In-Motion Classic: 1970 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible – Hot Mustard

1970 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, August 11, 2019.

I was a latecomer to Chinese cuisine, not having had any until well into my adolescence.  This isn’t to say I wasn’t used to foods originating from outside the United States, as I grew up eating the occasional west African meal prepared and served by friends of the family or colleagues of my Liberian father.  I had even spent an entire year of elementary school with my family living in upcountry Liberia, being fully immersed in the culture and culinary traditions which were almost completely devoid of Western influence.

I’ve been told I was a picky eater up to a certain age, but I’m not sure how much of that is actually true versus me just liking what I liked.  I also grew up eating and enjoying a variety of German-origin foods from my mother’s side of the family.  These included Braunschweiger, which is like smoked Liverwurst.  I would eat slices of this sausage with glee on Ritz crackers, but wouldn’t touch it today with a ten foot pole (with no offense to anyone who likes it).  All I know is that when I was ready to experience Chinese food, it changed my life, without hyperbole.

Sesame chicken from Orange Garden. North Center, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, May 28, 2022.

Sesame chicken from historic Orange Garden.  North Center, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, May 28, 2022.

I wasn’t immediately ready for some of the more exotic dishes, but I remember chicken fried rice tasting impossibly good, to where I just kept eating before my body could register that I was full.  My younger brother, being the adventurous kid, was the one who had encouraged me to dive in, telling me about how sweet and sour chicken tastes much better than it sounds, and also that soy sauce was like “Chinese salt”.  It was all so great, and writing about it now makes me want Chinese again this weekend.  The eggroll may be an appetizer, but I tend to save it for last, wanting to fill up on the actual meal first to where if I’m full, I can just save the roll for later.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t ready for the hot mustard the first time I tried it.

1970 Pontiac dealer brochure cover page, as sourced from

Is there any way to explain the sensation of a big dollop of hot mustard on an eggroll to someone who has never had it?  I’m not sure what I was expecting, though it might have been something along the lines of the kind of spicy mustard that would go on a bratwurst, which is not even close.  The nasal sensation is akin to diving the wrong way into a pool and ending up with a sinus cavity full of heavily chlorinated water, except that you then also need water to extinguish the flames inside your mouth.  You’re lucky if your nearby glass of water also has crunchable ice in it.

1970 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, August 11, 2019.

Someone (my brother, anyone) could have told me to use sparingly, and maybe someone did, but I saw mastery of the hot mustard at the time as something similar to how I would later learn in my college years to smoke cigarettes without coughing.  Go me.  The main difference with the mustard versus menthols, though, is that once you get past the burning, the hot mustard just hurts tastes so good.  The eggroll with mustard is one of the things I look forward to the most when I eat at any number of good, local Chinese restaurants I have access to: pulling that eggroll out of its greasy, wax-paper sleeve, drizzling a line of hot mustard on it, and wolfing it all in six or seven bites.  The hot mustard is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it.

1970 Pontiac dealer brochure page, as sourced from

The frontal styling of the full-sized 1970 Pontiacs is also an acquired taste.  My goodness.  I remember noticing one of these for the first time when I must have been about four or five years old while my family was visiting friends in St. Louis, and thinking that something seemed really off about its “face”.  It literally scared me.  Why did it have what looked like six headlights?  I was used to storybooks featuring monsters that had an extra set of eyes, or tentacles, or what have you, but on a car and to a kid with a then-burgeoning fascination with cars, it was highly disconcerting to see what looked like two big warts on either side of this car’s huge proboscis, which was also not the most subtle feature.

1970 Pontiac dealer brochure page, as sourced from

What are those things?  Are they vents?  I used to think they were housings for the front turn signals, but those are clearly beneath the bumper.  I understand the “beauty mark” look on women, and can appreciate a well-placed mole, whether natural or applied with makeup.  The front of the big, ’70 Pontiacs, however, is proof that more of a good thing is not necessarily better.  It’s almost like the stylists didn’t know when to stop adding elements.

1970 Pontiac dealer brochure page, as sourced from, and retouched by Joseph Dennis.

This car looks 1000% percent better without those things, as evidenced above by a quick-and-dirty retouching I performed on one of the illustrations from the factory sales brochure.  Our featured car was in stunning condition, though, and I got a smile from its driver who was clearly and rightfully proud of piloting this otherwise pretty and quite rare ride.  No 1970 full-sized Pontiac was available in that shade of mustard yellow, and the wheels, dash pad, and interior seemed to indicate that this was a mild custom, thought I thought it was tastefully done.

Standard power for most 1970 Bonnevilles came from a new, 455 cubic inch V8 that developed a whopping 360 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, with a 370 hp version in the wagon.  The Bonnie convertible, on the senior 125-inch wheelbase, weighed just under 4,200 pounds to start, and just over 3,500 of them were made.  There was also a convertible available in the entry-level Catalina line, with its shorter 122″ wheelbase, for about 10% less money than the Bonneville.  About 3,700 of the latter were sold for 1970.  There was never a midrange Executive drop-top available.

1970 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, August 11, 2019.

I suppose one could say that the full-sized 1970 Pontiacs, with their six-eyed look, might have been the precursor for getting people ready for the high-tech 1983 Pontiac 6000 STE that would feature six headlights.  Like hot mustard and the ’70 Pontiac’s frontal styling, STE also took some getting used to until the 6000 range got composite headlamps for ’86.  I’m actually okay with the ’70 Pontiacs now, understanding that their look was supposedly inspired by classics of the ’30s.  Within that context, I sort of get what the stylists were going for, even if the success of the execution was questionable.  In the meantime, and as I continue to explore more cuisines from around the world in this new year, I do so with an appreciative spirit and an understanding that variety is what keeps things interesting.  Here’s to the 1970 Pontiacs of the world who refuse to go unnoticed.

Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, August 11, 2019.

Brochure pages were as sourced from