Photos by David Gooley
pon arriving at "Bonnie's" home in the San Fernando Valley, we knew that the owners of this 1962 Bonneville convertible were our kind of people ... We counted rive double-width garage doors, each with a pair of automobiles behind it. But we aren't fickle; our date was with Bonnie. As it turned out, Bonnie was entertaining another visitor, a Bermuda Blue 1970 GTO, about which you will read more later.
We first met Bonnie at a concours d'elegance in 1992. The location and occasion both were ideal for this sort of event--a grassy public park on a California summer day with enough shade to make exhibitors comfortable, yet sufficient sunlight to show off the cars to their best advan-tage. The variety of vehicles exhibited at the Thousand Oaks annual concours was enough to satisfy almost any car buff's fantasy. Bonnie, a Seafoam Green 1962 Bonneville convertible, was attended by Dawn Chase, a soft-spoken type whose other charges include a couple of saddle horses and her husband, Walter. At the time, we vowed to learn more about this lady and her Pontiac, but the best part of a year would go by before the promise was kept.
When we did call, Walter Chase readily agreed to make Bonnie available for a photo session. Asked if he knew of any other interesting Pontiacs in the Camarillo vicinity, he said he was aware of a few, which explains the presence of that earlier mentioned 1970 GTO. We would learn that Walter is somewhat prone to under-statement. He knows a lot of people who own some most worthy Pontiacs, as well as other nameplates.
This enthusiast himself currently owns more than 10 percent of the 80 to 90 vehicles that have been registered to him over several decades. Included are a trio of big-block Chevys, a splendid first series 1950 Olds 88 sedanette, a Porsche 911 and a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in the 10 garage stalls that underline just how serious the Chases are about their hobby.
In 1989, while actually looking for a 1970 GTO convertible to replace the one his wife owned when they were first married, the Chases discovered the Bonneville in the hands of a musclecar dealer near San Jose, Calif. Dawn fell for the Pontiac. Of ail the cars currently owned by this couple, Bonnie is the most pleasant to drive, report Walter and Dawn. She claims she would drive the car even more, except she resents people thinking of her as old enough to the original owner of a 31-year-old car.
Bonnie was in remarkable condition when purchased, requiring only a thorough detailing before being deemed ready for exhibition. The colors are original, though the seats and paintwork both have been redone to the factory standard of the period. A diet of 92 octane unleaded supreme is all that Bonnie's 335-horse engine requires to deliver ping-free performance. Of all the optional equipment, only the clock has ceased to work.
Walt says that he hasn't researched this car's ownership records, but would like to learn who the first owner was, whether it was purchased from stock or was a special order. He knows that Bonnie is all California, having been produced by the Southgate BOP plant. Asked if the Bonneville is completely stock in every way, Walt pointed sheepishly to the trim rings on the OEM alloy wheels, saying ever so softly that they actually came from a Chrysler parts bin. He quickly reassured us that he does have the origi-nal trim rings as well, but they are a bit smaller in width, leaving more of the wheel exposed, besides which they are slightly damaged.
A native of Casper, Wyo., Walter Chase recalls his first of more than two dozen Pontiacs, a 1949 Chieftain bought for him by his father. He is partial to 1955 models and has owned sever-al. Many of Walt's trophies were won in drag races held at San Fernando, San Gabriel, Fontana and Long Beach. With a special order 1965 GTO, Walt was undefeated 16 times in a row at San Fernando. Other memorable Pontiacs that the tool company executive recalls are a '64 Grand Prix, a '72 Grand Prix and a '73 Grand Prix SS [SJ?] 455.
Asked what cars he still wished to own, Walter Chase didn't pause for a second. "A 1957 Safari station wagon," was the immediate response ... from a man who obviously has given the matter quite a bit of thought. If he were to find one, do you think he might name it "Clyde"?
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