Frozen Wastes Weekend Edition: Pontiac Bonneville SSE

I took the Polo out today for a drive around the industrial districts. Snow had fallen a couple days ago, mercifully covering much of all the beaten and broken cars strewn around the junkyards. But as I turned the corner and saw this Pontiac Bonneville, I felt like I had hit the jackpot when it comes to finding something rare and rough. This was a complete goner.

I don’t know what fate has befallen the Bonneville, or how long ago. It’s covered in mildew, so it’s been sitting a long time, and it seems to have been very extensively damaged. The roof has caved in, the hood has been pried open, the doors also have crowbar damage as well as enormous dents.

I’ve always been a fan of the Bonneville. It’s such a wide-boy shape with the spoilers and body-colour wheels, with smoked taillights and ’80s detailing completing the look.

The top-of-the-line SSE spec was introduced for the new-for-1987 FWD Bonneville in 1988.

Judging by the completely trashed interior and its factory CD player, this might have been a 1989 model as the unit was introduced for that year.

At least the fake wood has survived largely intact.

The Bonneville is sitting at a junkyard, so it is probably not far from being unceremoniously scrapped. It’s not a glamorous end for this 165-horsepower 3800 sports saloon, which was a fine thing a quarter of a century ago – at least here in Finland.

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10 responses to “Frozen Wastes Weekend Edition: Pontiac Bonneville SSE”

  1. JayP Avatar

    Making me feel old.
    I sat in an SSE in the showroom.
    An 80’s car for certain, blending euro monochrome with good ol’ USA fake wood interior trim.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      I sat in an SSE at a car show where the British were showing off this new* thing I’d never seen called a “Range Rover” with ride leveling and stuff.
      New to me, and maybe the North American market.

  2. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    back in school, a carpooler’s grandpa had one of these we’d ride in sometimes. i always thought it looked cool – low, wide, a successful GM interpretation of 80s sport-sedan styling. but then you climb in and remember what’s under the skin – boredom.

  3. ptschett Avatar

    These were good cars. One of my best friends’ family had a Bonneville SE from when he and I were in grade school till after we graduated from high school in ’99, and IIRC when it was retired it was closer to 300,000 miles than to 200,000.

    1. PaulE Avatar

      I had two Bonnevilles of this era (both ’87s, both SE flavor). Good cars for their time, a fairly radical advance over the predecessors, both good drives (but the leather-shod saddles were far more comfortable than the cloth interior-spec cars). I put close to 100k on both of them before going back to Saabs. God help me.

  4. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Damn, orphan Ponti, don’t you ever curl you lip at me.
    There’s got to be a story for this beast, but it looks like it’s fetched up on a hard shore.

  5. salguod Avatar

    Hope it doesn’t get scrapped, though this one is too far gone, there are a lot of SSE specific parts there that will be valuable to someone. Someday.

  6. Lokki Avatar

    I always liked these – at the time I thought they represented a “Renaissance of the American car”: roomy, powerful, and frankly, pretty darn good looking. The interior (at least on this example) is let down by the cheap upholstery, and sadly, the quality of the plastics. Let’s not even talk about the ‘plood’ on the dash; it just makes me sad. Still, if I’d had any faith left in GM the need and the money at the time, I’d have brought one.

  7. dukeisduke Avatar

    Holy crap! What happened to that? It looks like damage inflicted intentionally, with a forklift. A late friend of mine had one of these for awhile, a black one with grey cloth. It was an interesting car. He put at least 178,000 miles on it, before trading it for a ’96 Explorer. It needed a transmission overhaul at around 150k, and not long after that, an engine overhaul (valve job, rings, and bearings). Another friend did the engine rebuild – when he tore it down, he found that the inside of the oil pan was painted during manufacturing (Why? You got me.), and the paint had come off, and stuck to the screen on the oil pump pickup. It had an area the size of the diameter of a No. 2 pencil to draw oil through, which eventually toasted the bearings.

  8. Tomsk Avatar

    The designers really did a good job of hiding the H-body Bonnie’s kinship with the Delta 88 and Le Sabre. Pity Pontiac never offered a coupe version like they did, though I do remember seeing a photo of a prototype/styling mock up a few years ago. Can’t seem to find said photo now, so this rendering for a three-year-old Hot Rod article will have to do.