Renderings by Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman – click images for full impact
(first posted 12/11/2015) Having coined the term The Great Brougham Epoch™, I then gave the 1965 Ford LTD the credit for launching it. Did I jump the gun, by one year? And give credit to the wrong car? Quite possibly. The 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham was the very first car of the modern era (post 1950) to actually use the Brougham name (other than the long-running Cadillac), which alone gives it bragging rights over the LTD. And it wrote the the Brougham Era playbook: a more luxuriously-appointed version of an existing model, with the requisite badging, plush interior, and even a standard vinyl roof. For all I know, the ’65 LTD was just a blatant copy of it. Although sold for seven years (1964-1970) before being replaced by the 1971 Grand Ville, it’s never received any credit for its pioneering role, until now.
image credit for all ’64 Brougham photos: Dave S’ photostream
Given the Brougham’s prominent place on the cover of the 1964 Pontiac brochure, there’s little doubt that its maker had aspirations for it. Pontiac in the sixties was on a roll, due to its innovative spirit and ability to to sense where the market was going. The 1964 Brougham was a rather bold step into a new era of mid-priced luxury. But then Pontiac was anything if not bold in the early-mid sixties..
There was of course another bold move by Pontiac in 1964: the GTO, the seminal muscle car. That was John DeLorean’s baby, and one wonders what role he played in the Brougham. Given that he was Pontiac’s Chief Engineer until 1965, it’s somewhat doubtful. But it’s a sign of Pontiac’s spirit of innovation to launch two new products, in quite different categories. One wonders what the expectations were for each of them? Certainly no one could have anticipated the huge success of the GTO. Compared to it, the Brougham was a minor player.
Pontiac was certainly no stranger to bumping up against the senior Olds and Buick models, but the Brougham kicked that battle up a notch. Pontiac had always offered “senior” versions with an extended wheelbase, going back to its very earliest days in the 1930s. With its 123″ wheelbase, the ’64 Bonneville (and lower-trim Star Chief) had an obvious three additional inches between the end of the door and rear wheel opening compared to the 120″ wb Catalina and Ventura.
Ironically, that made these “senior” Pontiacs look a bit cobbled up, since it used the same rear doors as the Catalina, and the cutout at the bottom wasn’t really necessary. And that additional three inches was purely cosmetic; the interior dimension were unchanged from the shorter Pontiacs. Presumably, the trunk was deeper by that amount, a dubious benefit.
The Bonneville/Brougham/Star Chief’s extended body might have cast a longer shadow, but were a wee bit crude in execution, especially compared the true C-Body Olds 98 and Buick Electra, which wore their even longer (126″) wheelbases more elegantly, with tastefully integrated (and covered) rear wheel openings.
The 1964 Bonneville Brougham’s march up the Sloanian ladder may help explain why Oldsmobile came out with its 1965 Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan, with an interior that rivaled (or surpassed) even a Cadillac DeVille. The great luxury inflation was under way. And the last vestiges of the Sloan hierarchy were in tatters, although that had started long before.
The ’64 Brougham interior wasn’t quite in that league, but it was a substantial step up from the regular Bonneville. I’m not an expert on fabrics, so I’ll leave it to someone else to explain just what Preston cloth is. It certainly sounds more upscale than “Morrokide”.
The door interior panel had tufted cloth, a tasty chrome pull handle, and the requisite “Brougham” badge.
Of course, one also graced the C Pillar. By Fisher, too; lest their be any doubt who built all of GM’s car bodies. Well, maybe not the Corvette. The C-Pillar badge (“Brougham” or otherwise) became a prerequisite for any serious player in the GBE. And here’s the first.
With its standard vinyl top and tasty chrome details, the Brougham was a handsome and distinguished car, especially in this dark blue, or black. I’m always drawn to white cars, but I’d have to give the navy blue the nod in this case.
The ’64 was just the first in a line of Pontiac Broughams that extended to 1971, when the Grand Ville effectively replaced it. Here’s the ’65 version, where it’s called the Bonneville Brougham in the brochure. That wouldn’t be the case in later years.
The ’65 interior now sported “Ponchartrain cloth”. Good luck finding that, if you should need to go shopping for replacement upholstery. “Poncho-train”, perhaps?
In the 1966 brochure, it was just called “Brougham”, with its own section, although the “Bonneville” name is clearly still on the front fenders and elsewhere. Let’s not forget that the ’65-’66 LTD also was just a variant/model of the Galaxie 500 series until 1967, when it became its own series.
And there were also coupe and convertible versions, although I doubt the convertible was sporting the Ponchartrain. The new split front seats, with bucket-like backrests and folding armrest was standard in the two-doors.
As can be seen, the Brougham even got its own unique columns in the specs in the 1966 brochure. One wonders if Pontiac considered making it a truly separate model, without the Bonneville badges still on its sides. Since the Brougham is not broken out in my Encyclopedia of American Cars, I have no production numbers; I wonder if any exist. And my guess is that it wasn’t a very big seller, purely based on my memory of how relatively few there were to be seen.
Here’s the 1967, still called just “Brougham”, with its own section.
And the 1968, referred to both as just “Brougham” and also “Bonneville Brougham”. The Brougham suffered a bit of an identity crisis.
1970 was the last year for the Brougham. I’m not certain this is a Brougham on the cover of the brochure, but I suspect so, and it makes a nice book end to the somewhat similar 1964 cover, near the top of this post. Of course, the clothing styles have changed a bit, but it still conveys a formal air.
Inside, there’s only one picture of a Brougham, but then this is a full-line brochure.
But the Brougham interior (left, obviously) gets plenty of attention, although the fabric is not specifically named. Carmine will know. The standard Bonneville Morrokide interior is in the inset.
