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1962 Pontiac Catalina – Putting Performance over Practicality

1962 Pontiac Catalina - From CRO Member Hugh O’Donnell
From CRO Member Hugh O’Donnell

In our second installment this week of July’s 2016’s Ride of the Month we feature the 1962 Pontiac Catalina presented by nominee, CRO Member Hugh O’Donnell. Here is some general information about the vehicle.

Note: This is not information about the actual vehicle nominated for July’s Ride of the Month, just general information on the vehicle itself. Please check the link at the bottom of today’s article to view all the actual vehicles nominated for this month’s Ride of the Month.

The 1962 Pontiac Catalina featured the many updates from the 1961 Catalina re-design, including more angular, squared-off lines. The updated frame enhanced side-impact protection and increased interior space. However, on two-door versions, the roof lines were altered and body contours were rounded more compared to the previous year’s version.

Numerous Configurations

The standard 389 cubic-inch engine was rated at a relatively modest 215 horsepower. When mated to the optional four-speed Hydramatic transmission, the engine was rated at 280 horsepower, thanks to the use of a higher 10.5 to 1 compression ratio. The Catalina was also sold with either a four-barrel carburetor or three two-barrel carburetors (Tri-Power). A Tri-power Catalina could produce 345 horsepower, although the most powerful Catalina was the Super Duty version.

Super Duty Package

The 1962 Pontiac Catalina equipped with the Super Duty package was a barely street-legal drag racer still sold through Pontiac dealerships. Pontiac produced only 177 of these powerful Catalinas, and most saw NHRA and NASCAR competition.

With a capable driver behind the wheel, a Super Duty Catalina could cover the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds at 115 mph. Although the 421 engine was listed at 405 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque, some believed these numbers were significantly understated. For example, in a Motor Trend road test, technicians calculated that the engine was producing 465 horsepower and 505 pound-feet of torque.

Putting Performance First

The 1962 Catalina Super Duty produced a unique sound courtesy of the engine’s substantial internal modifications. The massive power-plant included forged Mickey Thompson pistons and dual Carter 500 CFM carburetors. The four-speed Hurst lifter was linked to a Borg Warner T10 transmission with Corvette gears. The combination of a heavy-duty clutch and a lightweight flywheel produced exceedingly quick acceleration.

Although the idea of putting a drag racing engine in a relatively luxurious Catalina was a novel concept, the end result was not terribly practical for daily use. In reality, the Super Duty Catalina was expensive to purchase and costly to maintain. The Super Duty package added a substantial $2,250 to the cost of a Catalina, which ordinarily featured a base MSRP of $2,725. When the muscle car era was still in its infancy, the 1962 Catalina Super Duty was among the fastest of all vehicles in America. It was a true drag racer and a superlative one at that.

Today, nicely restored 1962 Pontiac Catalinas equipped with the standard 389 cubic-inch engine bring $20,000 to $30,000 or more at auction. However, the rare Catalina Super Duty is extremely desirable, with winning bids often in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.


Please follow this link to see a list of all cars nominated for June’s Ride of the Month and to cast your vote.

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