Introduced in 1950, the Pontiac Catalina was the top trim level for the Chieftain. The name came from the practice among auto manufacturers of naming cars for beach towns like Malibu, Ventura, and Bel Air.
The Pontiac Chieftain and Super Chief names were dropped in 1959, becoming the Pontiac Catalina. Built on GM’s new B-body platform, the new Catalina had a wraparound windshield framed by thin roof pillars, an open, airy greenhouse, and the split grille that would become the Pontiac hallmark.
The Pontiac Catalina was the entry-level full-size Pontiac, but came with a decent list of standard equipment, including full Morrokide or Morrokide with cloth insert upholstery, dual front ashtrays, cigar lighter, and a glovebox snack bar. Though the standard floor covering was rubber mat, full optional carpeting was available. Also on the options list was a heater/defroster, lights for the glovebox and trunk, and the Decor Group that included chrome pedal trim, deluxe steering wheel, and full wheel covers.
The 1961 Pontiac Catalina was completely restyled. The windshield was flatter. The bodywork had sharper lines and had been narrowed two inches, and the wheelbase was three inches shorter, making for a lighter car. Two-doors had a more rounded roof, while sedans received a more squared roofline. Despite the reduced exterior dimensions, the Torque Box perimeter chassis allowed for better interior room and superior side-impact protection.
Engine choices for the 1961 Pontiac Catalina were wide ranging. The standard mill was the 389 cubic-inch V8 fed by a two-barrel carburetor, making 215 horsepower. Transmission choice was either a three-speed manual or a Hydramatic automatic. Other engine configurations would produce 267, 303, 318, 333, 348 and even 363 horsepower depending on carburetion and compression ratios, although the 363 pony version was intended for competition use. A 421 Super Duty option was available toward the end of the year as a dealer-installed option.
Our feature 1961 Pontiac Catalina convertible has been updated with modern drivetrain, brakes, instrumentation, and custom touches. It is finished in deep Red Fire metallic paint with a Stay Fast black cloth power convertible top over an Oxblood leather interior. A custom steering wheel has been fitted, and the console is home to a chrome Hurst shifter topped by a white shift ball. Dakota Digital gauges have replaced the originals. The Catalina is powered by a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 backed by a six-speed manual transmission. New custom Curtis Speed wheels have the appearance of the eight-bolt originals, but with modern dimensions, and are shod in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Stopping duties are handled by Wilwood disc brakes.
This hot-rod 1961 Pontiac Catalina with cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Dallas, Texas event taking place September 20th through the 23rd.