The Bonneville name first appeared in 1954 on a pair of bubble-topped GM Motorama concept cars called the Bonneville Special. It entered the production lineup as a high-performance, fuel-injected luxury convertible in the 1957 model year and was loaded with every conceivable option as standard equipment with the exception of optional air conditioning. This put the Bonneville in a Cadillac-like price range of $5,000 - more than double the base price of a Chieftain four-door sedan. A fully equipped Bonneville could cost more than a Cadillac. Only 630 units were produced that first year, making it one of the most collectible Pontiacs of all time. The Bonneville endured until 2005 as the division's top-of-the-line model. The name was taken from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the site of much early auto racing and most of the world's land speed record runs.
The Bonneville added a coupe in 1958, and it paced the Indianapolis 500 that year. This year's Bonneville had a significantly lower price tag of around $3,000 thanks to the demotion of most of the luxury items found on the '57 model from standard equipment to the option list. Also a 300horsepower (220kW) 370cubic inches (6,100cc) V8 with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts was now standard equipment. The fuel-injection system offered with the standard engine on the '57 model was now listed as an extra cost option but very few '58 Bonnevilles were so equipped due to a towering price tag of over $500 USD, which was not considered a very good value considering that for less than $100 USD, a Tri-Power option was available with three two-barrel carburetors and even more power.
In its third year, the 1959 Bonneville became a full top-line series with the addition of the four-door hardtop sedan and Safari station wagon body styles. The Bonneville played an important part that year in the introduction of two of Pontiac's greatest marketing inspirations — the split grille and the Wide Track slogan. The latter was not just ad copy, either, as Pontiac pushed its wheels further out toward the fenders than anyone else and created what were considered to be the best-cornering full-size cars in the industry. Both the grille design and the Wide Track phrase are still part of Pontiac's image today. The Bonneville remained as Pontiac's costliest and most luxurious model throughout the 1960s and was instrumental in pushing Pontiac to third place in sales from 1962 to 1970.