When Pontiac switched the Bonneville to the front-drive H-body platform in ’87, it was a radical departure from what the nameplate had represented. What had been for the most part a large full-framed machine with V-8 power and rear-wheel-drive quickly became a competitor for many of the upscale European sedans of the time. To be sure, the Bonneville was still the top-of-the-line Pontiac, it was just that Pontiac had redefined what that meant.
In years past, the Bonneville was offered in hardtop coupe and sedan body styles, as well as a wagon and a pillared sedan. Now there was just one body style, the four-door sedan. Interestingly both Oldsmobile and Buick had two-door versions of this H-body platform, and in 1989, workers at the Willow Run Assembly Plant put together a burgundy two-door Bonneville SSE. As far as we know, it was shown only one time, and that was at the ’91 POCI Convention in Cleveland. This author took a couple of photographs of it and it was never seen again. We ran a Department X article on it in our Jan. ’05 issue.
Also in 1989, HPP had the opportunity to test a prototype Bonneville SSE with a 3800 V-6. It was stock except for a turbo upgrade that was being looked at as a possible production option. The turbo really woke things up and the car ran in the low 15s. In the end, the turbo was passed up in favor of an Eaton supercharger, and in ’92 the SSEi was born.
Jumping back another decade, Pontiac debuted a show car based on the new- generation Grand Am. It was known as the Grand Am CA, and took the idea of the ’77 Can Am to a new-generation platform. Aside from the show car that toured the country and a mechanical prototype that was featured in Hot Rod magazine, nothing came of this particular car, though it was a very attractive vehicle that could have made production.
By taking a little bit of each of these cars, we present to you the ’89 Bonneville CA. It combines the two-door body style from the Willow Run prototype, the turbocharged V-6 from the prototype Bonneville SSE, the Shaker hood design from the Grand Am CA, and a graphics package reminiscent of the ’77 Can Am.
Up front, the stock body-colored grille is replaced with a Pontiac-themed honeycomb insert with a bright red arrowhead. The hood is equipped with a Shaker scoop that sits on top of the engine and flows into an airbox that feeds the turbo. A front air dam is tastefully integrated into the front fascia. Specific Bonneville CA badges are affixed to the doors, as are a pair of racing mirrors. Out back, the coupe body style is accented with a Can Am-style rear spoiler, reinterpreted for this updated application, as are the rear-wheel spats. The wheel/tire combo has a retro-theme, with 17-inch Snowflake wheels and low-profile redline radials.
By taking the elements from these historic prototypes, we have come up with a one-of-none show car that could be built pretty inexpensively. After all, finding a ’90-ish Buick or Olds coupe probably isn’t going to break the bank, and an SSE donor car would likewise be a pretty cheap score.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of turbocharging one of these engines, an SSEi or Grand Prix GTP driveline would also be a viable candidate. It would be pretty labor-intensive, swapping over the front sheetmetal and interior, building an airbox for the Shaker scoop, and grafting the rear quarters and tail into the coupe body style.
We would love to see an enterprising enthusiast put something like this together. It would definitely be the only one at any car show!
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