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Bonneville back on the road

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 7:11 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 7:13 a.m.

Photos

BEL AIRE – Gordon Jones discovered his “barn find” dream car at a swap meet. It didn’t take long for him to figure out the big, burgundy 1967 Pontiac Bonneville was just what he was looking for.

“I have always been partial to Pontiacs. My brother worked for the Beloit Motor Co. and I was around Pontiacs all the time. I always liked the style,” said Jones. “I was very upset when General Motors decided to stop making Pontiacs.”

His classic Bonneville was built in Arlington, Texas, and sold to a family in Buffalo, Okla., in November 1966.

“The car had been in the same family since it was new,” he said, showing off the original window sticker, which showed the car’s final price as $4,032.66. Surprisingly, this high-end Pontiac had been built without either power steering or air conditioning.

“I lucked into it, finding it at the swap meet. A young man was showing it for the estate of the lady who owned it,” Jones said.

The first owners had taken excellent care of the car and apparently loaned it to their adult son for some time, said Jones, who had several surprises in store for him when he started cleaning it up.

“For some reason, he had bypassed all the lights in the car,” he said. He discovered the lights were now controlled by four toggle switches mounted on a panel out of sight behind the dash. Then he found a handgun holster bolted to the under side of the glove box, and then a hunting knife in a scabbard under the dash.

“I don’t know what he did, but it probably wasn’t legal,” Jones said. He had the lights rewired to the factory controls and now keeps the other questionable items to show folks curious about the car’s history.

The car eventually ended up in Hutchinson and when the widow of the first owner died, it went to her sister.

“She inherited the car but never drove it,” Jones said. “It was kept in a heated garage for the better part of 26 years. We understand a neighbor would periodically start the car and drive it around for a while, which probably saved the engine and transmission,” he said.

“It had 42,000 miles on it when I bought it,” he said. “All I really had to do was clean up the interior. The first thing I did, even before I tuned it up, was take it to American Muffler on South Oliver and have dual exhausts put on it.”

Kevin Kaiser installed a set of stainless steel Flowmaster mufflers on the car and the 400 cubic inch V-8 sounds like it means business now as the Hydramatic 3-speed goes through the gears.

“This has got all the same stuff as the muscle cars. In fact, it may be the mother of a muscle car. I think you can get a GTO in the trunk,” said Jones, noting the Bonneville weighs in at 4,500 pounds and measures three inches longer than a Chevy Suburban.

“I did the brakes, tires, shocks, belts and hoses, had the carb rebuilt and replaced the plugs and wires. Really, all we did was just normal maintenance stuff,” Jones said.

There was a paint issue on the driver’s side rear fender, though, that required serious attention.

“I bit the bullet and had the paint redone,” Jones said. Fortunately, James Wilson, who represented a paint company, offered to provide the materials free of charge if Jones could persuade a local dealership to provide the spray booth. The Bonneville was treated to a fresh finish of Burgundy Poly in two-stage base coat clear coat.

“It cost me $1,500 and I was told it was an $8,000 paint job,” Jones said.

He also had the massive front bumper/grille assembly rechromed to do justice to the new paint job. Darrel Unruh of Newton rectified the lack of air conditioning by installing a Vintage Air under dash air conditioning system that replicates the old dealer-installed units of the 1960s. Power steering was also added to make getting around corners a bit easier.

“These old cars were designed to be highway cruisers. I drive it, but not a lot. One of its main claims to fame is its low mileage and I would like to keep it that way,” said Jones.

With only 45,820 miles now showing on its odometer, he can still enjoy an occasional cruise in the Bonneville’s without worrying about damaging its status as a lightly used memento of days gone by.

Reach Mike Berry at mberry@wichitaeagle.com.

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