In 1971, the Brougham was effectively replaced by the Grand Ville, subject of a post here recently. Unfortunately, I don’t have ready access to the additional cost of the Brougham package for the Bonneville. The Grand Ville was 5% more expensive than a Bonneville, and I rather suspect that was the case with the Brougham too, although it’s possible the earlier Broughams were more expensive (and exclusive).
Ford charged a very hefty 20% more for the LTD vs. the regular Galaxie 500, with a base price of $3313. A ’65 Bonneville started at $3443, so depending on how much the Brougham package cost, it likely wasn’t all that much more expensive than the LTD, and probably had more standard equipment.
The 1971-1972 Grand Ville and Bonneville still had a lengthened wheelbase, but starting with 1973, that ended too. The big GM cars were huge enough as it was, and GM was already at work planning smaller replacements, so the old tradition of longer wheelbases without any commensurate interior space increase (which was the case with all of these longer Bonnevilles/Broughams), just didn’t make anymore sense. And who cared? Or had anyone ever really noticed? It was an archaic concept, to splice in some useless extra length to help justify extra prestige and cost. The growth of Mercedes and Cadillac’s Seville changed the equation forever.
So back to the question we posed at the top: was the Bonneville Brougham the true father of the Great Brougham Epoch? It’s not an easy question to answer definitively. Obviously, the Ford LTD was more successful, sales wise; undoubtedly due to a very aggressive advertising campaign. Pontiac never pushed the Brougham in its advertising.
Lee Iacocca’s brilliance was not in being a true innovator, but seizing upon others’ ideas and running with them, faster and harder. Lee has acknowledged that the 1965 Mustang was a direct response to the surprise success of the 1961 Corvair Monza coupe. The 1965 full-size Fords were obvious copies of the 1963 full-size Pontiacs, a car that changed the paradigm for design in its class and had everyone scrambling to imitate it. It’s hardly a big leap of imagination to presume that when Lee saw the 1964 Bonneville Brougham, a Ford “Better Idea” light went on. The essence of The Great Brougham Epoch was the commodification of “luxury”, and the 1965 Ford LTD did that unlike any other car, thanks to Iacocca’s ability to see its potential and sell the hell out of it.
That’s where the Bonneville Brougham loses much of its claim to the title. Pontiac didn’t have enough faith and commitment in the concept, and never aggressively sold the Brougham beyond its appearance in the Brochures and this one sole ad, the same basic rendering as the brochure cover. Quite the contrast from what the GTO received, one of the most highly orchestrated publicity campaigns. The result was that the Pontiac Brougham never made a significant impact on the market (except likely on Lee Iacocca); its sales were undoubtedly modest, and it never entered the public’s awareness. Meanwhile, the LTD was a huge success, and utterly transformed the market.
So we still need to answer the question. If the assumption that Lee Iacocca got the idea for the ’65 LTD from the ’64 Brougham is true, than perhaps it’s more appropriate to call him and the LTD the mother of the GBE, having been impregnated by the Pontiac Brougham father. But in lieu of a confession from Lee, which is unlikely, or genetic testing, we’ll never know for sure. Perhaps a paternity suit is called for?
image credit for all ’64 Brougham photos: Dave S’ photostream
Related reading: 1965 Ford LTD: It Launched The Great Brougham Epoch
We had the discussion recently on one of Jana’s posts about the record ‘Rocket 88’ recorded in 1951. Historians like to use it as the point of genesis for rock n roll. Yet it was Elvis in 1954 who broke wide. I think the answer to your conundrum lies in those who followed; were they more inspired by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, or Elvis Presley?
The Ford has to take the crown, it was the proven success that subsequently defined the category, just like Elvis. But the fun for historians is tracing back the influences, and the Pontiac must definitely have been one. Great extension to the grand unifying theory, Paul. And I just can’t ever get enough of AFVK.
My father had a birthday last month. There is not much a man of his chronological endowment really needs but I was able to obtain a 1964 Pontiac full-line brochure thruough eBay to give him as a gift (well it only had the full-sized line; Catalina, Star Chief, Bonneville, and Grand Prix – no Tempest or LeMans).
Dad once told me, of all the cars he owned, his 1964 Catalina 2-door hardtop (with the tri-tone Ventura interior) was his favorite. That was quite a revelation to me since he’s also owned Buicks, a Cadillac, a BMW 3.0S (my favorite by a longshot), and a 1956 Bel Air convertible.
He made nice comments about the brochure but left it at my house. I consider that more a reflection of his diminishing memory than his level of satisfaction with the gift. Until I “remember” to return his property I will continue to enjoy the Van Kaufman / Art Fitzpatrick renderings. 🙂
“Chronological endowment” – love that!
But Elvis didn’t hit critical mass until 1956 when RCA bought out his Sun contract.
Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around The Clock” broke wide open when the year-old song appeared in the movie “Blackboard Jungle”.
I’d call Pontiac’s Brougham the prequel.
While just a bit more expensive than a Chevy, Pontiac was never one of the “low-priced three”. It was never intended to be. In the sixties it was the rebel brand with a hint of exclusivity. Definitely not a “pedestrian” mass-market Chevy.
Ford made their offering on a mass-market low-priced car. That’s the difference.
‘Rocket 88’ hardly the first rock record either btw – here’s some rock ‘n’ roll from the 1940s: youtube.com/watch?v=xZlESMXHFfY
Is there some corresponding forgotten ‘brougham’ from the 1950s or early ’60s?
Jimmy Hoffa drove a ’64 Brougham but i cannot find a picture, i think i’ve seen it in a Pontiac book.
When Jimmy H vanished, his car was a ’74 Grand Ville, shown in all the news clippings. Must have loved Pontiacs!
