For the 1960 model years, Pontiac built more than 80,000 Bonnevilles. Nearly half were four door Vista-roof hardtops. More than 24,000 were two door coupes. Some 17,062 were convertibles.
“There’s a few of them out there,” admits car collector Gordon Apker, who some 15 years ago began searching for the rarest of those 1960 Bonnevilles — the Triple Crown of 1960 Bonnevilles, if you will — a convertible with Tri-Power under the hood, front bucket seats beneath its convertible top and factory-installed air conditioning.
Apker found his car, and then wondered just how rare it might be.
“I wrote to the Pontiac Historical Society [keeper of official Pontiac assembly plant records] and told them what I have.”
As it turns out, those official records date only to 1961 model year and newer Pontiacs, but society records indicate that for 1960, Pontiac built somewhere between 15 and 25 Bonneville convertibles with Tri-Power, buckets and factory air.
The reason even the experts aren’t quite sure of the precise number, Apker learned, is “because of the way the orders were written up, they can find the bucket seats and they can find the factory air conditioning, but the Tri-Power came in one of two performance options.”
But while the precise number remains elusive, the rarity of the combination of Tri-Power — a trio of two barrel carburetors atop the intake manifold of the Bonneville’s 389cid V8 engine — with bucket seats and factory air conditioning is not in doubt.
“And this car has the eight-lug wheels, another rare option,” notes Apker.
Apker’s car is white with a tri-tone maroon interior.
In addition to Tri-Power, buckets, factory air and eight-lug wheels, it also has an automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes, and even a remote exterior mirror.
He recalls that a similar car in powder blue was being sold at Barrett-Jackson back when he was first looking for such a car, “but I couldn’t get my brain around that color.”
He also notes that another Tri-Power ‘60 Bonneville convertible came up for auction about five years ago, but didn’t have factory air conditioning. A couple of years ago, another was available for sale, but had a front bench, not buckets.
Such cars, he says, “typically bring numbers in the high five-figures, but there hasn’t been one with this combination.
“This car is just stunning.”
So why is Apker selling such a stunning car?
Actually, the Bonneville is just one of three cars Apker brings to Barrett-Jackson this week.
“I’ve probably sold 50 cars at Barrett-Jackson, and I’ve probably bought 10,” he says.
“The reality is that I’m closing in on 70 [years of age]. When the auction is over, I should be at 30 cars — unless I buy something.
“It’s hard to resist buying, but I’ve culled my collection down. I was at more than 50 when I started. I’m slowly getting the collection pared down.”
Gary Bennett, Barrett-Jackson’s vice president of consignment, says the three cars Apker brings to the auction this year are “so typical of Gordon and his ability to have such a broad understanding of all automobiles.
“Gordon absolutely understands the cars from the teens and the ‘20s and ‘30s and he’s passionate about them, yet he still has room to embrace a Bonneville convertible and a Studebaker. He likes style and quality and has an eye for unique design.”
Bennett notes, “I saw that Bonneville when he first got it, and he’s freshened it to meet his standards.”
– — By Larry Edsall