If there’s a golden rule in media it’s to follow the advice to “never rub another man’s rhubarb” Jack Nicholson was gave while portraying The Joker in the 1989 Batman movie. In this case though we’re going to give great credit to the New York Times for running a fantastic piece on the origins of how the Pontiac Bonneville really earned it’s name, and it all started with David “Ab” Jenkins and his love for the Bonneville Salt flats.
He and his son Marv were racers there and in 1956 were tapped by Pontiac to help the brand set some speed records and to shed it’s ho-hum reputation. “Until my dad got hold of that Pontiac,” said the late Marv Jenkins, “it was a car for retired ministers.”
In June of 1956 Ab and his son Marv drove a Series 860 Pontiac around a 10-mile circular track that had been laid out out on the salt. Together the achieved an average speed of 118.375 MPH in a 24 hour period and shattered all 28 American unlimited and Class C stock-car racing records.
Ab drove around 2,841 of the miles himself and survived off of only a few chugs of milk that he took down during his 30-second pit stops. He died of a heart attack shortly after setting the records. In 1957 Pontiac name the Bonneville in his honor, a rare example in which a car was named after a racing inspired theme.