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Classic Pontiac of the Month
August, 2006

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1958 Bonneville 2Door Hardtop

 58 Bonneville before restoration
 58 Bonneville under the hood before restoration
 58 Bonneville undergoing restoration
 58 Bonneville before restoration  58 Bonneville before restoration
 58 Bonneville undergoing restoration  58 Bonneville undergoing restoration
 58 Bonneville undergoing restoration  58 Bonneville undergoing restoration
 58 Bonneville undergoing restoration  
#15 
58 Bonneville undergoing restoration
 58 Bonneville undergoing restoration  58 Bonneville undergoing restoration
 58 Bonneville after restoration

“When I was two years old in 1958 (actually I was 16) I had a friend who had a friend who was given a spectacular, chrome laden, brand new Bermuda and Calypso Green '58 Bonneville, with tri-power, as a high school graduation present. My friend and I got to ride in it one night and as we were cruising down Santa Anita Boulevard in Arcadia, California, we chanced upon a '57 Corvette at a stop sign. Naturally, we had to beat the '58 'Vette across the street and when we leaped away from the stop that '58 Bonneville felt like it was going to become airborne. We started out about two car lengths behind but ended up rocketing past the 'Vette. I wanted a '58 Bonneville from that moment on.

Over the years I had in the back of my mind that someday, when I could afford it, I would try to get my '58 Bonneville. In 1990 while driving home from work on the Riverside Freeway and pondering the fact that before long I would be 50 years old, it dawned on me that I was never going to have my '58 Bonneville. I was never going to be able to afford one. At that moment I decided to get my '58 Bonneville no matter what.

In 1990, I found my '58 Bonneville through an ad in Hemmings. It was located in Lake Elsinore, California and was one of a half dozen '50's and '60's Pontiacs and Chevys owned by a man who planned to restore them all. The Bonny was completely taken apart and stripped of its chrome and stainless. It was in the worst condition of all the cars and the owner had decided to sell it rather that try to restore it. His loss was my gain. I paid $7,500 for the car and took it home. For the next two years I tried to learn and restore as I went along. After two years I realized that at the rate I was progressing it was unlikely that I would live long enough to complete the restoration.

At that point I decided to see if I could find someone to finish the restoration. I located a man near Palm Springs, California who specialized in restoring Pontiacs. He said that he would have to see my car first to determine if it was worthy of his time and effort. After seeing the car he decided that he would be willing to restore it but told me it would cost as much as $22,000 to restore it to driver condition. We agreed that he would restore the car on the condition that he would restore over a period of time as I was able to afford it. I gave him $2,000 to begin.

We moved the car to his house near Palm Springs and the real adventure began. It was determined that the body had rust through on the front and rear fenders and had been in an accident at some point and had some bondo on the passenger door. I had to determine at that point whether I wanted to pay for sheet metal work to repair the fenders and door or just bondo up the bad spots and ultimately paint them over. It seemed a shame to have bondo on what I knew could be a spectacularly beautiful car so I decided to have the fenders repaired with sheet metal and a new door skin made for the passenger door. Well, $15,000 worth of sheet metal and lead work later (someone had taken a ballpean hammer and pounded dents in the body around the entire perimeter of the deck lid) plus a new right front fender and a new hood, I was broke. I would have to raid my 401K to continue the restoration. A tough, costly decision but I decided to do it. As the body work was being completed, we began to search for missing stainless and chrome pieces which were very difficult to find and very expensive. When I had accumulated all the chrome and stainless I had it all chrome plated or polished. The engine and transmission were rebuilt and every component under the hood was either rebuilt or replaced with an NOS part. Every single interior component, clock, radio, lights, lenses, mirror, gauges, switches, pedals, etc. was also restored or replaced with an NOS part. I located original 1958 upholstery tapestry in Michigan and reproduction vinyl at SMS in Oregon which I purchased. I had SMS restore the door panels and provide all the correct vinyl, with the correct embossing, and the headliner material. Every nut, bolt, washer, clip and spring was cadmium plated or replaced with an NOS replacement. Obviously at this point I was committed to restoring Bonny58 to new condition.

To make a long story a bit shorter, we did restore the car to new condition including powder coating the seat springs and reproducing all the assembly line inspectors marks in the engine compartment and underneath. The car was painted Marlin and Mallard turquoise. The total restoration took 10 years and over $70,000 to complete.

I may have to work for the rest of my life since I depleted my 401K so significantly but I have what I believe to be the most beautiful '58 Bonneville on earth. I have put 600 miles on it during the last 6 years and it has won more that 40 trophies in car shows. It will never be a daily driver but neither is it a ‘trailer queen’.
In any case, having it is the realization of a dream.”

Owned by Paul Cleveland

See photos at 50's Classics Gallery

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