AJ’s Car of the Day: 1961 Pontiac Catalina Convertible

AJ’s Car of the Day: 1961 Pontiac Catalina Convertible

Car: Pontiac Catalina Convertible

Year: 1961

What makes it special: Catalina was part of Pontiac‘s  full-sized line from 1950 to 1981. Initially, the name was used strictly to denote hardtop body styles, first appearing in the 1950 Chieftain Eight and DeLuxe Eight lines. In 1959, the Catalina became a separate model, as the “entry-level” full-size Pontiac. The 1961 full-sized Pontiacs were completely restyled with more squared-off bodylines, the reintroduction of the split grille first seen in 1959 and dropped for 1960 and an all-new Torque-Box perimeter frame with side rails replacing the “X” frame chassis. The new frame not only provided greater side-impact protection than the “X” design but also improved interior roominess.

What made it famous: The distinctive protruding grille made its appearance on all Pontiac products during the early 1960’s, and was a modern revival of a similar appearance on Pontiac products during the 1930’s and early 1940’s.  All engines were 389 cu in V8’s as in previous years, now called “Trophy” engines. rather than “Tempest”. Standard engines were 2-barrel units rated at 215 hp with the 3-speed manual transmission or 267 hp with the optional Hydramatic, with a 230 hp regular-fuel-capable “economy” V8 offered as a no-cost option with the Hydramatic. Offered as extra-cost options were more powerful versions of the 389 including a 303 hp version with a 4-barrel carburetor or 318 hp Tri-Power option. New to the options list were two higher performance versions of the 389, including a 4-barrel 333 hp unit and a 348 hp Tri-Power option, both with higher, 10.75:1, compression ratios. A 363 hp engine was offered to drag racers. Late in the 1961 sales season the 421 cu in Super Duty was released for sale as a dealer installed engine. The 1961 models never came from the assembly line with the 421ci engine; instead it was a specialty item installed and sold at the discretion oindividual dealers. A new “3-speed 4-range” “Roto Hydramatic” automatic transmission replaced the previous 4-speed unit for 1961. The new transmission was slimmer and lighter than the older 4-speed Hydramatic, which was continued on the larger Star Chief and Bonneville models. Also new for 1961 was a 4-speed manual transmission with Hurst floor shifter, available on special order.

Why I would want one: Love the front scowl of the 1961 model. Coupled up with one of the optional higher output V8’s would complete the looks & performance package.

Fun fact: The 1961 Pontiac was advertised as “All Pontiac…on a new wide track.”
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