Supposedly the 1973/74 or so GrandVille coupe that Jimmy Hoffa left in the parking lot of the Red Fox Steakhouse still exists, it was given to one of their neighbors after being stored at Jimmys house for a couple of years after his disappearance.
Pontiac was a medium priced brand. Broughamification was expected.
Bringing this idea to the low-priced field was something new.
Excellent point. Ford broke Broughmness wide open, brought it to the masses. It was even sort of tasteful for a while.
I’m not sure why you say “Broughamification was expected”. By whom? No one had done this before. It was new to the medium price field too. There was no precedent.
Obviously, the impact was greater when Ford did it, with a very aggressive marketing campaign.
The problem with these narratives is that it is hard to point to the beginning. Maybe there wasn’t one – like maybe there is not a single source for any river, but lots of little streams that eventually converge.
Another contender (though certainly not as successful) was the 1964 Studebaker Cruiser. The Cruiser offered a fairly luxurious trim level, including some very nicely done tufted cloth seats (over coil springs, no less) of an old, flawed car. Though a size down from the Bonnie or LTD, it was the most luxurious mid-size or compact car out there in 1964.
Could the 1963 Ambassador have given anyone the idea? I think it would be easy to get lost looking for the first Brougham.
Don’t forget the 1963-64 New Yorker Salon. This came standard with a landau-style black vinyl roof, and almost every feature available on the NYer was standard on the Salon. No doubt it was going after the same market as the Pontiac Brougham. The Salon even got its own separate brochure:
The Salon popped into my head as I read this article, good call. The 63-64 New Yorker Salon gets no press. I think the only option was the tilt wheel(which was sourced from GM).
The Salon was in a substantially different market level. With its lofty price of $5860, it was more expensive than every Imperial except the top-line LeBaron, which is a bit odd. I’m not sure what Chrysler was trying to do, except maybe appeal to those that didn’t like the Imperial’s styling, perhaps.
No doubt the Imperial-level pricing was a large part of its downfall. I wonder if it was still less expensive than a regular New Yorker with every option ordered?
It would be interesting to learn what the logic was behind green-lighting the Salon. They had to be targeting the same early brougham market as the Bonneville Brougham, but they flubbed the price-point. Also, even with the vinyl roof, 63-64 Chryslers don’t look very “Broughamy”.
I never knew the NY Salon was such an upmarket edition. There’s a fellow in my neighborhood who has a ’64 Salon and drives it regularly, if not daily. Could use some cosmetic TLC but it looks generally solid. Maybe I’ll have to take a closer peek the next time I pass by…
In 1964, we lived in apartment building that my parents owned. Our janitor, a retired Italian named “Berni” (Spellcheck thinks that should have an “e” on the end. Spellcheck isn’t Italian) bought himself a brand new 1964 Chrysler New Yorker Salon. He said it was more luxurious than Dad’s 1963 Cadillac, and he wasn’t wrong.
Good story. It’s amusing to see how Pontiac in the ’60s had its own version of Cadillac’s tailfin evolution in the ’50s – except in the other direction.
Rather than rear fenders getting taller every year, they sank lower and lower. The ’64 had just a little sway to its hips; the ’70’s pontoons look like they’ve swallowed the rear wheels and are about to eat the rest of the car.
That Pontiac Brougham needs more rear overhang. Much, much more!
Cars of that era seem to have been designed for future use in demo derbies.
60s Bonnevilles seem sooooo out of proportion compared to Catalinas. The fact that they still look pretty good speaks volumes for their overall design. I think that the ’67/’68 actually comes off the best of the 60s Bonnevilles, probably due to the steeper fastbacks on the coupes. I’ve always liked ’67 Bonnevilles especially, but would much rather have a Catalina or Grand Prix from most years.
The benefit of going with the Bonnie or Star Chief in 61-64 was that you got the old-school 4 speed Hydra Matic. A Catalina or Grand Prix got you the Roto Hydramatic, which was far inferior, both in performance and certainly in durability. The advent of the excellent THM in 1965 eliminated that as an issue.
That’s true…one of the downsides of those cars was the “Slim Jim” transmission. Back in college, I wanted a ’63 Catalina so badly I could taste it, and I did a bunch of research on the ins and outs…the trans was going to be a wild card.
Never did pick one up, and now I think I like the ’65 more anyway…
To go slightly off topic, from 1964 Pontiac Brougham vs. 1965 Ford LTD to 1964 Pontiac Brougham vs. 1965 Olds 98LS vs. 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham —
The advertising photo of the Olds 98 Luxury Sedan interior was particularly striking to my eyes, because Olds’ top of the line interior for 1965 (which I was not previously familiar with) appears to preview Cadillac’s top of the line interior for 1966. In 1965, Olds gave 98LS rear seat passengers a chrome grab handle/extensive wood (real or fake? probably fake)/vanity environment. The next year, Cadillac introduced the Fleetwood Brougham that used huge slabs of real wood trim and gave its rear seat passengers fold-down wooden tables, footrests, and reading lamps. Every year after that, Cadillac cheapened the Fleetwood Brougham interior until it became fake wood and plastichrome by 1969.
Was 1965-66 a peak for luxury content in the high and mid level divisions (Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile) at GM? If so, did the Pontiac Brougham start it, by elevating the luxury level in a lower division?
To echo what Paul said earlier, Carmine will no doubt know the answer off the top of his head.
The earlier trim catalog does list Palais Cloth as part of the trim, I once passed on a pretty clean 1970 Bonneville Brougham about 8 years ago, it was gold, with a black top and trip, it had the same interior as the brochure pic.
Even ordinary Bonnevilles in 1965-66 had walnut veneer on the dashboard and on at least one variety of steering wheel. Possibly 1963-64 as well, but in any case vinyl was used starting in ’67.
