What is this strange specimen slathered in Lamborghini orange paint and whitewalls that look like giant, powdered doughnuts? Why it's a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, one of the most important proto-muscle cars in the world.
This week on /BIG MUSCLE, Mike Musto checks out a car that represents America in the late-1950s was to design: Jet-age interior design, a freeway track as wide as a country mile and enough hexavalent chromium to poison half of New Jersey. It's the 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, pride of Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, then general manager of Pontiac. It was Knudsen who reinvented Pontiac as a young, performance-oriented brand, which his corporate sidekick John Z. Delorean would kick into the stratosphere during the 1960s.
The Bonneville was a big car for younger buyers who cut their teeth on drag racing during the '50s, but now wanted a cruiser. It was youthful, but still swank enough to win country-club points.
And what of that "Wide-Track" advertising hook Pontiac launched in '59? As the story goes, the '59 styling prototypes looked out of place on the '58 chassis, so engineers pushed the wheels outward, creating a fuller, more "custom" look. Yay, '50!