Patterned after other GM luxury specials, Pontiac’s Bonneville convertible was a low-production luxury liner with power to spare. One of just 630 built, this mostly original 1957 Bonneville shows a believed-actual 53,032 miles. It was in careful storage from 1961 to 1980, when its Kenya Ivory paint and red interior were refinished to as-original condition. Like all Bonnevilles, it is powered by Pontiac’s fuel-injected 347-ci, 310-hp engine and offers leather upholstery, power steering and brakes, Strata-Flight Hydra-Matic, eight-way power seats, power windows, Wonderbar radio with power antenna, electric clock, padded dash, deluxe carpeting, whitewall tires and a Continental kit.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1957 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible
Years Produced:1957
Number Produced:630
Original List Price:$5,782
Tune Up Cost:$150
Chassis Number Location:Pad on front of right-hand cylinder bank
Engine Number Location:Left front door hinge pillar
Club Info:Pontiac-Oakland Owners Club
Alternatives:1957 fuel-injected Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, 1957 fuel-injected Chevrolet Corvette, 1957 Cadillac Series 62 convertible

This 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, Lot S73, sold for $99,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum Auctions’ Salmon Brothers sale on June 16, 2012, in North Little Rock, AR.

The Salmon brothers, twins Tom and Don, offered their 50-year collection of 140 cars, motors and other automotive memorabilia at their single-seller auction. The collection was heavily slanted toward 1957 Chevrolets, but any concern that the market would be flooded was summarily dismissed when they all sold for market-correct or above figures.

Jazzing up Pontiac

If Zora Arkus-Duntov is the father of the Corvette, then Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen holds the same distinction for the Pontiac Bonneville. In the early 1950s, Pontiac was respected as a producer of reliable automobiles with rather stodgy styling and unremarkable performance. Definitely your father’s Pontiac.

In July 1956, Knudsen, at age 44, became the youngest general manager in the history of General Motors. His statement “You can sell a young car to old people, but you can’t sell an old car to young people,” set the tone for Pontiac, and with the addition of Pete Estes and John Z. DeLorean, the transformation began.

Implementing styling changes took time, but in six months, the fuel-injected Bonneville convertible was generating showroom traffic.

Production was limited, with one allocated to each Pontiac dealer. It was available just one way: fully loaded. Nearly everything on the Pontiac order sheet was standard, with air conditioning and a rear-mounted spare offered as the only options. Its lofty base price of $5,782 placed it several hundred dollars above the Series 62 Cadillac convertible.

The Bonneville for 1957 used its own version of the Rochester-produced fuel-injection system. It differed slightly from the one used on Chevrolets and Corvettes, and if the units proved troublesome on the Chevys, they were even more so on the Bonnevilles. However, when properly sorted, they offer solid, exhilarating performance.

Pontiac rated the fuel-injected V8 “in excess of 300 horsepower,” and contemporary figures peg it closer to 310. Motor Trend tests found the 0–60 mph time of 8.1 was just one-tenth of a second quicker than the Tri-Power Pontiac, but it was a second slower in the quarter mile. Weighing in at 4,285 pounds — mostly because of all the goodies tacked on — the car’s performance was still very respectable.

A good buy, but work is needed

The Salmon Brothers 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible was “visually maintained,” and one on-site analyst rated it a 3+ in condition.

At first glance, this car was a screaming deal, but after poking under the covers, we need to step back a bit.

There is no shortage of 1957 Pontiac Bonnevilles listed in the SCM Platinum database. Earlier this year, Mecum offered a very presentable example at their Kissimmee, FL, sale, and it failed to sell at $120,000. Another example, rated a 2+, was bid to the same amount at Gooding’s January 2012 sale in Scottsdale, AZ, and it met the same fate. Mecum did sell an exceptional example that was rated a solid 1 at their 2011 auction in St. Charles, IL, for $159,000, and RM Auctions sold a 1957 Bonneville convertible, rated 2+, at their January 2011 Phoenix, AZ, auction for $121,000.

If we connect the dots, it looks like solid 2+ and above 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertibles will find new homes in the $120,000–$160,000 range, depending on how the sun and stars align on that particular day.

Our subject Bonneville was a 30-year-old restoration that appeared to be on the verge of unwinding. It you look at the glass as being half full rather that half empty — and anticipate that the market will soon appreciate the uniqueness of the fuel-injected Bonneville — then spending $40,000 or so to bring this up a notch or two will be a wise investment. That’s how I see it, anyway.

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