Editor’s note: This is the 24th in a 30-day series featuring cars from the Ron Pratte Collection that will be sold this month at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction.
It’s said that Harley Earl, the initial head of design for General Motors, got the idea for this Pontiac Bonneville Special concept car while watching world speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Only two Bonneville Specials were created, one painted Metallic Bronze and this one in Metallic Emerald Green. In simple terms, the car is a ’53 Corvette with a custom fiberglass body carrying Pontiac Division styling cues, a clear Plexiglas bubble top and a 230-horsepower, 268-cubic-inch Pontiac -nline-8 instead of a Corvette’s 150-hp, 235-cid Blue Flame inline-6.
The Bonneville Special was meant to be more streamlined and powerful than the Corvette, befitting its status as a Pontiac rather than a Chevrolet.
Stylists Homer LaGasse and Paul Gilland were in charge of the cars design, under the direction of Earl. Despite the Bonneville Special name, which was meant to make you think of aerodynamic Land Speed Record machines, the styling is really aviation-inspired. The shift lever is supposed to look like an aircraft landing gear lever and the extra gauges – including a clock, compass and manifold pressure gauge – are salvaged from aircraft instruments.
The exterior features a grille-less, full-width air intake and twin aircraft-style air scoops on the cowl. Where the trunk should be, a functional Continental kit is frenched into the bodywork, revealing the turbine-style alloy wheel center that visually resembles a jet engine exhaust. Capping the aviation-inspired look is the Plexiglass bubble top with curved lift-up gullwing side windows.
This 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama Concept Car (Lot #2500) is scheduled to cross the auction block in Scottsdale on Saturday, January 17.
The Ron Pratte Collection will begin being auctioned at the 44th Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction with automobilia from Saturday, January 10 at 9 a.m. (MST) through Tuesday, January 13 at 1 p.m. Pratte’s vehicles first cross the block at 4 p.m. on Tuesday with lot numbers 2000 through 2109 and continue with lot numbers 2500 through 2530 Saturday, January 17.