Down on the Amsterdam Street – Pontiac Bonneville


This 1987 Bonneville was shot on a freaking cold Amsterdam street in horrible wind, so that’s the reason why the photos certainly appear hastily taken. I apologize for any blurriness around the edges, but I practically ran around the car.

I’m posting these photos especially because of Jim Yu’s Bonneville sighting. Another reason is that Jean-Luc Picard used to tout these.


What do you know, lacquer damage. It mostly occurs on US cars, and not even on all of them when they spend their lives in Europe.


Down to the three-spoke wheels, I really like these cars. The design is suitably weird and “Saab-like”, as my friend put it.


It’s not totally uncommon to see one of these driving around in Finland, either, especially by old codgers. Right now, there are a couple of these for sale online and I would definitely want to at least try a nice clean one.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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20 responses to “Down on the Amsterdam Street – Pontiac Bonneville”

  1. Mr. Smee Avatar
    Mr. Smee

    These look surprisingly clean, almost minimalist, compared to just about anything built today. Or compared to anything Pontiac built after this. I worked at a Pontiac dealers then and always enjoyed driving Bonnevilles. The SSEi's were a bit much, but a well equipped SE was very nice.

    1. Devin Avatar

      The SSEis look alright in a dark color like the dark green they had, though I have some affection for the cocaine white plus matching wheels look, it's so very '80s.

  2. mrh Avatar

    Love those 80's wheels. Why triangles, I wonder? Why not squares or hexagons?

  3. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    echoing the other sentiments here, i like these. they look good. one of the better example of late-'80s american car design, even if that's setting a pretty low bar.
    i used to ride in one pretty often and the interior was clean and cool. there was a picture of the car that would describe what was wrong with it by illuminating lamps in the problem spots.
    if i recall correctly, that car was totaled a few years after i stopped riding in it. its owner was an old indian man who bought it new and i don't think he was ever going to sell it or move on.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    A friend of mine used to own an '88 SSE, black with grey cloth. He drove it over 200k before trading it, and it had a bewildering array of buttons, including the steering wheel hub composed entirely of radio buttons, and *three* lumber bladders in each front seat, individually adjustable via buttons on the console. Another friend rebuilt the 3800 V6 at 180k, when the bearings went. It turned out that the factory painted the *inside* of the oil pan (don't ask me why!), and the paint peeled off and blocked the oil pickup screen. It needed new bearings, rings and lifters. This was not long after the transmission was rebuilt.
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. Ate Up WIth Motor Avatar
      Ate Up WIth Motor

      Were the triple-lumbar-support seats actually comfortable? My personal complaint with a lot of seats (including some office chairs) that boast adjustable lumbar support is that even in the farthest forward position, the lumbar support is still totally inadequate for me.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        It's been years, but yeah, I seem to remember they were okay. I don't remember exactly how it was designed (one or multiple motors/pumps).

  5. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I had an '88 LE, this same color & wheel combo, though I had to find the wheels in a salvage yard. I still really like that wheel design.
    Bought it around 1994, had 153K on it, or so, drove it until '97, at which point it had 193K on it, and it was rock solid.
    Okay, the converter no longer locked up, but otherwise, it was a beast. Got $500 less than what I paid for it, which was fair.
    I still loves me steering wheel radio controls. Also, the gen 2 3800 V6 is Slant-6-like in it's tenacity to living forever.

  6. PotbellyJoe Avatar

    To illustrate the interior, for those of inquisitive minds…
    <img src=""&gt;

  7. salguod Avatar

    These Bonnevilles were praised when new because they took the large FWD GM platform and managed to make something distinctive out of it. There were big GM Olds, Buicks & Caddys already and they were all quite literal box designs and very similar. The Bonneville added some flair and distinction to the nose & tail.
    These were GMs big cars of that era:
    Olds 88
    <img src="; width=600>
    Olds 98
    <img src="; width=600>
    Buick leSabre (best pic I could find)
    <img src="; width=600>
    Buick Electra
    <img src="; width=600>
    <img src="; width=600>
    You can see why the Bonnie was a breath of fresh air.
    Bonus big Buick ute conversion I found along the way:
    <img src="; width=600>

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      The Buicks used a BMW style front-opening hood, which was cool. IIRC, they also had the tri-shield and some other stuff embossed into the hood insulator.
      <img src="; width="600">
      <img src="; width="600">

      1. salguod Avatar

        Yeah, but I always think of Saab. The hood popped up front then pivoted forward. You can see it popped in the LeSabre pic above.

  8. mallthus Avatar

    My folks had one of these and I racked up a lot of my teenage driving miles in it. I liked it well enough, but the greenhouse just never worked. It's like it was proof that GM's bean counters had kept the car from being all that it could (the hard points being shared across marques).
    I've got to say that it wasn't as good a drive as the 6000 STE that my folks had before, but it was more comfortable.

  9. MattC Avatar

    Prove positive that GM did do some things right in the 1980's despite themselves. The Series II 3800 V6 was quite powerful( for the time) and more importantly reliable and efficient. The car drove well enough and the Pontiac variant the best designed of this platform. GM continued with their version of "Fisher-Price" interiors well into the early 2000s.

  10. RichardKopf Avatar

    Weird to see a Euro-spec car without the amber turn signals.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      It's also missing the misplaced side markers.

    2. duurtlang_ Avatar

      I checked the plates. This is speculation, but it might be due to being imported into the Netherlands in April 1988, 10 months after its (international) first day of registration. Legislation might've been less stringent in 1988. I was 5 back then, so I can't speak from experience.

      1. RichardKopf Avatar

        I am pretty sure the amber turn signals thing has been a mandate for quite a bit before this Bonneville graced Europe. Late `70s early `80s, I think.

  11. Jay_Ramey Avatar

    Stewart's Shakespearean English just makes everything seem better/awesomer than it is, though I'd like to dispute the "every control is thoughtfully placed" cause I just saw a buncha square buttons on the steering wheel.
    This is how Jonathan Pryce shilled for Infiniti in the 90s, and it seemed to work, though those ads were even better made.

  12. skitter Avatar

    Cars that would never rarely get noticed in the US get photographed on European streets.
    And it is awesome.