Pontiac used real wood from 62 to 66. The amount on the 65 was impressive considering Pontiac was one step above Chevrolet. I have always thought the 65 Bonneville was more expensive to produce than any other GM car except the Cadillac. The 65 Bonneville had difficult to stamp front and rear bumpers, a very expensive to produce stainless rocker trim, individual block letter name spelled out on each side and the rear, a ribbed diecast piece between the tail lamps and a heavily detailed, chromed and wood dash design. All around impressive.
The ’65 was, in my opinion, Pontiac’s best work in the 60’s overall. Just a beautiful car from all angles and, I agree, the trim, body design, and sculpturing looked expensive to produce and high quality. About 5 years ago I ran across a ’65 Bonneville, described as under 100K original miles, no visible rust, for sale at something like $6000. Really wanted to bring it home but I was broke at the time; whoever picked that up got quite a nice car (assuming it was as clean underneath as it looked externally).
Ford spent the 1960’s aping Pontiac, it’s not hard to see that they cribbed the LTD (inferior though) from the Bonneville, stacked headlights and all.
Pontiac was the hot GM division in the 1960’s. Better styling, bigger engines and better transmissions than comparable Olds and Buicks. Pontiac sales took off.
Funny, Ford even copied Pontiac when Pontiac jumped the shark w/ the massive beak look in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s.
As has been frequently cited here at CC, Ford didn’t copy it so much as it was brought to them in the form of Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, who was hired away from GM to serve as president of FoMoCo. The beaks and the bloated ’71 Mustang were all his doing.
From about ’63 through ’66, Pontiac may have had the prettiest full size cars in the business. I saw a very clean and rare mid size LeMans four door hardtop the other day, probably a ’66, and very much a clone of the full-size look and also very handsome.
The ’65 LTD brought a new expectation for luxury appointments to the “low price field” as it was called then. Even if the idea was taken from Pontiac (and it likely was), pushing the Brougham theme into the Ford brand was arguably an innovation as far as product and marketing.
Some successful vehicle launches seem to give an idea to a brand. Pony car to Ford, minivans to Chrysler / Dodge.
While I’ve questioned it myself, I’ll give the ’65 LTD the nod for changing expectations about the content and nature of full-size American cars for the next 20 or so years.
I enjoy, but often find myself perplexed by, these discussions of the beginning of the Great Brougham Epoch. I like the broader cultural question embedded within them, which runs somewhere along the lines of when Americans began substituting material excess for legitimate content and style. At some point, we seemed to cross a threshold where we decided better isn’t really better; MORE is better. This substitution continues to poison many aspects of our culture today, even if our cars have moved beyond it.
I don’t see this excess when I look at the ’64 Bonneville, ’65 LTD, and other such cars; they simply look like very nice cars with some luxury features. They lack the High Pimpitude that I think True Broughaminess was about, even if they have a Brougham nameplate.
Within a couple short years, however, things look different to me. The bulging rear fenders on the ’67 Bonneville coupe are more suggestive of the showiness and excess that I think is essential to True Broughminess. I find myself wincing a little when I look at them, because I suspect that the people who designed, bought, and drove them didn’t care as much about true substance as they did about the impression they wanted their cars to make on others.
So I guess a “wince factor” is the acid test of Broughminess for me. I don’t wince at the ’64 Bonneville and ’65 LTD. But I do wince a little at the ’67 Bonneville. I wince a little whenever I see a vinyl roof. I wince a moderate amount at a Chevy Monza Town Car or a Dart Brougham. And I winced a lot at the ’77 New Yorker recently featured (https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/qotd-cc-c-body-conundrum-which-will-you-take-home/).
Culturally, that was the landscape that was the ’70’s, and it was reflected in houses, fashion, etc.
I work in real estate and occasionally see a high end basement from the ’70’s, and it practically exudes sex, cigarettes, booze and cocaine. Marbled mirror tiles on the walls, way overdone bars, gold leaf and flocked wallpaper, shag carpet, gaudy light fixtures. We talking about 1,000 sq ft of rec room and large adjoining bedrooms, wine storage rooms, etc.
The ’64 Bonneville Brougham is buttoned down Don Draper classic. The ’74 Fleetwood Brougham Talisman was Megan Draper’s ride home after group sex.
The $2450 Talisman package was pure Pimptitude. The Dart Brougham doesn’t bother me – it was the “luxury” car the nice middle aged lady in the tidy corner house on my block drove. I’m not going to deny her some sound deadening and soft upholstery.
That was one of the best visuals/metaphorical descriptions I’ve seen here in a while. +1 🙂
anyone watch reruns of My Three Sons? Every single car is a Poncho, even the old ones! Product placement supremo.
My Thre Sons was sponsored by Chevy at least in 62 and 63.
“I Dream of Jeannie” was Poncho sponsored too. Dr. Bellows had a 65, 67, and 68 Bonneville 4 door hardtop, but not sure if a Brougham. The final season had Doc in a ’69 LeMans woody wagon.
Only in early seasons, other makes were shown, such as Major Healy’s Comet and Mustang ragtops.
“Pontiacs had…better transmissions than … Olds/Buick”
Pontiac used same transmissions as the ‘upper middle’ makes from 1965 on, i.e. Turbo-Hydramatic 350 and 400. Maybe better than the Powerglide at Chevy, though.
One difference was that Pontiac eschewed the variable-pitch stator that Oldsmobile and Buick used through 1967. The transmissions were largely the same, excepting whatever fine-tuning each division did to the valve body and clutch packs to optimize the shift points for their respective engines, but the torque converters were not.
Do you think, that maybe we are beating the Brougham era to death just a little bit? Maybe the fact that I was able to drive them in 1968 alters my view compared to those who were not born yet. Me,I don’t care if it is brougham or not just that it is an older car and I happen to like the looks of it. Brougham was not in my lexicon back then.
