The truth of the matter is that we can’t lead forever. As much as we crave the stability and consistency in life, time and competition makes sure that we never become stale. Pontiac found itself the leader of a new type of youthful, vibrant, and enthusiastic market of automobiles in the early 1960’s, far away from the gussied up Chevrolet with a Straight 8 that it was at the beginning of the 1950’s.
By the end of the 1960’s, success had started to spoil the sweetest of milk on the market. While all of Pontiac’s line-up in 1964 presented a sporting rakishness, just a mere 5 years later, like a number of American Brands, the Tin Indian tried to field itself in categories it was none too well adjusted to fit into.
This is where we find the 1969 Bonneville 428 Convertible.
Moreso the audience for the biggest, fanciest Pontiac Convertible was evaporating quickly. While a Bonneville Convertible would have been the most flamboyant choice for executives moving up the ladder at the beginning of the decade, those 30 somethings that loved them were now pushing 40, were more often married and juggling a brood of kids.
The carefree convertible only could appeal as an weekend car or a midlife crisis. Meanwhile the realities of commuting to a desk job or running errands to the local Kroger were better done in sedans and wagons with plush interiors and air-conditioning.
Indeed the stresses of the outside world in the ever-complicating 1960’s full of racial, class and sexual strife made the cocoon of a sedan far more appealing. Convertibles in general saw a significant drop in sales after 1965. This reflected a longer term trend in the taste of cars as well.
The more conservative mainstream society became in the wake of the passing of The Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, Vietnam and the rumblings of Women’s and Queer Liberation, the more your average citizen wanted to tune out in their own way.
The wild hedonistic escape that was symbolized by a convertible suddenly found itself passe with moneyed buyers. Shamefully, since the 1969 Bonneville was one of the fastest, most potent and generally well assembled offerings from Pontiac up to that point. Also, the 1969 model year was the final year before some rather questionable neo-classical design features were splashed on the same body for the 1970 model year.
There would continue to be ersatz additions to the suit that became more and more baroque until the full-sized Pontiac convertible was cancelled after 1975. By then it had morphed into a beast with the useless name of Grandville, somewhat of an open air bordello than a mobile tanning booth that the Bonneville (and a number of American Convertible cars) had been until the demise of the breed.
In 1969, the Bonneville convertible found itself competing not only with the less costly Catalina Convertible, but also the Tempest, LeMans, GTO and Firebird convertibles on the same showroom floor. Although Pontiac itself turned out over 870,000 cars for the model year, only 5,438 of those were the top shelf Bonneville Convertibles. As it strode down newly paved interstate highways, it played homage to an American vehicular aesthetic that was already on life support, and frankly is only accessed in vacation rental car fleets nearly 50 years later.
In lament, one wonders if there’s a way to imbue the current days with a bit of joy. It’s well to be seen.
6 thoughts on “(Found In) Hoover/Foster (Oakland, California): 1969 Pontiac Bonneville 428 Convertible”
I’m not really a Rag Top nor Pontiac guy but I find this car compelling .
It’s nice to see a few still out in the wild .
I had a 1954 Pontiac Super Chief two door and I found it nothing like the 1954 Chevies .
It was a grand touring car even when 20 years old and out shone and outclassed the Bowtie brigade in every way .
I stupidly sold it for $50 when it needed a valve job, after I’d fixed everything but the AC .
I agree, these were not Blue Collar cars, that’s right and proper, the Sloan Ladder and all that .
Laurence, when you go more than 5 weeks without a post, I worry you have found better things to do than take great pictures & write about cars in a context I really enjoy. Merry Christmas & have a good holiday season.
Looking forward to reading Dynamic Drives in 2018!
Thanks Dave! To be honest it has been more of a struggle to keep up new content, as the older car featured are verging on 60, 70, even 80 years old, and over 150 posts over 2.5 years.
I’m going to try to keep it to 1-2 posts a month from here on out, but I post individual shots to Instagram and Facebook as well (you should be able to get to the link to that content from the right sidebar on the main page).
American convertibles and station wagons are relics – sadly – of the past, so even though this amazing Bonneville convertible is definitely showing its age, it makes me happy to see that it appears to still be drivable. The past couple weeks, I digitally thumbed my way through Pontiac brochures from 1960 to 1969 and have come to appreciate Pontiac more than I ever did when it was not an orphan brand. They were truly distinctive and classy cars that deserved a better fate. BTW, I am anxious to revisit the neo-classical front end of the ’70 full-size Pontiacs. I hated it when new, but it looks like nothing else (not even an Edsel, lol). They dared to be different, and isn’t that what we are all about?
At some point, I wanna get around to dissecting Pontiac’s run at the near top, and how it became more or less a progressive mainstream choice for middle class buyers (and the creeping conservatism as Oldsmobile became less daring on the engineering front that allowed for the baton pass in the early 70’s). It’s moreso a larger piece than I’d want to dedicate blog space to, but…I’ll probably post chapter segments here.
I’ll look forward to that.