You could say that I’ve been a Pontiac guy since before I was born. My dad owned a ’47, ’51 Chieftain, ’59 Catalina Safari, ’62 Tempest four-cylinder/four-barrel, ’65 Bonneville Vista, and ’70 Bonneville 455.
These were the cars I grew up with, and I fondly recall the many memories that went along with them. When I got my license (this was in 1964-1965), we still had the ’59 Safari—this was the car I drove the most. My mom’s ’65 Bonneville was off-limits except for special occasions like the prom.
The old ’51 took the family across country a few times and finally gave up in Denver, Colorado, in 1959. Dad was forced to buy a new Pontiac (the ’59 Catalina wagon), and as he negotiated for it, I fell in love with a ’59 Bonneville Tri-Power convertible in the showroom. It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. Guess what—I’ve been hooked on full-size Pontiacs ever since.
Regardless, I’ve always been partial to the ’63-’66 Pontiac B-bodies. I think they were the pinnacle of the division’s styling and overall performance.
In 2008, I made up my mind to find a full-size Pontiac to restore. My first choice was a ’65 Catalina 2+2 convertible. My search ended with a Marimba Red ’64 Bonneville convertible with a white top and interior, bench seat, and automatic on the column. Though it was a rough, driver-quality car, what interested me were its factory options: air conditioning (relatively rare in a mid-’60s convertible), power windows, power brakes, and an AM/FM radio.
I flew to Philadelphia on a one-way ticket, purchased the Bonneville, and drove it home to Florida. Although this proud Pontiac was leaking every fluid known to man, it made the trip at highway speeds without a hitch. I drove it unrestored for the first year I owned it.
I then decided to give it a frame-on restoration. The man who restored the Tri-Power setup (no, it wasn’t an original Tri-Power car) for me suggested I hire Steve Dietz at Florida Pontiac in Stuart, Florida, for the project. After examining my Bonneville, verifying its condition, and disassembling it, he discovered it had a cracked block. He found a 389 block to replace the original and had it rebuilt to better-than-stock specs, with a healthy cam and roller rockers.
Aesthetically the ’64 Bonne was nice, but it was no match for the ’59 Bonneville I had seen in a Pontiac showroom almost 50 years earlier. That’s why I asked Steve to build the ’64 Bonneville the way I would have ordered it in my youth. That included retiring the correct Marimba Red exterior paint for fresh coats of Polar White (with just a touch of pearl for added eye appeal), and installing a red interior, featuring bucket seats (driver-side power) and door panels with the Bonneville upholstery pattern, and a console, vacuum gauge, and floor shifter from a ’64 Grand Prix.
Steve put it together with the attention to detail he is known for in the Pontiac hobby. In my opinion, this ’64 Bonneville convertible is one of the nicest big Pontiacs in the country today.
It’s been my personal time machine and makes me feel like I am 16 years old again without a care in the world.
In My Words spotlights reader experiences with their own Pontiacs in their own words. To be considered for publication, submit several high-quality color photos (if digital, each photo must be larger than 1 megabyte in JPG format—no other formats, please), your own Pontiac story (typed, approximately 500 words), your name, address, and telephone number to:
High Performance Pontiac Magazine
In My Words
c/o Christopher Phillip
9036 Brittany Way
Tampa, FL 33619
Please note: HPP pays $50 if your story is printed. A contract release and W-9 with your social security number will be required.