Too trippy?: The 1954 Bonneville Special and F-88 concept cars

It’s needless to say that General Motors (GM) has produced some of the coolest cars in automotive history – from the Corvette and Camaro, two cars that have been dominating the roadway for practically half a century, to the late great GTO and 442, a pair of legendary nameplates that came from two ultimately doomed brands, Pontiac and Oldsmobile.

The demise of these two nameplates has been highly publicized as the press tore GM apart over the last decade, scrutinizing management for running Pontiac and Oldsmobile into the ground. Many purists were outraged to see Oldsmobile bite the dust before newer, much more derided nameplates like Saturn were allowed to continue draining the company of money (although in the end Saturn too would see its life cut short during a corporate reshuffling.) As well, many were surprised to see Pontiac, one of the flagship brands in the GM stable, have its doors forced shut by the U.S. government during GM’s bankruptcy proceedings.

However, there’s no fun in dwelling on the recent past, especially when it comes to American carmakers, as it discredits otherwise bright track records at companies that ultimately ran astray. This is especially true of Pontiac and Oldsmobile, as each brand has had its fair share of cool rides over the past century.

One thing that neither of these brands was able to do, however, was get a foothold in the supercar market. While Ford had its GT and the Corvette brought the supercar to the main streets, Pontiac and Oldsmobile always remained planted in reality, producing everyday consumer cars that still packed quite the wallop. That isn’t to say GM never had musings about giving Pontiac and Oldsmobile their own super-coupes.

Pontiac got a taste of the big time back in 1954 with the Bonneville Special concept coupe. Harley Earl, the artist behind the designs of some of the most elegant cars to over roll off GM’s assembly lines, had two of these concepts crafted for that year’s annual GM Motorama Spectacular – the precursor to today’s International Auto Show circuit. This nifty two-door looked like an overinflated Corvette with gull-wing doors that sprouted up from the car’s glass-enclosed cabin. This thing was a spaceship built for the streets, with a state-of-the-art interior and aerodynamic styling that were tastes of things to come while at the same time displaying some design cues that GM may have thought would catch on but ultimately remained on the drawing board.

Oldsmobile-F88-ConceptThe same could be said of the Oldsmobile F-88 which was crafted the same year as the Bonneville. This convertible was a convertible with very similar proportions to the Bonneville but the soul of the Corvette. GM had every intention of mass-producing the F-88, but quickly canceled the project after the 1953 Corvette was – believe it or not – a massive sales failure on the outset. Four were still built, however, and collectors love them. In fact, in 2005, one F-88 concept was sold at the Barrett Jackson auction for more than $3 million – a record figure at the time for the auction.

Do you wish Pontiac or Oldsmobile got their chance to mass produce these super cars? Do you think more ambitious rides like these may have saved these brands in the long run? Leave your thoughts below: