(first posted 12/3/2015) I love to follow the old roads. In Indiana, they don’t get much older than the National Road, which Thomas Jefferson authorized in 1806 and was built across Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the 1820s and 1830s. And then when the US highway system was established in 1926, US 40 was laid along that old road. US 40 has been improved (read: straightened, widened, and outright moved) in several places; the old alignments still lurk here and there. But for the most part, when you drive US 40, you’re following a pioneer path. And it seems like whenever I’m on one of the pioneer paths, I find old cars, like this ’67 Bonneville.
In eastern Indiana, except for the modern traffic, when you drive US 40 you feel like you’ve stepped back 150 years in time. Suddenly, it’s 1860! At least, so says the surrounding architecture. This is Cambridge City, founded in 1836. And on the day we visited, the streets were lined with antiques for sale. It was the day of an annual antique festival.
No antique that day appealed to me more than this ’67 Bonne, built in the year of my birth. I have always adored the GM B-body two-door hardtop roof from ’67 and ’68. So long, so flowing – so gutsy. Audacious, even. I can stare at a car like this for hours
GM shared this roof across the entire B-body line. In those days, they were still pretty good about differentiating bodies below the sill line. At the top of the B hierarchy, Buick’s side sweep beautifully enhanced this roof’s graceful lines.
I’m not a big fan of late-60s Oldsmobile styling, and so to me, they’re the only division to make this roof look dorky — yet, somehow, longer than any of the other B-body hardtop coupes.
In the flesh, the ’67 Impala (and Caprice) look just enormous, but among B bodies they rode on the smallest wheelbase at just 119 inches and were the shortest overall at 213.2 inches. The Buick Wildcat was the longest 1967 B body, at 220.5 inches; it rode on a 126-inch wheelbase. The LeSabre rode a 123 incher, and was 217.5 inches long. The Oldsmobile 88s were a half inch shorter than that despite also riding a 123-inch wheelbase. The Pontiacs rode on 124- and 121-inch wheelbases, depending on series, and were 222.6 and 215.6 inches long, respectively
And Pontiac offered the most series by far. The Bonneville sat at the top, offering the best standard features and the most luxury. You could climb even higher with the Bonneville Brougham option package, which added a vinyl roof and power accessories inside.
The Executive was next, riding on the Bonneville’s longer wheelbase, but offering fewer goodies.
The Ventura was the most luxurious offering on the shorter wheelbase. It probably wasn’t on par with the Bonneville, but it was probably a much nicer place to be than the entry-level Catalina.
The Pontiac 2+2 was the straight performance model, on the shorter wheelbase but with a big 428-cube engine. It could be ordered only with two front Strato-Bucket seats; hence its 2+2 name.
At the bottom of the standard Pontiac totem pole sat the Catalina. Given its price-sensitive mission, it’s almost a surprise it could be ordered in the hardtop coupe body.
But back to this Bonneville. Each of us has our preferred kind of curbside classic. Some of us love a very rough but still driveable old car. Some of us adore a solid, complete car slathered with patina. A few of us like ‘em restored and even modified. But what I like, what I almost swoon over, is that all-original car that appears to have been lightly used all its life. This Bonneville heavily tripped that trigger for me. Just check out the faded paint on the decklid. And the interior, which I didn’t manage to get a usable shot of, is similarly in good, but obviously used shape.
There were three hitches, however. The first are the dual exhaust tips peeking out from under the passenger-side rear fender. I don’t think that’s stock (but I trust you’ll correct me if I’m wrong). Next is this car’s lack of fender skirts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ’67 Bonneville with an open rear wheel well trimmed in chrome. I’ve seen cars where the skirt went missing, but that’s not at all what looks like happened here. Some quick Googling reveals a handful of Bonnes so equipped, so perhaps the skirt was deletable on the option sheet.
Even if it wasn’t, it’s small potatoes compared to the third hitch: those wheels. WTF? These were real headscratchers until I realized that this car is running on modern tires – Sumitomo 225/40ZR18s, to be precise. That’s just the kind of modification I’d make, to get better handling and a wider selection of tires to choose from. And props to this owner for at least trying to make the wheels blend in by painting them body color. Persistent Googling revealed that those wheel covers are borrowed from a ’57 Pontiac. This owner even painted the centers body color. I don’t think a single ’67 Bonneville left the factory with body-color wheels and dog dishes – that’s more Catalina territory.
But these wheels look pretty good, and this car obviously comes out to play sometimes. And regardless of how we like our curbside classics, I think we can all agree that if they don’t come out to play, they’re no fun at all.