Fred Nicholas' 1966 Pontiac Bonneville
(from Volume 24, Issue 292)

story by owner Fred Nicholas, photos by Michael B. Kelly


I purchased my 1966 Pontiac Bonneville from an older gentleman in 2004. It had been in a barn for 23 years, and it showed. The car was in very good condition, other than rust in the rear window filler. I grew up in full size GM cars, and as such I have always had a tie to them. In addition to loving the 60’s and 70’s muscle cars, I just love the big car feel. I have other classics, but this one is different.

When I got the Bonneville, the plan was to paint it, and for it be a daily driver. This plan went south. Once I started, one thing led to another, then the body was coming off the frame. With owning a body shop for years, Harper’s Paint and Body in Orlando, this was not unusual for us to do a frame off. Once the body was off the frame, I knew this was the time to build my dream car, so it went from a daily driver to a show car. At this time my oldest daughter, Emily, was 12 and wanted to help. I let her start with blasting the frame, the bottom of the car, and paint stripping the body. I saw what pride she was taking in this task, so I told her this was going to be our project and that it was going to be her car one day. I spent several uncounted hours prepping the body for paint, getting everything just right. When it was ready for paint, my daughter, Emily, at the age of 14, painted the bottom of the car the color of the body, Laser Blue, from a 2006 Chevy Cobalt. The frame was painted Gun Metal gray.

The Bonneville had the original 389 cubic inch engine when I bought it, but I wanted more. As a result I got a 400 cubic inch motor out of a ‘74 Pontiac, bored it .060 over, beefed up the bottom end up with a steel crank with H-beam rods using a stroker kit, and installed a bigger Crane cam. I used the stock heads, but had them ported and polished, and installed bigger valves. The engine also received an Edelbrock Thunder Series 850 cfm carburetor, and a March serpentine system. For the transmission, I used the original. I got a pitch switch out of a ‘65 Cadillac so that I could turn the 2,500 stall converter on and off. This way, I could really light up the tires when I wanted to.

For the interior, I had Doug at Drop Top Interiors in Orlando, redo the interior using a 2 + 2 donor that I had. I also had him customize my trunk, so it was as nice as the interior. I wanted a nice clean look for the car, so to accentuate the Laser Blue paint I put on a set of Coy’s wheels (20-inches on the back and 18-inches up front), and with a 2-inch spring drop the car not only has a low stance, it also has a nice rake. CN