I am not quite sure just what the issue is; is it the use of the tag “Brougham” on lower end cars; or is it the upgrading of interior material and style. I think that the really questionable epoch is when we get the overstuffed interiors, some much worse than others.
Something I recall, but I am not sure where this came from, is that GM top management decreed that GM top executives (entitled to a car) had to drive their divisions cars, not a Cadillac (except for Cadillac execs). I am not sure when this state of affairs was implemented but I understood that this was the explanation for the sudden appearance of the Chevrolet Caprice, with an interior that seems very nearly Bonneville Brougham quality.
Cadillac used the Brougham name for a model in 1915 according to Classic Car Database. However, after World War Two, the Fleetwood Sixty Special did not have a Brougham version until 1966. The Eldorado Brougham sedan was the first use of Brougham by Cadillac after WWII.
Buick did have two versions of the Electra 225’s, base and Custom, with the Custom a higher end interior. Leather was actually available in the early sixties on Electra and Invicta (Old Car Brochures).
Olds introduced a Luxury Sedan version of the 98 in 63, with upgraded interior.
Pontiac may have thought that they needed two versions of the Bonneville since Buick and Olds top of the line sedans came in two versions.
I was afraid someone would bring up this too-often repeated urban myth. You probably read it at TTAC, since Jack Baruth wrote about it there. It’s utterly absurd: the “sudden appearance” of the 1965.5 Caprice was strictly a response to the success of the 1965 Ford LTD. Chevy was caught off guard, and had to rush out the Caprice package as quickly as they could. It took until 1966 for Plymouth to get their VIP into production.
No doubt, the seeds of the Brougham Era started some years earlier. Frankly, it was a natural reaction to the strongly rising incomes of Americans during the sixties. The trappings of luxury were becoming accessible to the middle class, and Detroit wanted in on it, for obvious reasons.
And the ’65 LTD set off an explosion of broughams in the lowest price levels, and really launched the whole era. To think that it was because of some internal GM corporate policy on what execs could drive is pretty far fetched.
I think that the Caprice was most likely a response the Ford LTD, which in turn may have been a response to the Bonneville Brougham. I think that the GM policy is something I would have seen in one the car magazines (Motor Trend, Car and Driver or Road and Track) but I don’t really remember.
But I think the real explanation for the higher quality interiors is simply that upholstery materials became available at much lower costs making nicer interiors doable in lower end cars. The more outrageous loose pillow styles came out in the seventies.
I imagine that there probably was some “divisional pride” by upper management and their wanting to have some sort of special up-line sedan in their line up, it had been snowballing since the 1950’s, Buick was probably one of the first, with the introduction of the Roadmaster 75 series above the regular Roadmaster in 1957, moving one notch up further with the Limited in 1958 and then slightly dialing it back with Electra and Electra 225 in 1959.
Oldsmobile and Pontiac jumped in with the Luxury Sedan 98’s and Bonneville Brougham in the early 60’s, then the Caprice in 1965, which lead to further “mutually assured broughamification” causing Cadillac to introduce the Brougham as an option for 1965, and Buick resurrected the Limited nameplate yet again for 1967. Leading to further escalation in the 1970’s with the Grand Ville and Oldsmobile 98 Regency, which again caused Cadillac and Buick to further proliferate Brougham with the d’Elegance and Talisman Fleetwoods and Park Avenue package for the Electra 225.
Agreed, but I would take it further. The fifties and sixties were expansive times, and incomes were rising strongly. The incremental ratcheting up of luxury features was analog to the horsepower war that had broken out a bit earlier.
In fact, one could see the Brougham/luxury escalation as a natural outcome to the end of the horsepower war in big/luxury cars. The focus now switched from what was under the hood to what was inside the passenger compartment.
Bragging rights and content in inflation are an almost inevitable consequence of the times. And these features really weren’t that expensive, when built in large quantities.
I agree, look at a 1950 Chevrolet and a 1960 Chevrolet as an example. The desire from management for a higher end “regular” car sprung from the same desires that the consumers have for ever increasing luxury. Even further down the road, by the 1980’s most of what was considered luxury equipment in the past like power windows, seats, locks and cruise stared to creep into subcompact cars.
While I see what you are getting at, looking at the Old Car Brochures what I see is that interiors are becoming nicer as the 50’s roll by. The Ford LTD in 1965 may have been an upgrade compared with 64, but I don’t see that it is more than an incremental improvement. The LTD interior is not quite as nice as the Bonneville Brougham if one can judge based on the advertising pictures.
I do agree that during the sixties interiors were being upgraded. During the seventies, we get what I consider overdone interiors.
The origin of that explanation was a Brock Yates piece called “America’s Two-Dimensional Sweetheart,” originally in the March 1971 issue of Car and Driver. In that article, Yates alluded to having been told that story by one or more unnamed Chevrolet executives.
I agree that it seems far-fetched and that the success of the Ford LTD presents a much more obvious explanation (particularly considering that both AMC and Plymouth scrambled to do exactly the same kind of thing at pretty much the same time).
“Olds introduced a Luxury Sedan version of the 98 in 63, with upgraded interior.”
You are correct about this.
’63 and ’64 seemed to be the years for the mid-price brands to get a boost interior appointments.
New Yorker Salon at Chrysler
LS at Oldsmobile.
Park Lane returned to Mercury in ’64
Bonneville Brougham at Pontiac
Buick was slow to the party with Limited in ’67
1965 LeMans four-door sedan may have been first intermediate Brougham. It was a beautiful one-year only car, sharing Bonneville Brougham cloth Ponchartrain cloth and vinyl top. It was replaced by the LeMans four-door hardtop in ’66 (also a very handsome car).
