What is this strange specimen slathered in Lamborghini orange paint and whitewalls that look like giant, powdered doughnuts? Why it's a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, one of the most important proto-muscle cars in the world.

This week on /BIG MUSCLE, Mike Musto checks out a car that showcases American car design in the late-1950s: Jet-age interior fittings, a freeway track as wide as a country mile and enough hexavalent chromium to poison half of New Jersey. It's the 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, pride of Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, then general manager of Pontiac. It was Knudsen who reinvented Pontiac as a young, performance-oriented brand, a tack his corporate sidekick John Z. Delorean would continue after taking over during the 1960s to launch Pontiac into the stratosphere.

The Bonneville was a big car for younger buyers who cut their teeth on drag racing during the '50s, but now wanted a cruiser. It was youthful, but still swank enough to win country-club points.


And what of that "Wide-Track" advertising hook Pontiac launched in '59? As the story goes, the '59 styling prototypes looked out of place on the '58 chassis, so engineers pushed the wheels outward, creating a fuller, more "custom" look. Yay, '50!