There are rare occasions when everything falls into place as it should—the planets align, the plan comes together, and all is right with the world. On June 23, 1961, at Pontiac’s South Gate, California, plant, the planets in fact did align when this special-order ’61 Bonneville convertible was produced in striking Bristol Blue (code E) with an Ivory top (code 1) and Silver, Ivory, and Blue leather interior (code 283).
The code RM4 engine is a 348-horse 425A 389, and 1-of-176 built with that engine code. Und
Sometimes we see Pontiacs with a gorgeous color combo but with a base powertrain or we see the rarest engine option wrapped in a less than complementary color palette. It’s rare to find a top-of-the-line model with a great color combo and the most powerful engine available, and with a four-speed trans. This ’61 has all of those attributes and owner Martin Hirsch recognized that the first time he saw it in a Hemmings ad in 2006.
Like a prom date who is playing hard to get, the Bonne would prove to be elusive, however. Martin had to pursue this Pontiac for five years, before he was able to convince San Francisco California-based owner and collector, Steve Marini, to sell it to him. That day finally came on August 26, 2011.
This Bonneville was originally sold through Arata Pontiac in San Francisco, California. It
Martin has been collecting Pontiacs, primarily ’57-’59 convertibles, for many years. He currently has one of each, including a ’57 Fuel Injected Bonne, and he raced a ’62 Super-Duty back in the day at Atco, Westhampton, and other Northeast tracks. He is also into exotic late-model performance cars. But this Bonne became a quest for Martin, as he owned one very similar to it in 1961 when he was just 21 years old.
“I had a Richelieu Blue Bonneville convertible with the 348-horse Tri-Power 389 and an automatic transmission,” he remembers. “My girlfriend Elaine used to drive that car regularly. We have very special memories of that Pontiac—Elaine has been my wife for 49 years.”
Unearthing a Classic
Martin had the Bonneville emblem plated with 24 carat gold.
Steve also had an emotional attachment to the Bonneville, as he had owned it since 1995 and had restored it. It actually came to him through a want ad he had run in the local paper to buy old cars. He recalls, “This guy called me and said, ‘I have a ’61 Super-Duty Pontiac to sell. It was my girlfriend’s ex-husband’s car and it has been parked in her backyard since 1972. How much will you give me for it?’” It turns out, the girlfriend left the car out there under a tarp for all those years to spite her ex-husband who had special ordered it to go racing back in 1961. I know—who orders the largest Pontiac convertible available to go racing? Well, this guy did, and that explains the absence of power steering despite all of its other options.
Steve went to Redwood City to check out the Bonne. No it wasn’t an SD. and yes it had chickens living in it, but it was a very rare car with the 425A engine, four-speed manual trans, factory buckets, and a 3.42 rear. It was rusty, but complete and original, so he bought it.
Steve owns GM Sports Salvage and GM Sports Restoration, and he collects Pontiacs from the era, so he took on the restoration in 2000. He describes it as a nut-and-bolt rotisserie resto. “It was a great car to restore,” he remembers. “Everything was there, it had great options, and a great color.”
He bought three parts cars to ensure that every bolt and clip that went on this car was a ’61 Pontiac piece and that each item was installed just like Pontiac had done it. He also chased down NOS and good used parts and paid a premium for them. He had the Lucite wheel custom cast to get it correct, at a cost of $1,600. He custom bent all the fuel and brake lines and installed NOS mufflers. The latter sounded so bad that he replaced them with Flowmasters—one of only a few deviations from stock.
It’s not often that you see a Tri-Power that retains its vacuum-operated carb linkage, as
When Steve restored the Bonneville, he chose to install a light-blue convertible top, but
Comfort options include bucket seats, Circ-L-Aire heater and defroster, AM radio, outside
The seat upholstery appears space age for its time with the silver panels accentuating the
It was just the second year for code-694 8-Lug wheels featuring the aluminum brake drums,
The vacuum reserve canister is on the passenger-side fenderwell.
The spare tire cover was standard on the Bonneville.