Car 5 - 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Vista

Car 5 – 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Vista

After I sold the gold 1978 Trans am I immediately started looking for my next American car. I wanted either a late 50s classic or another 77/78 as these models are a favorite & I’m familiar with the bodies and cosmetics. In the first case I was checking mostly the Virgil Exner’s Forward look era cars and the 1959 GM line up. The second case was much simpler, because it consisted of only one model. But finding a highly equipped Trans am was not easy at all.

The search turned to be much longer than I expected. Finding the right 50s car – a 4 door htp in good condition turned to be quite a challenge. Regarding the Trans Ams the main issue was that their prices were rapidly increasing and that they were about to go over my budget. The good news was that there were more offered on the market. Sometimes I was tempted by interesting offers of other cars that I liked: Lagunas, Grand Ams, Rivieras etc. I almost bought a yellow 1977 Grand Prix with the 400 engine, bucket seats, rally gauges and T-Tops at one time and later was tempted by a beautiful original Lincoln Mark V Bill Blass edition (exactly like my wedding car), but at the end decided I will stay focused on what I wanted most.

I was losing faith already when I came upon an add in a small Facebook group for a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville 4 door flat top. The car was located in a small town in the state of Iowa. The seller was an old man, who inherited the car from his relatives. Slightly before being advertised the Bonneville was pulled out from 20 years storage in a garage. It had 95 000 original miles and was looking great on the pictures. I was really impressed with its beautiful interior.

The chrome was looking nice, the body was looking good in spite of a visible bodywork on the right side. In short it was a great looking driver that appeared to need nothing except a replacement of the LeMans wheel covers. The price was also fair for a car that was supposed to need only good maintenance. The seller was very kind and cooperative. He explained that the brakes have been redone and that the car was running with Edelbrock carburator. The original carburator was also available.

The 59 Pontiacs were among my most favorite late 50s cars. This one was a top of the line Bonneville with the desirable 4 door htp body. Another good circumstance was that after three Trans ams it would be a cool idea to keep the Pontiac brand story. So buying this car was the most obvious decision that made sense to me. I went straight forward and finalized the deal although deep in my mind there was a though that everything is too good to be true. But since I finally fulfilled my dream for a late 50s American car I didn’t pay much attention. I was excited.

Soon the problems began.

First there was an unsuccessful attempt from the transportation company to load the car. They just came with an inappropriate truck to load it. The extremely long rear overhang was not taken into account. They ended up breaking the exhaust and left the car at the seller’s place. It took three weeks until another truck passed by the little rural town of Muscatine and was able to load the Bonneville.

When the car arrived at the port and I got some more pictures of it. It turned out that an acid was leaking on the trunk lid and damaged the trunk lid moulding. Finally the car arrived at my place. It was dark already, but I quickly figured out that its condition was much worse than my expectations. I was very disappointed. Still I was impressed with its style and appearance. Early on the next day I went to inspect it carefully. I was surprised to see how different the condition was compared to the one portrayed by the pictures.

There was no doubt it is the same car, but the whole undercarriage was rusted out, there was a lot of pitting on the rear bumper and some of the decorative ornaments. Both taillight lenses were cracked, the body panels had huge gaps, the front bumper had been poorly replated etc. The car was noisy because of the rusted and broken exhaust and I also found more damages done during the transportation. In short I bought the perfect lemon. At least the interior was in very good shape with original headliner and carpet and perfect padded dash.

It didn’t take me much time to figure out that the car needs total restoration instead of just a routine service. The biggest issue was the rust. I didn’t find a body man for the bodywork for several months. Everybody backed up when he saw how big the car is and the amount of body work it needed. The chrome replating of the bumpers was also impossible to be done in my country. The whole exhaust needed to be replaced. The engine ran well, but needed more than just maintenance. The brakes were redone, but the new brake lines were an amateur execution.

I realized this car is a project that is beyond my abilities. I decided to find a new home for the Bonnie as soon as possible. I called several friends who were into the old American cars and offered them the Bonneville. One of them was impressed with it and decided to buy it in spite of all the issues.

After a few months of ownership,  I sold the 59 Bonneville. I had mixed feelings when I saw it leaving. It was a wonderful car. I enjoyed just staying in it an looking at all the beautiful details. But from another side it was in very bad condition. But it was already not important. It was time for another car and the search began again.

PS. My friend who bought the Bonneville found a body shop after a lot of efforts. Eventually the metal work has been done and the car was repainted. It took years and was an expensive venture, but now the Bonneville looks much better with restored body and the new exhaust.

Since I have so many good friends in the USA, have bought, restored and sold cars in Bulgaria and Europe, I decided to create this website where you can find a good selection of classic American cars and projects for sale. You will also see the cars I have delivered over the years by people order.
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