Paul, wheelbase stretch on 71-72 Grand Ville was at front of car (similar to 1965-68 Buick Wildcat). These cars had better proportions than sixties Bonnevilles for that reason. LWB was probably dropped in 73 because with 5-mph bumpers, cars were just too big. And there was no loss in either interior room or trunk space.
I want to comment on the “by Fisher”. At one time Fisher Body was not owned by GM and Fleetwood Body was not owned by Fisher Body. GM bought 60% of Fisher Body in 1919. Fisher Body bought Fleetwood in 1925, after which GM bought the rest of Fisher Body, making it GM Body in reality, but the Fisher brothers continued to work at GM until the end of World War Two, when the left. Fleetwood Bodies were made for Cadillac through 1932, after which Cadillac bodies were all Fisher or custom built. While the bodies were probably strongly influenced by the Fisher’s in the early fifties, by the sixties I think we are seeing General Motors bodies more than Fisher bodies. Obviously GM owns the trademark, but the question is who does the quality control. While the Fisher’s were still at GM, the bodies may have met some level of quality control beyond what GM would do on their own. I do remember the Fisher Body mark on GM cars.
GM’s use of the Fisher Body tag in the sixties and later always struck me as something of an anachronism. As you point out, it was GM body.
How many potential customers by then would remember Fisher Body being an independent concern? And it’s not as though you had any other choice of body-builder for your GM car by then anyway. Pointless.
Great post, thank you.
I always knew there were various wheelbases for GM’s B and C body cars, but I didn’t realize there were so many variations until this and the other recent post (perhaps the Grand Ville one?). I thought it was just B’s, longer C’s, and a few extra inches on the Fleetwood. I never knew there were stretched B’s as well. I think the longer C bodies always looked better and better-proportioned than the shorter B bodies, from the early ’60s up to and including the last RWD models.
The ’64 (and ’65 I suppose) and ’66 big Pontiacs were some of the best looking cars of the era, especially the ’66. That sedan is just gorgeous. The Broughaminess was fairly understated initially, and really didn’t get crazy until the 1970s. I suppose these didn’t sell all that well because people buyers were probably more inclined to get an Olds or Buick for similar money, even if it meant getting one that wasn’t quite as nice as the Brougham.
Wasn’t the Caprice really more of a direct rival to the Ford LTD?
I think the real reason the Bonneville Brougham sold so poorly was the fact that the dealers did not promote it. I liked going to the dealerships when I was growing up and the Pontiac dealerships never had a Brougham in the showroom. It was seeing the interior that would have sold the Brougham package but it just wasn’t there to see.
I enjoyed the article and the comments. It is always interesting to read. I cannot really add anything to this article. I liked the photos and story shared too. The thing I find interesting is the fact Pontiac was making Bonneville Broughams in the 1960’s and by the 1980’s was making performance/luxury Bonneville SSE’s. I guess times did change and changed what was defined as luxury. I guess by the mid 1980’s GM was not leading, but following the market.
I thought I would share these videos based on what I read:
Bonneville Brougham -12:08 on the video
1981 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham:
1963 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Luxury Sedan:
1966 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Luxury Sedan:
1976 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency :
In trying to understand more about just what this is all about I ran across the 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria. The Ford LTD seems to be very similar to this as far as the interior style goes, updated with newer materials of course.
My dad bought a 1 year old ’67 Bonneville from a coworker when I was 11. It was so big we kids called it The Living Room. Black vinyl top over off-white, black cloth interior. Now I wonder if it was a Brougham. We didn’t have it long enough for me to really imprint on it as he traded it in on a new green ’69 Grand Prix w/ the 400. Now THAT was a car for memories. Seemed revolutionary at the time, especially after the loooong Bonneville. Had that one for 4 years so I just missed driving it, not that I got to drive his new ’73 Regal very much. Spent most of my time driving my mom’s ’71 Capri, which also seemed revolutionary in its way, and was way more fun with its right-size and 4-speed. Could have parked 2 of those in the Bonnie’s space.
Another Curbside Classic take on Brougham = Boring= Blah Blah Blah How novel you guys! Nothing else to write about?? Hmmmmm. How about having a daily feature: Curbside Brougham??
How about skipping the article and sparing us your opinions? There’s PLENTY I don’t read out there on the net but it would never occur to me to criticize those who do. Or are you just trolling? If that’s it, how sad.
Today’s CC landing page:
2013/14 Ford Lariat
1987 Honda Civic
w114 Mercedes pick up
1993 Daewoo Asuna
1964 Pontiac Brougham
1979 Suzuki Carry
1937 Olds Rod
1972 Olds Delta
1946-48 Chrysler Windsor
1961 Chrysler Newport
90-93 Mercedes SL
‘Nothing else to write about?’
That is a pretty healthy and diverse line-up, if I may say so. But then there’s always something new to come tomorrow…. The real problem is that I’m looking at a TO DO list of 100 top cars that I’ve shot and must write up, with full CCs. Finding the time, that is the challenge. And in what order? It’s going to be a while before I run out of things I want to write up, How about an OSI Ford 20M TS?
Shoot me over a couple of pics of some that you want written, I’m working on a couple of articles, I could help.
Looking forward to some more of your extended thoughts, Carmine.
Yes please on the OSI Paul!
The 1965 through ’67 Bonnevilles are some of my favorite cars – we had two ’65s, a ’66, and a ’67 in our extended family (a coupe, a wagon, two convertibles).
The transition to the 1971 model year perhaps should have mentioned that despite the advent of the Grand Ville, the “Brougham” name survived for a few more years on the new Catalina Brougham model, which in effect replaced the Executive (which until 1970 had shared the Bonneville’s wheelbase) in the model lineup.
