1978 Pontiac Bonneville: Middle Class Lux

A few days after I posted that ’78 Fleetwood Brougham previously discussed, I ran across this Bonneville in similar colors, just with a light gray top instead of black. I’ve always liked these, Dad had one, and I love their clean flanks and fender skirts. This one was for sale in Chicago on Marketplace.

Thin description, rather sucky pictures (I cropped/prettied them up for this post), and it always bugs me when the seller has to hide the price. “$1.” Oh OK, I’ll take it, and if you say it’s more I’ll sue for fraud, bwahahahahaha! Or: “The price is a secret. If you beg and plead, maybe I’ll tell you what it is, hurr hurr!” Great.

But I still liked the car, the colors, so here you go! These cars in the late ’70s, along with Caprice Classics, Delta 88s and LTDs, were pretty common suburban rolling stock. The modern equivalents, I’m sad to say, are probably Traverses, Acadias, Explorers and Tellurides. What the hell happened?!

But I digress. Anyway this one is not a Brougham, so it’s missing those poofy seats I love, but still nicely equipped with Rally II wheels, custom cushion steering wheel and vinyl top.

Though it does seem to be missing cruise, tilt wheel, and full gauges-though there aren’t enough pictures for me to be sure. She’s definitely missing power windows and power door locks.

27 Replies to “1978 Pontiac Bonneville: Middle Class Lux”

  1. Erik

    Sold as the Pontiac Parisienne in Canada, these were the ubiquitous full size family car in Canada in the lat 70’s/early 80’s. The name was so popular, that when Pontiac discontinued the full size Bonneville in the US, Canada got a gussied up Impala using Pontiac grilles and taillights, and the Parisienne name. For 85-86, they even got fender skirts and a more Pontiac like rear end. Still surprised GM spent so much money retooling the rear end metal, only to kill it, while still selling well.

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  2. Ken

    Thanks for posting, brought back some good childhood memories. Dad had a black one – I think it was the generation after this one, because it was from the 80s (but it looked similar to the one pictured here). Blue velour, pillow quilted seats stick out in my head, as well as the (canvas?) top.

    I always thought it was a cool car – especially once it was replaced with (what would become the family staple) Nissan Cars. I missed the size, comfort, and style – Dad on the other hand, did not miss the reliability. After that car was replaced (1992 was our 1st new car, a Nissan Stanza… also to become MY first car) – it was Nissan for Dad all the way though today. Altimas, then Maximas, and now, nearing retirement, a Rogue. Easy to work on, cheap to buy and to maintain, and go forever is Dad’s rationale. I guess that Buick did a number on him! I do remember him cursing that car quite a bit as a kid.

    Still, it was nice to roll in that thing. I wonder if my son (who is now similar in age, and into cars) will say the same of the 2017 Continental that carts him around.

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  3. gtem

    I had a gymnastics coach in elementary school with a very nice mint green one of these, this was in the late 90s so it definitely stood out as a big old school boat by that time. The guy was a retired Marine sergeant, southern black guy in his late 40s, always had a flat top “jarhead” haircut. Didn’t know a damn thing about gymnastics so he just had us do a shit load of conditioning and we all respected the guy a lot. One day he drives in and realizes someone put a condom on the hood ornament of his beloved Bonneville as a prank. So in that southern black dialect he exclaimed “someone put a GOT-DAMN condom on my car!” He had a string of quirky interesting cars before and after the Bonneville, an old brown Ram conversion van, and later downsized to a really clean 1st gen Caravan. No idea where he got these clean rust free older cars from, maybe down south.

    Reply
    • Carmine

      We had a PE coach that had a brown 2 door Bonneville of this vintage, he looked like the guy on the Brawny paper towel logo……

      Reply
    • hank chinaski

      What an amateur. The condom goes *over the wiper blade* and it has to be raining, but not quite enough to wash the lube away before he turns the wipers on and smears the windshield.

      Reply
  4. CJinSD

    I guess the price wasn’t too dear, as the ad is gone. Did he mention the engine? You could still get a Pontiac 400 in 1978, and even a Pontiac 350 wasn’t without merit that year. Many of them had 301s though, and this was far too much car for that engine.

    Provided the A/C works, I think the feature I’d miss most would be power locks. You’d need to take off your seatbelt to unlock the passenger side doors. Cruise control in this generation of GM cars wasn’t accurate enough for modern use. Too much slop in the transmissions and throttle controls, probably. I just remember my friends’ CC-equipped Buicks and Oldsmobiles having CC that replicated being on a roller coaster over the rolling hills along highway 29 in Virginia. The cars slowly climbed to the tops of hills only to overshoot their set speeds on the way back down through Louisa County’s famous radar traps. Maybe GM cruise control worked on the topography around Detroit.

