Tri-Power Project: 1960 Pontiac Bonneville

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Usually when one hears the term tri-power, or triple two-barrel, or six-pack (not the drinkable version), one assumes a GTO, Corvette, Road Runner, etc. but in the days before muscle cars and big-block Corvettes, such a setup, generically defined as three-two barrel carburetors, was the province of big-full-size cars like this 1960 Pontiac Bonneville. The neat thing here is that originality abounds as this Bonneville is unchanged and unmolested, almost like an archeological dig – almost. Discovered in Mesa, Arizona by Gunter K, this big Poncho is available, here on craigslist for $9,500.

Pontiac’s Bonneville was the Big Man on Campus in ’60 and was available as a two or four-door hardtop, a station wagon, and a convertible. Following, in descending tribe order were the Star Chief, Ventura, and Catalina. Bonneville proved to be popular in ’60 with an output of 80K copies. Of that total, 24K were two-door hardtops such as our subject car.

These looked like exceedingly long, low cars because they were – 124″ in wheelbase, 221″ in overall length, 80″ of wide track width, and 54″ in height. This Bonneville is obviously afflicted with surface rust but the body appears to be sound – the seller claims that it has been in dry storage for “decades”. The trim is complete and the chrome plating still reveals a luster. The images are a bit stilted but I can’t find obvious signs of rust-through or crash damage.

The interior has not fared as well – it looks like something with claws got loose inside. The seats are shot, the door and upholstery panels have been relegated to the trunk – and are of questionable use, the instrument panel is delaminating and the steering wheel has been reduced to chunks. I would be inclined to believe that before this Bonneville started its dry storage sojourn, it saw a whole lot of hot, bright, and dry Arizona outside time.

Though it’s not a runner, this Tin Indian is in possession of its original 318 gross HP, 389 CI “Tri-Power” V8 engine and it appears to be complete and original. The mileage recording is 85K but there’s no claim of authenticity. Will it, or will it not run? That one’s unknown and it will require some investigation to make a determination – it would be helpful to know if the engine will turnover by hand. Gear changing is handled by a Hydramatic automatic transmission.

So, yes, it’s a bit rough around the edges but this Bonneville gets points for originality and completeness. The seller suggests, “this is a project. the car needs a complete restore“; true enough but I’d say that it’s worth the effort, how about you?

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  1. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Jims posts always make me smile, but in this case he forgot 2 of the most important sales gimmick words,,”Wide-Trackin”, and nothing was more prominent, in the ad portrayal, than the 1960 Bonneville. In print, they exaggerated the stance, but it was like 3 inches wider than most cars, and made a slight difference in handling. It was still a tank, however.
    This car? Oy, I just don’t know what the future holds for cars like this, as novel as they were in the 60s, I don’t know if there’s enough appeal to stick wifeys new kitchen money into one, with her arms folded. A car like this has to be done up to the nines, any less would be an insult to this fantastic car. WIDE TRACKIN’,,,for a couple years.
    It should be noted, before Ford got their act together with the 406, Pontiac dominated NASCAR with the 1960 Poncho. Fireball Roberts, Cotton Owens, Smokey Yunick all had great success with Pontiacs. The Ford 427 put the big Ponchos out to pasture, but for a spell, it was a heck of a run.

    Like 15
  2. Jim ODonnellAuthor


    I did mention the “wide track” aspect, all 80″ of it:

    “These looked like exceedingly long, low cars because they were – 124″ in wheelbase, 221″ in overall length, 80″ of wide track width, and 54″ in height”


    Like 11
    • Guy F. Taylor

      Yes, I caught the dimensions and thought, “It’s like driving a California King bed wherever you go.” Humor Rx, Folks.

      Like 3
  3. Maggy

    These are really cool cars with nice lines. The price seems very fair for what looks to be a very solid complete tri power car .A/C pb and ps too! I’d get it running and driving safe by doing all the usual stuff and tires and go thru the brakes. This car is cool as is too drive and restore at your own pace or do a frame off. Should sell quick at that price.

    Like 5
    • TwinkyMember

      Generator, PS, PB. Not AC I believe.

      Like 3
      • maggy

        oops my bad.I didn’t have my reading glasses on this morning and it looked like an a/c comp.

        Like 3
  4. Greg GustafsonMember

    389CID w/ tri-power and single exhaust, interesting.

    Like 2
  5. Jay McCarthy

    If the engine is stuck this car is a perfect candidate for modern power and brakes, just make sure to utilize that wide track

    Like 0
  6. Gil Davis Tercenio

    My second car was a ’60 4D Catalina. 389 & a 4 speed HydraMatic. 10.25 to1 Compression. You HAD to run GOOD high test gas in it or you had no power. Getting used to the power steering and power brakes took a while, as my 1st car was a ’52 Buick Super with power nothing. :D

    Like 1
  7. Steve 4 ever 65

    All Pontiacs with 3 2s are excellent rides and hard to find… Enjoy while they are here for us.

    Like 1
  8. bone

    Looks like its been repainted, or at least partially painted ; one shot shows the door catch painted over and what looks to be overspray on the top of the front seat …

    Like 0
  9. Vibhic

    I owned a 1960 Pontiac Ventura bubble top. Beautiful car. Baby blue with blue interior. I was backing into the garage one evening, I applied the brakes and they failed. My driveway was on a downgrade. The Pontiac crashed into the door taking the door off it’s rails and ripping two by fours out of the walls. The car had no dents or scratches which proves they were built like tanks.

    Like 2
  10. Lars Oster

    Yes !! How well I remember the 60 Pontiac Ventura I had back in high school 1967 ,3spd on the floor,sold it to finance my trip to Alaska back then it was just another car,but still have 1 picture of it to remind myself what I had an didn’t know it .I did see one with chrome reverse wheels an a set of baby moon hub caps that was really cool.If only we could go back in time an collect the cars we had or the ones that we pasted up that we should have bought.But where would we put them?

    Like 0
  11. Anthony D Bader

    This car really caught my attention. It has been a long time; since I pondered the quiet joy of a restoration vehicle. I’m new to Craigslist; I clicked the link. Is this car still for sale? I can’t find it via the link. Sincere best regards, A

    Like 0

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