I continue to be amazed at the extensive use of the term “Brougham” on so many different types of cars. I am surprised that Pontiac would use it on both a low end as well as the high end model. The term, which used to be a particular type of horse drawn carriage, now is used to imply an upgraded interior package.
My overall favorite year of the full sized Pontiac’s is 1965 with 1966 and 1968 close behind (I didn’t think the stacked headlights looked as great on the 1967 models), like you I also thought it was the 1965 Ford Galaxie LTD that started off the Brougham era which became popular later on.
Nice article on a rarely seen model. I have a copy of the deluxe 1964 Pontiac brochure and it is lovely.
See, Paul can do Broughams! But it doesn’t hurt if there’s some Van and Fitz artwork in the mix. 🙂
also wasn’t the Pontiac Bonneville a competitor to the Dodge Monaco and a Mercury Parklane of the same period?
I would like to shed a tad of light on the ‘Brougham’ topic. Pontiac was the first to resurrect the Brougham name in 1964. The Brougham featured a unique sew pattern in the seating and door panel trim. Hinged assist handles on the doors. Fold down arm rest both front and rear. Carpeted Cowl panels and I believe carpeting on the lower back part of the front seat. I am not sure the vinyl roof was standard. There is reference in a recent post here made to Cadillac using the Brougham name first but that is not correct. Cadillac begin using the name in the modern era in 1965. In that year it only added a vinyl top to the car. In 1966 the Brougham featured folding trays, folding footrests and map lights on the c pillars. Oldsmobile did not respond to Pontiac but led the way by one year. The first 98 LS was offered in 1963, featuring upgraded seat materials, front and rear armrests and assist handles. Chevrolet joined in 1965 with the Caprice and Buick waited until 1967 to offer the ‘Limited.’ If you wish to check any of this information go to ‘The old cars manual project’ They have many of the original dealer brochures posted. Its a great website. Jeff
Have you perhaps forgotten the 1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham? It’s pretty unforgettable. And it’s definitely from the modern era.
Touche Fine cars those were. Most remember only the 57′, 58′ models but the 59′ and 60′ models were neat cars in their own right. It is hard to believe they produced an almost complete body and several interior components for a car they knew would sell so few units. Jeff
I appreciate this article on it’s large importance regarding car companies quest to attract the public at large for vehicles that they equate with “moving up”, not just in the prestige of the vehicle they choose to be seen driving in, but other aspects of their lives as well (their homes, their trappings, et al). Does the term “the car for the man on his way up” ring a bell? (I may have miss-quoted). That was the goal of Ford’s Edsel division. Oh, poor Edsel. Ford had such high hopes for it’s upper-medium priced car based on their Mercury bodies (Corsair and Citation). But, then they confused the public about this plan, by bringing out lower priced Ford-cloned Edsels (the Ranger and Pacer). Perhaps the “Broughamification” idea started with Edsel? I am suggesting that for debate. Oh, by the way, the 1970 Pontiac front end design, makes me recall the 1958 Edsel. What do you think?
“Broughamification” finds it’s earliest roots in the extended-deck ’52-’53 Olds 98 and ’54 Pontiac Star Chief Custom sedans, i.e. an upmarket model with added length and finer trim based on the volume line. The inspiration comes from the ’48-’49 Cadillac 60 Special architecture…..and right from the master himself: Harley Earl. In every case and application over the decades, they proved to put plus dollars in the coffers for minimal further investment, just smart marketing.
Another discussion today made me think of the 1964 Studebaker Cruiser. In looking for some pictures, I came across these showing an optional broadcloth upholstery that comes off quite nicely. Unfortunately, the door panels don’t come off nearly so nicely as these GM cars. Also, broadcloth was pretty passe’ in the luxury class by 1964. But all these years later, I prefer it to the pantycloth or brocade that ruled then.
Very classy, even if the door trim doesn’t match very well.
Genuine broadcloth is much nicer than those fake synthetics. This looks like what it is, more or less: a limited production luxury car interior, and one that could be from France or Germany. And that’s a compliment 🙂
I had never seen this interior before. I was looking for the standard cloth, which was pretty nice. Evidently, vinyl was an extra cost option, and broadcloth was a $78 option over the vinyl. I came across these shots on a Stude forum where someone said that these pictures were from an original car that had lived most of its life with plastic over the seats. I don’t think I could have stood to put plastic over these. 🙂
Studebaker had been doing its version of a brougham since the introduction of the 1947 Commander Land Cruiser, which over the standard Commander sedan included four additional inches of rear seat legroom on the longer wheelbase, their nicest interior upholstery and trim and even a fold-down rear seat armrest.
I think my grandmother’s 1950 Buick might have had broadcloth. It was cover with seat covers (not plastic) so I am not sure what they looked like. I think that it was wool from what I could see and still remember.
Broadcloth was standard in the Cadillac 75, as well as optional on the concurrent luxury cars, so Studebaker was trying vainly to associate their Cruiser with those aspirational cars. They even mounted a pretentious ad campaign (see advertisement), in some referring to their Cruiser as a “Limousinette”, implying the generous rear seat legroom comparable to those formal styles.
The contrast between the limousine-elegant, biscuit-style broadcloth seat bolsters and the taxi-cab cheesy, cheapy heat-seamed vinyl door panels is jarring. Apparently in their effort to impart some class to the Cruiser interior option, the idea that all visible surfaces should contribute to a harmonious impression was lost.
The Bonnie Brougham has a “panty cloth” interior before the LTD, but it wasn`t called that. Nice car though.
Pontiac was really on a roll in the 60s and 70s. These were such great looking cars. I think that Pontiac had established it’s p
IMHO, not really, since Pontiac was a Mid Price brand, so this Brougham was aimed at Chrysler New Yorker or Mercury Park Lane. Along with Olds/Buick cousins.
