range full-sizer.)  Baffled by how I was going to be able to distinguish a Bonneville from a Catalina, one easy tell turned out to be the wider, “hockey-stick” taillamps of the Bonneville, versus the shorter units on the Catalina.  Convertible production of both models was nearly identical, at 5,400 apiece.  Most of the full-size Pontiacs that year were powered by a 400-cubic inch V8 with horsepower figures rated at 265 (with the automatic transmission) or 290 (with the manual).  There was also a 428 available with either 370 or 390 hp.

Perhaps the most jarring realization was that while Jason and I have been friends for just over 25 years, this ’69 Bonneville was about that old at the time all of us had started hanging out.  The life of this classic Pontiac was nearly equally bisected by the year a bunch of us young adults all met each other living in a dormitory (that was ancient even in the early ’90s), passing the time when we weren’t studying or acting foolish by playing the card game Euchre in the TV lounge or going to “Old Wave” night at a local theater-turned-nightclub.  I may have lost touch with all but maybe seven or eight in that original group of friends which included both Jason and I (thank you, social media!), but witnessing this classic Bonneville convertible pass as Jason and I wrapped up our conversation was a testament to the greatness of the passage of time not being something to really fear, but to celebrate.

Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019.