- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Neal Herman has always had an affinity for four-door hardtop sedans. Unfortunately for him, most auto manufacturers produced them for only about 20 years, beginning in the mid-1950s.

Consequently, the pool of four-door hardtop sedans even at its peak was never very large and now it is rapidly shrinking.

As Mr. Herman was electronically strolling through cyberspace in the autumn of 2003, he says, “I wasn’t looking for a car.” But he came across a 1965 Pontiac Bonneville four-door hardtop in remarkable condition and it was for sale. He couldn’t resist. “It was such a pretty color,” he says of the unusual “reef turquoise” color.

Research showed the 3,990-pound top-of-the-line Pontiac was one of 62,480 such models produced during the 1965 model year. This particular car left the factory with a 389-cubic-inch V-8 engine that develops a mighty 325 horsepower. A single four-barrel downdraft carburetor feeds fuel to the engine. The base price of the car in 1965 was $3,423.10. Without actually having seen the car, Mr. Herman placed a bid on the Pontiac and sat back to await the results. It wasn’t long before he received word that as of October 2003 he was the owner of the lengthy four-door hardtop 1965 Pontiac.

He learned that the owner was an Air Force pilot stationed at Shepard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas. Years before, the well-worn Bonneville had undergone a thorough restoration in Las Cruces, N.M.

Luckily for Mr. Herman, his benevolent Aunt Layne Bruhn lives in Fort Worth, a mere 90 miles away from where the Pontiac was garaged and, in Texas, 90 miles is virtually next door.

She graciously agreed to drive to Wichita Falls with her husband and drive the Pontiac to her home in Fort Worth and store it until he could come to collect his prize.

Mr. Herman had to attend a business convention in Las Vegas shortly after he bought the car. His return flight ended at Fort Worth, where he was greeted by his aunt, who took him to his 18.5-foot-long treasure. Much of Mr. Herman’s extended family is in that area and many of them probably were wondering why he had bought a 38-year-old Pontiac.

The next day he set off for Washington in his car with 106,000 miles showing on the odometer.

Just east of Dallas, the accelerator pump broke. “My heart sank,” Mr. Herman says. The suspicions of all the relative seemed to be confirmed.

The problem was quickly fixed and he then drove 1,500 trouble-free miles home in the next 2½ days.

Once he got the car home, he found that it needed front-end work, plus, he says, “a lot of little things that added up to a lot of dollars.”

Options on the swanky Pontiac include:

• Air conditioning .$337.92.

• AM/FM radio……176.57.

• Vinyl top………..105.32.

• Power windows….104.00.

• Power steering…..94.73.

• Power seats………69.51.

• Temperature control.63.19.

• Wire wheels……..52.66.

• Verbra speaker……52.66.

• Power wing vents…52.03.

• Tilt steering wheel….42.13.

• Power brakes………42.10.

• Dual exhaust………30.23.

• Electric clock………15.74.

• Deluxe wheels……..14.21.

This car is loaded.

“The nice thing about the car is there is a catalog from New Hampshire where you can get almost anything you want,” he says.

Inside the wide-track Pontiac, which is 6.66 feet wide, chrome-plated instruments abound, all canted toward the driver. The interior is covered in a combination of Province cloth and Morrokide vinyl.

Even with a 124-inch wheelbase, the overhang behind the rear axle is 5 feet, 2 inches long. When new, these cars often had damaged exhaust systems where they had bottomed out on a steep driveway.

The previous owner addressed the problem by rerouting the two exhaust pipes through the rear bumper using holes formerly occupied by the backup lights.

With all the Pontiac’s systems functioning properly from the stacked headlights to the wraparound taillights, Mr. Herman is prepared to take it anywhere. The odometer only now is approaching 115,000 miles.

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