Pontiac introduced the La Parisienne. Its landau-style roof made it unique among the Pontiacs of the era, but the concept looked too similar to the Chieftain production car, so it didn't make a big splash. But the company returned in 1954 with a much wilder show car, the Bonneville Special.
The vehicle was conceived by renowned designer Harley J. Earl, who oversaw the creation of the Buick Y-Job, the industry's first concept car. Earl was also the main man behind GM's first sports car, which arrived in 1953 as the iconic Chevrolet Corvette.
With GM desperate to give the Pontiac brand a sportier, more exciting image that would attract younger buyers to showrooms, Earl put a two-seat sports car on the drawing board.
With the Chevrolet Corvette already underway, the Bonneville Special was based around the same platform. It was penned with a low-slung body with muscular wheel arches, and, just like the Corvette, it featured a fiberglass body.
Coincidentally, the Bonneville Special debuted with a front fascia that looked a lot like the Corvette.
On the other hand, a pair of silver streaks running across the hood, a feature Pontiac introduced in the 1930s, gave the front fascia a unique character.
But needless to say, the Bonneville Special was a completely different car toward the rear. Not only the fenders were shaped differently than the Corvette's, but it also featured a different roof. While Chevy's sports car was born as a roadster, the Bonneville came with a bubble-shaped, canopy-style top.
Not only it included a dramatically curved rear window, but the top also incorporated gullwing-style side windows. Granted, the idea wasn't very practical since the doors were regular, front-hinged panels, but it was seen as exotic in 1954.
The Bonneville's rear end was even more dramatic, mostly due to its heavy use of Space Age-inspired cues. The recessed spare tire enclosure was the main highlight. Flanked by vertical fins that extended from the top to the bottom of each fender, it looked like the rear of a jet engine.
Paired with the unusually short decklid and the canopy-style roof, the spare tire made the Bonneville Special look like a rocket-powered car.
And that was enough to drive people attending GM's Motorama crazy. And, of course, fantasize about future performance cars with a "Pontiac" badge.
Even though Pontiac had a brand-new V8 in the works and the unit would have been ready in time to debut in the Bonneville, GM management ordered the brand to keep under wraps until its consumer debut the following model year.
As a result, Pontiac dropped its old "Silver Streak" inline-eight atop the front axle. The design was some 20 years old in 1954, but several upgrades pushed the 268-cubic-inch (4.4-liter) to 230 horsepower.
On the flip side, it wasn't all that bad given that the Corvette had a 150-horsepower inline-six in 1954.
Even though the concept didn't spawn a production model, several design features made it into Pontiac's next-generation cars, which debuted the following year.
The silver streaks appeared on both the Chieftain and Star Chief, as did softened versions of the tail fins. The dashboard's stainless-heavy look eventually made it into the 1958 Bonneville.
And, of course, the Bonneville Special gave birth to one of Pontiac's most iconic and longest-running nameplates. Introduced in 1958, the Bonneville soldiered on for 10 generations until 2005.