In the early 1950s, GM was desperate to portray its Pontiac brand as sporty and exciting, in order to attract a younger demographic to showrooms. Reportedly inspired by the cars he saw vying for speed records on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, Harley Earl tasked designers Homer LaGasse and Paul Gilland with building a car worthy of the Bonneville name, one that would give the rival Chevrolet Corvette a run for its money. The result was the Pontiac Bonneville Special concept, of which only two were ever built. Next January, Bonneville Special number two, which sold at auction in 2006 for $3.08 million, returns to the block in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of Barrett-Jackson’s Ron Pratte Collection sale.
Like the production Chevrolet Corvette on which it was based, the Pontiac Bonneville Special concept was a low-slung sports car with a fiberglass body. Unlike the original Corvette, however, the Pontiac concept featured an enclosed bubble cockpit with flip-up side windows, along with eight cylinders beneath its long hood.
Though rumors of a V-8 from GM had been building since 1953, company executives feared that showing such an engine in the Bonneville Special, even in dummy form, would potentially delay already sagging Pontiac sales. Instead, the Pontiac concept carried a 268-cu.in. inline eight-cylinder engine fitted with four side-draft carburetors, good for a claimed 230 horsepower.
Inside, the first Bonneville Special borrowed heavily from aviation-inspired design cues. Floors weren’t carpeted, but instead used brushed aluminum with rubber ridges for traction; the shifter for the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission resembled a lever to raise and lower landing gear, and the full instrumentation included a clock, compass and manifold temperature gauge (all reportedly purchased from an aircraft salvage company to save time).
Outside, the concept wore a coat of metallic copper paint, and even its Utah license plate was meant to evoke images of speed. Among its most noticeable features, however, were faux oil coolers, machined from aluminum stock and mounted to each front fender, along with the functional Continental kit that intentionally resembled the exhaust outlet of a fighter jet.
Launched at the January 1954 New York City Motorama, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Bonneville Special proved to be a crowd favorite, and construction began on a second example. This debuted at the March 1954 Motorama, held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Painted in metallic green, Bonneville Special number two carried a simpler interior with fewer gauges and minor design changes, but was a fully functional driver, equipped with the same inline-eight engine as its predecessor.
Following its time on the Motorama show circuit, number two was sent on a nationwide dealership tour before heading into retirement.
As David W. Temple points out in his book GM’s Motorama, the Bonneville Specials were supposed to be destroyed when their days on tour were over, but (luckily) that’s not what happened. It isn’t clear exactly who saved the cars from the crusher, but at one point, car number two was owned by Joe Bortz, who currently owns Bonneville Special number one. Joe sold Bonneville Special number two to Denver collector Roger Willbanks, who in turn funded a ground-up restoration completed in time for the 2000 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. In 2006, Bonneville Special number two was acquired by Ron Pratte at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, Arizona, sale.
While the Pontiac Bonneville concept never saw production, it did accomplish its mission of helping to paint Pontiac in a slightly less stodgy light. A decade later, the Pontiac GTO would help to solidify the youthful image of the brand, one that would last nearly until the brand’s demise in 2010. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Solstice, a two-seat convertible (and later, coupe) produced from 2005-2010 carried styling traits from the Bonneville Special, including a long hood and pontoon-style front fenders, scaled back for contemporary tastes. It’s fitting that Pontiac’s last two-seat sports car would pay homage, even in a small way, to the two-seat concept that helped to usher in a new era for the GM division.
The Pontiac Bonneville Special will cross the stage in Scottsdale, Arizona, next January, as part of the Ron Pratte Collection. For additional details, visit Barrett-Jackson.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.
From a very young age, Roy Brizio knew that working on and building street rods was what he wanted to do. Brizio’s father had a shop that he worked at when he was a kid and learned a lot from the guys that his father employed.
It took Brizio more than 20 years to be successful at what he does and it was no easy feat. Long hours, long work-weeks, and the utmost attention to detail is how he got his name to be what it is now, and really nothing has changed. Brizio states that they’re building the same cars as they were over 30 years ago, just fine tuned – it definitely shows.
From the video, you can tell that his shop is never empty and that there is always a project being worked on and that’s the beauty of mastering what you do – obtaining business will never be a problem.
Every project at Brizio’s shop starts out as a couple of framerails, then the engine is determined, along with whatever else the customer wants. Everything is assembled completely before it is disassembled for paint and once the car is finished being assembled after paint, Brizio puts 300 miles on the cars to make sure everything is in working order and ready to be handed off to it’s new owner.
This video by James Maloney does a great job showcasing what Brizio’s hard work has accomplished and the awesome cars he produces. Anyone else notice the ’37 Cord with the FWD-configured LS1 engine? That is a build we can’t wait to see finished! For more information on Brizio Street Rods, check out the website.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Josh Kirsh.
Roy Brizio is a man of ingenuity who uses his gift of imagination to build some of the wildest street rods to ever hit the pavement. He has building hot rods for almost 30 years, and everything from flamed ’32 Ford Roadsters to classic ’57 Chevys have rolled out of his shop. One current, very different project in his shop is building a hot rod out of one of America’s first high end luxury cars, the 1937 Cord Coupe.
A loyal customer of his, Chuck Thornton, came across this ’37 Cord. Chuck simply didn’t want a restored Cord but a modern street rod that could rival most new luxury cars off the showroom floor. When Chuck’s rod is finished its going to have the art deco styling of the original Cord but the handling and performance of a modern Corvette. Brizio and his men re-engineered the Cord’s chassis to be able to handle the weight of a modern LS1 engine from a C5 Corvette. This V8 will produce 320 horsepower and it will be mated to a Porsche Tiptronic four speed transaxle.
The reason a Porsche Tiptronic is being used is the Cord was originally a front wheel drive car (a first for an American vehicle at the time it was introduced) and Brizio intends to keep it that way. The Tiptronic is designed to be used in an RWD car with a rear mounted engine, so Brizio believes he can get it to work with FWD and a front mounted motor with no problems.
To help accommodate the engine and tranny, a custom independent front suspension was fabricated. Further improving the 37’s handling, Brizio is fabricating an independent rear suspension using parts from a 1993 Cadillac DeVille which should make this rod glide like its on a cloud. The LSX Cord is almost complete and we will keep you folks updated with its progress, but in the meantime, visit Brizio’s project page for a bunch more photos of this fascinating and unique build.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Josh Courter.