Pontiac Bonneville 2. Generation Wide Track Convertible 1959

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Bonneville 2. Generation Wide Track Convertible 1959





In its third year, the 1959 Bonneville became a full top-line series with the addition of the four-door hardtop sedan and Safari station wagon body styles. The Bonneville played an important part that year in the introduction of two of Pontiac's greatest marketing inspirations — the split grille and the Wide Track slogan. The latter was not just ad copy, either, as Pontiac pushed its wheels further out toward the fenders than anyone else and created what were considered to be the best-cornering full-size cars in the industry. Both the grille design and the Wide Track phrase remained part of Pontiac's image up to its termination. A "Safe-T-Track" differential, used to minimize wheel spin, was an option beginning in 1959.

Despite the fact that General Motors redesigned the full line of 1959 cars, in response to Chrysler’s bold 1957s, each division individualized its cars in different ways. Cadillac went for tall fins, while Chevrolet opted for a gull-wing tail. Buick had slanting, diagonal fins. Pontiac, however, made their most significant improvement out of sight and under the skin.

They called it “Wide Track.” Both front and rear tread dimensions were increased by more than four inches, putting the wheels closer to the corners of the car. This was accomplished by reducing side overhang, so that the 1959 Pontiacs, although not as narrow as the ’58s, were no wider overall than the 1959 Cadillacs, Buicks, or Oldsmobiles. The common interpretation is that Wide Track was intended to improve handling, but those who worked on the design have a different story. Historians Jan Norbye and Jim Dunne have quoted Pontiac stylist Jack Humbert as saying that Wide Track was “to make it look right…it was a combination of having to put the wheels farther apart in order to give the car the right proportions.” The widely-advertised Wide Track name is attributed to Milt Colson, a copywriter at MacManus, John, and Adams, Pontiac’s ad agency.

Wide Track did improve handling, but that wasn’t the whole story. Other factors were the cruciform chassis frame and the trailing-link coil spring rear suspension. The cruciform had been introduced in 1958, but for ’59, it was strengthened to accommodate the greater loads of the wide body.

The styling harkened back to simpler themes than 1958’s gaudy cars. In common with other GM makes, the roofs were thinner and flatter and a panoramic windshield curved upwards into the roof. The front was characterized by a split grille, the first incarnation of an iconic theme seen, with few exceptions, until the make’s 2009 demise. The beltline was strictly horizontal, from front to rear.

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