1987 Pontiac Bonneville design clayA peek behind the curtain

For 1987, Pontiac moved their all-new Bonneville to GM’s H-body platform, which had already been in use at GM by other divisions.

Buick and Oldsmobile had introduced their H-body models for 1986, named the LeSabre and Delta 88, respectively.



Late but just as great
This is another few pictures I had without any indication of their source. As before, though, they’d been labeled. So, I’m going to assume for this discussion that the dates are accurate but if someone has a reason to believe differently, please feel free to explain in the comments below.

1981 Pontiac BonnevilleIn reading some background for this, it seems Pontiac’s traditionally large Bonneville went through some stylistically tumultuous times during the early to mid-1980s. Since 1959, the division’s premier model had been built on GM’s B-body, rear-wheel-drive platform. That is, all the way up through the 1981 model (shown above left).

1982 Pontiac BonnevilleFor 1982, Pontiac dropped it’s mid-size LeMans line but oddly continued to build essentially the same car under a different name.

That year, assembly line workers (or maybe robots) adhered Bonneville badges to Pontiac’s version of the corporate G-body sedans and wagons. The shrunk 1982 Pontiac Bonneville is shown above right.

In my humble opinion, and despite being fine cars I’m sure, neither of them strikes me as Pontiac material. They’re vanilla vehicles that blend into traffic and offer zero excitement.

What’s interesting (assuming the dates in the file names are accurate) is that Pontiac had been working on a better Bonneville since before it moved the nameplate to the G-body.

1987 Pontiac Bonneville design sketch ca 1980-81

The file for the image above was titled, “1987 Pontiac Bonneville sketch 1980-81.” So far, my other files names have panned out to be correct and, based on the style of the drawing, that at least sounds reasonable. It appears to have been influenced by design proposals for the 1982 Firebird and 1984 Fiero, at least up front.

Next was this traditional-looking clay, below.

1987 Pontiac Bonneville design clay ca 1982

The image of the clay model above was titled, “1987 Pontiac Bonneville clay 1982.” It also looks about right, from what else is known of the time period. To me, the front looks influenced by the 1982, compact Pontiac Sunbird. While the midsection of the car appears to have some fluidic grace to the design, the front and rear appear to represent throwbacks to tired ideas.

Even though the clay model above is interesting to look at from a what-could-have-been standpoint, the clay below appears to have taken a big step forward in sophistication–one year later (again, if my file names were accurate).

1987 Pontiac Bonneville design clay ca 1983

The file name for the image above was, “1987 Pontiac Bonneville clay 1983.” If true, that would indicate some great advancements took place since 1982 and its looks were established well ahead of its debut as a 1987 model.

The only differences I could make out were the non-yellow front side markers and what appears to be a B-pillar-mounted opera light, which I think was never offered on the eighth generation Bonneville.

Below is a picture of a production 1987 Pontiac Bonneville. You can see how similar it is to the clay above.

1987 Pontiac Bonneville

What a great design. I remember staring at this photo in my Pontiac brochure when it was new. Even at 16 years old, I thought this design was attractive. It stood apart from its Buick and Oldsmobile brethren’s very formal-looking designs with a more rounded front and rear.

Improving on Bonneville’s looks even more (considerably more, in my book), Pontiac introduced a new model for 1988 consisting of mostly appearance-related upgrades; it was called SSE. (1990 model shown below.)

1990 Pontiac Bonneville SSE

I was enamored. I couldn’t stare at it long enough. I loved everything about it. From the exterior’s aero add-ons and blacked-out trim, to the interior’s zillion-button, red-back lit controls. My favorite color for this car has always been white with either the black or gold colored cross-lace wheels.

I’d proudly drive one today.