OUT OF THE PAST
1960 Pontiac Bonneville’s 30-year vacation ends
Joe Pascale of Vienna was not in the market for a Pontiac when he saw an ad for a 1960 Bonneville in a car trader magazine. Nevertheless, he made a note of the phone number, then dismissed the matter from his mind. ‘About a month later, I noticed the number in my book and happened to be by a phone. It was time to call for more information,’ Mr. Pascale says.
Pontiac was into the second year of being the ‘Wide Track’ auto company in 1960 when a beautiful black twodoor hardtop Bonneville Sport Coupe was sent to Renn Pontiac in Frederick, reportedly for use as the owner’s personal demonstrator.
Charles E. Miller had to have the 18foot, 4.7-inch-long Pontiac after seeing it once. He traded his 1956 Ford Victoria for the Pontiac and drove it to his Jefferson, Md., home.
Mr. Miller clamped a couple of Citizens Band radio antennas on the expansive trunk lid and, until 1974, enjoyed driving his powerful Pontiac with the 389-cubic-inch V-8 engine producing 303 horsepower. All that power was transferred to the rear drive wheels via a four-speed Hydra-matic transmission.
With 77,456 miles on the car, Mr. Miller returned to the dealership with the idea of trading it in on a new Pontiac. Despite its being in excellent, garaged condition, the dealer did not want to deal and offered next to nothing for a trade.
An angry Mr. Miller decided he was not going to give his car away. He drove it home and parked it in his garage where it would remain for the next 30 years. The car was washed a
couple of times a year until declining health kept Mr. Miller from taking care of his prized Pontiac.
That’s when he placed the ad: ‘Pontiac Bonneville 1960 black, one owner, excellent condition.’
‘I was not in the market for a 1960 Pontiac and figured it was probably in poor shape,’ Mr. Pascale says. Nevertheless, he made the call.
‘When I asked how long has it been since the car was repainted, Mr. Miller replied, ‘Never,’’ That’s when Mr. Pascale became more interested in the old car.
Because Mr. Pascale’s sales position at Washington Valve and Fitting is based in Frederick, he was able to stop by and see the car during daylight hours.
‘At first glance, the car would make most people run,’ Mr. Pascale says. ‘All others who looked at it did apparently.’ Especially when they learned the owner was asking top dollar.
Mr. Pascale recalls there was a quarter inch of dust on all the flat surfaces and green mold was growing on all the chrome. On the inside all the glass was cloudy and there was a white film on all the chrome trim.
On the plus side was the fact there was no rust or mouse damage anywhere. ‘The interior was remarkably preserved,’ Mr. Pascale says. ‘I was in love.’
Mr. Miller refused any sort of test drive because, he said, ‘You can’t buy parts for it any more.’ That isn’t the best sales pitch but Mr. Pascale bought the car anyway after negotiating the original very high price down to a more reasonable merely high price.
‘I felt confident that I could buff out the original paint,’ Mr. Pascale says. The car was towed to Virginia, where it was brought back to good health.
‘All the tires were mismatched,’ Mr. Pascale says. ‘There was a long list of things to do to a car that had been off the road for so long. Fortunately, the drivetrain turned out to be in excellent condition, as did the electrical system. I love the sound of the dual exhausts.’
Faint scratches on the outside of the driver’s door led Mr. Pascale to deduce the previous owner had a dog that was always happy to see him.
He also deduced that Mr. Miller’s wife usually wore high-heeled shoes because the front passenger seat carpet had many small holes and tears.
Mr. Pascale’s 3,985-pound widetrack Pontiac is equipped with the following factory options: • Basic group • Lamp group • Mirror group • Power brakes • E-Z-EYE glass • Whitewall tires • Power steering • Deluxe AM radio • Reel-out trunk light • Deluxe wheel discs • Rear power antenna Hours spent compounding the finish brought out the beauty that had faded over the years. Sun beating through the big wraparound windshield had bleached the dashboard and the same thing had happened to the package shelf beneath the rear window.
Mr. Pascale dyed both the dashboard and package shelf a deep maroon.
What isn’t chrome plated on the face of the dashboard is covered in walnut veneer.
Mr. Pascale drives the big car on its 124-inch wheelbase with a two-spoke steering wheel. He is amazed by the excellent visibility. ‘There’s so much glass that there’s no blind spots,’ he says.
Until March Mr. Pascale spent all his extra time polishing, cleaning, buffing, replacing small lenses and doing basic mechanical work on his Pontiac.
‘When I was finished, the car came out a lot better than I ever expected,’ he says. He’s grateful that Mr. Miller preserved the Bonneville so well because, he says, ‘I got a diamond in the rough.’
A radio speaker is mounted in the center of the rear seat back.