Ford was the low price brand since the Model T, and the LTD was to shed that Tin Lizzie image.
Pontiac had been practicing the lengthened quarters and extended deck in earnest since the ’54 Star Chief Deluxe and Custom sedans. And it worked like a charm, Star Chiefs were instantly popular, continued on into the ’60’s in that extended A-bodied form.
Since 60’s cars had no warranties to speak of how did GM handle all the problems
that the Olds and Pontiac customers had with the roto transmissions or did they
tell you to get lost ? Consumer Reports said to buy Star Chief so you got the
older better tranny
The rear skirts make ALL the difference in the flow of that Pontiac body…Give me a Bonneville in a dark color with skirts and we’re good to go.
On the subject of upholstery, I wish that manufacturers would offer more high-end fabric options…so much automotive leather is cheap, nasty, plasticky stuff that doesn’t hold up. I strongly prefer a nice cloth that breathes well. And vinyl/leatherette/pleather belongs in cheap little econoboxes, not alleged luxury cars.
I could have written your second paragraph. I’ve had cooled leather seats for 14 years, but I sure wish they were cloth. Don’t get me started on the black dashes and carpeting which have taken over Cadillac and others.
Contrary to the opinion of many, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile and his grandson was not first with the Brougham. However, the two Fords (or Lido in Hank II’s case) were most successful in taking competitors ideas, refining them, and successfully bringing them to the masses.
The ’65 LTD was a master stroke of marketing and exploiting a niche GM may have discovered, but failed to cultivate. Ford was great at this, with some of its biggest successes (wagons, LTD, Falcon, Mustang, Explorer) coming at the expense of a GM lukewarm effort. They took an underdeveloped idea, refined it a bit, then marketed the hell out of it. Ford advertising was usually superb. Those commercials favorably comparing a ’65 LTD with a Rolls were pure genius and still recalled by many.
One thing that seems to stand out on the 64 Pontiac is the size of the car…..The roof and greenhouse of the car looks so small in comparison to the rest of the car…..The thin C pillars on the 4 door hardtop seem to highlight this…..The wider C pillars on the 65 and later models seem to,make the greenhouse and roof,more in proportion to the rest of the car.
Wonderful article. I miss the “Brougham” suggestion of class in cars today. Todays cars are just molded bland shapes in one colour. Mind you, some cars are bringing back chrome trim. Way up north in Canada, we did not have the Bonneville at that time. We had the Parisienne as our full-size car. In 1966, we had a deluxe version called the “Grande Parisienne”, which I would consider our version of the “Brougham”.
The 1964-65 Pontiac Brougham armrests and door pulls were recycled from the 1962 entry level (Series 62) Cadillac. The armrests in the 1965 Olds 98 LS were inherited from the previous generation 1963-64 Cadillac DeVille.
It looks like the ’71 Grand Ville finally got wider rear doors that stretched to the wheelwells (did it?), but even the non-stretched Bonnevilles of this era always confused me. They had the same roofline and rear side window treatment as genuine GM C bodies (98/Electra/de Ville) but still on the shorter wheelbase, and I’m not sure how they managed that. Just narrower rear doors and corresponding shorter roof?
For me the essence of Broughamness isn’t merely upscale features on a normally low-priced brand. There have always been these, but the ’57 Chevy Bel Air isn’t a brougham even though it has gingerbread not on a 150 or 210. The four-seat Thunderbird isn’t a brougham either; it really did have luxuries unavailable on regular Fords. No, Broughams need to obtain their “luxury” image with cheap tchotchkes like plastic chrome, plastic wood, vinyl roofs, opera windows, opera lights, button-tufted loose-cushion velour upholstery, extra pull straps and lamps scattered around, and other bric-a-brac that is perceived as “luxurious” but costs only pennies to add to the car.
I’ve always found the ‘face’ of the 71 GrandVille to be particularly ugly…
The shortest F-150 currently available, the regular cab short bed, has a wheelbase of 122.8″ (Nearly as long as the Pontiac Bonneville Brougham) and overall length of 209.1″
The most popular F-150 configuration, the crew cab short bed, has a wheelbase of 145.4″ and overall length of 231.7″ That’s 6″ longer than legendary full size cars such as the Buick Electra 225. (The less common crew cab standard bed (6.5′) has a wheelbase of 157.2″ and overall length of 243.5″)
Many of the features of the 1960s to 1970s full-size American cars people wax nostalgic about (Massive footprint, V8, RWD, body-on-frame, bench seats, column shifter) are still present in new full-size American trucks.
Kita Ikki hits the nail on the head. if you want room, you need size, although those extended rear ends on Pontiacs starting in 1954 did nothing for interior space. As for those upscale Broughams and particularly the Pontiac, I have mentioned before that one evening I traveled over 100 miles round trip with five other gents in a new 1969 Pontiac Brougham four-door hardtop. Being the youngest, as 26, I chose to sit in the rear seat center. What a horrible ride! I felt the driveline tunnel pounding me every time that we hit a bump in the road. So, gussie it up all you want, but the center seat was horrid. Snazzy to look at, though (the car, not my aching behind!)
The “Brougham” label aside, for me the Pontiac is still a notch up the ladder to start with, which Ford/Chevy were both at the first step. Heck, you saw full-size Fords and Chevies as lowly taxicabs, but Pontiac (Mercury, etc.) not so much. Plus, the ’65 Ford—much-changed from the ’64—had the built-in formality & angularity in its styling, a change from the rounded-off Fords that preceded it.
That’s what I find distinctive about the LTD’s arrival—as part of an entry-level platform’s offerings.
(All that said, I’m a Ford guy, but find the early 1960s Pontiacs very, very pretty.)