    Reply
    • Tom Klockau

      I don’t think it said. Really thin description as I recall, something like “’78 Bonneville, nice car, runs good” or some such.

      Reply
    • stingray65

      Yea, what good is cruise control if you can’t take a nap, surf the net, or watch some porn with all the powerful “intelligence” of a modern car guiding your down the road just before it runs into a concrete median divider, parked emergency vehicle, or semi-truck and turns into big explosive fire just like in the movies.

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      • CJinSD

        The purpose of cruise control in 55 mph America was to let you focus on driving instead of staring at your speedometer.

        Reply
    • D Stanley

      I remember the sloppy cruise control. Our 76 Olds was forever having issues with the cruise control surging up and down, as if the driver were deliberately pumping the accelerator. The shop would tell us it was a vacuum issue, it would stay fixed for a few months, then do it again. And even when working properly, as mentioned above, it had a lot of slop. It wasn’t so much the cruise control as it was just a heavy car with a weak engine. With an Olds Vista Cruiser with a 350, carburetor, vacuum controlled, tall rear end, 3 speed TH-350, the CC could only do so much. It was the hill issues in North GA that made us just shut the damn thing off and drive the car.

      Reply
  5. Mystery contributor

    I’ll take mine in coupe form with the full vinyl top. I don’t care for how the landau tops are on the coupes and how it changes the rear quarter window treatment. While we are at it make it a 400 too.

    Reply
  6. Ted

    My dad owned a 79 Bonneville Brougham when new. It was dark blue, medium blue on the puffy blue velour seats and vinyl roof. It was loaded with options. –Ted

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  7. Mystery Contributor

    Cj, you must be going senile in your old age because it’s not mechanicslly possible for the cruise control to be that accurate back then., even on the stupid bmws. Maybe not senile. Maybe just full of crap

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      Phil, I kept that BMW until 2007, and I discussed your earlier cloddish comments with two people who remember the car. It was completely capable of maintaining speed within a very narrow range on highway 29 between Charlottesville and Gainsville. Both the BMW and the Dodge were fuel injected and had relatively advanced engine management compared to carbureted malaise GM products. It doesn’t explain why you claim that cars which took whole seconds to increase or decrease accelerative efforts have only been surpassed by the latest radar cruise control systems, but then you’re obviously not bound by truth or character.

      Reply
    • Idaneck

      Who cares if it’s accurate, as long as it’s a relatively steady state. CJ is correct, CC is perfect for covering long distances and focusing on driving (not just speed).

      Reply
  8. JMcG

    Kind of OT, but does anyone have any thoughts as to why the retro styling cues that have had some success in cars; Mustang, Challenger, Camaro, etc., haven’t been tried with pick up trucks?
    I suppose there’s an argument that the second generation Ram in ‘94 was retro styled, but that’s 28 years ago now. Is the world ready for a human-sized F-150 with bed rails you can lean on and drink a beer?

    Reply
    • stingray65

      Chevy tried it with the SSR, which flopped. Ford is trying it now (sort of) with the Bronco, which seems to be doing pretty well. I suspect the major reason it isn’t done more often is because a failure with the mainstream pickup line for any of the Big 2.5 would mean bankruptcy, and retro-looks even if popular at launch tend to have short shelf-lives (see Mini, PT Cruiser, HHR, 2 seat T-Bird revival, new Beetle, Jaguar S-Type) before most buyers want something new – particularly if they sell in hundreds of thousands of units per year at pickups do.

      Reply
  9. JMcG

    I meant more like the Series 70 pickup that Toyota is selling in Australia- seems like a hit there, but I’ve only just seen pics of it.

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      Is the Toyota Series 70 an example of retro styling, or is it just a neo-classic that’s been in production since 1984? It didn’t seem so old fashioned when it was introduced.

      Reply
      • Jack Baruth

        Yeah, from what I can tell Toyota simply never stopped making the basic truck and they’ve rolled in different powerplants and features over time.

        Reply
  10. LynnG

    Tom, I can not find the comment when one of our colleagues here on Riverside Green said that the seller was smoking something by having a selling price of $45,000 on a 1990 Caprice with only a thousand miles. I am at Mecum Kissimmee this week and today that car sold for $42,300 with buyers commission, pretty close to the asking price. Additionally, a 85 Parisienne with 5K miles sold for $31,400, a 89 Caprice with 32K miles sold for $34,090, and a 90 Caprice with 54K miles sold for $22,990, all these prices include the 10 percent buyers commission. Prices are running pretty high at this auction, but there are some bargins 1971-1972 318ci Dodge Darts/Plymouth Dusters for $20K-$22K but other then that so far the prices have been pretty average for the quality fo the cars. Anyway, I wish I could remember who made the comment but maybe they will speak up. Happy Motoring.

    Reply

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