28k Genuine Mile: 1978 Pontiac Catalina Safari Wagon

Many cars and wagons from the 1970s were considered by the motoring public to be disposable items. They were used for their designed purpose and were properly maintained, but eventually, they found their way to an automotive graveyard when they had outlived their useful purpose. That means that when nice vehicles from this era do appear, they will grab plenty of attention. That is certainly the case with this 1978 Pontiac Cataline Safari Wagon. Its condition might not be perfect, but it is a very long way above average. Barn Finder Ikey H spotted this absolute beauty for us, so thank you so much for that Ikey. It is located in Waldoboro, Maine, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. The sale price for the wagon has been set at $9,300.

Once you reach a certain age, it becomes a bit sobering to consider that this Glacier Blue Pontiac is really 42-years-old. Where did the time go? The wagon is certainly better preserved than I am and presents very nicely. The owner says that the paint has a few chips and marks, but there is nothing there that shows in the supplied photos. He provides a couple of low shots looking along the sides of the vehicle, and the panels appear to be very straight. There are no signs of any rust problems around the exterior of the Catalina, and the photos of the underside reveal floors that are very dry and clean. The chrome and trim look extremely good, while the glass appears to be free from obvious flaws. The Safari featured a 2-way tailgate from the 1977 model year onwards, and this made loading heavy items into the rear far easier than with a conventional drop-down tailgate design. It might not be as spectacular and cool as the previous “clamshell” tailgate, but it was significantly cheaper to produce, and far less complicated.

This photo really sums up the condition of the Safari’s interior. Once again, it is extremely well preserved, with no major issues that would need to be addressed. In fact, apart from some slight “dirtying” of the carpet on the driver’s side, there really isn’t a lot to be critical of. Even then, I suspect that a professional car detailer would be able to return the carpet to somewhere close to its original state. All of the upholstered surfaces seem to be free from tears, marks, or seam separations. The headliner is spotlessly clean, while the dash is original, and in wonderful condition. As is the case with these older wagons, the true indication of how careful the owner has been with the vehicle will almost certainly be reflected in the state of the rear cargo area. This is the one area that will be the most susceptible to damage. Items will be slid in and out of the back, and unsecured items will move around during transit. This has the potential to inflict damage upon virtually every surface, but that isn’t the case here. If you scroll through the gallery at the bottom of this article, you will see that the rear of the wagon presents just as nicely as the rest of the interior. As far as luxury appointments are concerned, what you get is a power rear window and a radio, and that’s really about it. However, the general condition of the interior would still make it a pretty pleasant place to spend a few hours as you embark upon a cross-country jaunt.

If there is one aspect of the Catalina that I find disappointing, it is the appearance of the engine bay. It isn’t hideous by any stretch of the imagination, but it just doesn’t seem to be as well preserved as the rest of the vehicle. This is especially true given the fact that the Pontiac has a genuine and documented 28,000 miles on the clock. Still, sometimes the march of time can take more of a toll on appearance than accumulated mileage does, and that could be the case here. The Catalina range was available with a number of engine options, including the 231ci V6. However, ordering the Safari brought with it the 301ci V8 as the standard engine. That’s what we have here, while we also get a 3-speed automatic transmission, along with power steering and power brakes. The V8 engine is no bad thing because, at 4,098lbs, the Safari is more than 500lbs heavier than its sedan sibling, and the V6 would have made it a real slug in a straight line. Even so, the Safari’s journey down the ¼ mile still takes 20.5 seconds. Theoretically, if the V6 was fitted, it would have struggled to break the 23-second mark for the same journey. I suspect that it was that sort of potential performance (or lack thereof) that motivated Pontiac to exclude the V6 engine from the Safari mix. While the appearance of the engine might not be flawless, the mechanical news still remains very good. The owner states that there are no fluid leaks of any description, and there is certainly nothing visible when you take a look around under the wagon. In addition, he does say that it runs and drives just as well as it would have in 1978. I can definitely hear that cross-country trek becoming a real possibility this Summer.

For the person who is searching for a clean and tidy full-size station wagon, this 1978 Catalina Safari is a vehicle that is well worth more than a passing glance. Its condition is very impressive, and before you write this one off, ask yourself how many you have seen in this sort of condition in your recent travels. The asking price is not unprecedented, and its low mileage would certainly help to justify that figure. Do we have any readers who are interested in following-up on this tidy wagon?


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  1. jwzg

    Holy carp that’s a clean car. The engine bay needs a little bit of soap and water but that’s about it. Don’t even bother with paint. The interior is spotless. I’d be tempted to wake up the beast with a Pontiac 400, but for a weekend cruiser, that would be a great car.

    Like 4
    • Mohammed Singh

      I don’t know if carp are more religious a fish than tuna or salmon or carp, but I do agree that this wagon is exceptionally clean.

      Like 5
  2. Steve R

    There are three reasons it only has 28,000 miles, no AC, manual windows and a dark color.

    It’s nice, but isn’t well suited for any location that gets hot or humid.

    Steve R

    Like 8
    • Redwagon

      Thats probably why its in Waldoboro, Maine. In typical Mainer fashion it doesn’t have anything it doesn’t need.

      Exceptionally clean car. Exceptionally slow car. I love wagons like this but would be bored with its speed in about 2 days.

  3. Stevieg

    Very nice, clean car. I am not sure I would pay anywhere near the asking price, but if the price were more reasonable I would not mind owning it.
    I do agree, a 400 or better yet, a 455 would really liven things up! Not a fan of the 301.

    Like 2
  4. Wonson

    Interesting it has the gauge package but no other options. Nice condition and with the crazy wagon market they may see this price.

    Like 2
    • Stevieg

      That’s just the standard gauges. The optional gauge package would have a tachometer as well.
      I had a 1984 Safari wagon very similar to this back when I had my used car lot. It was very similar to this car, but it did have the tachometer.
      I used the car one weekend and drove to Michigan that weekend to see a friend. Nice car on the highway! Unfortunately, it sold the next Monday. But it was a plain Jane vehicle like this. Manual windows & locks, straight bench, Chevy 305 (standard in a Parisienne wagon at the time). It did have the third row & factory rally wheels to go along with the tachometer. If I remember correct (I had that lot from 2003 to 2006, so it has been a long time) I believe it didn’t even have air conditioning. Or maybe it just didn’t work lol.

  5. Jay

    Ten years ago this would be a 3-4 k car

    Wagons in a circle!!

    Like 1
  6. Tom C

    It most certainly has the optional gauge package, trip odometer and electric clock. It also has the optional luxury steering wheel, bumper guards and strips, whitewalls and deluxe wheel covers. Plus I assume it has at least an AM radio. It looks like they ordered body side moldings and rear cargo flooring carpet too. It doesn’t have the obvious options but someone did order a few things to customize this wagon to their liking.

    Like 2
    • Stevieg

      I thought (and I could be wrong) that the optional gauge package would have the tachometer like my 1984 had. But I can’t know all, so maybe I am incorrect. I believe that by 1978 the am radio would be standard, but there too, I could be wrong. Either way, I agree with you that it is equipped specifically the way one person would want it.
      I still stand with my original post, that with a 400 or better yet, a 455, this would be a cool cruiser! I would certainly enjoy it.

      Like 1
      • Tom C

        I have the original dealership order books that the salesmen would have used back in 1978. My Uncle was a Pontiac salesman for 50 years! Pontiac allowed you to order gages in several different combinations.

  7. Claudio

    I have never owned/bought a new car
    Always too expensive for me
    I have had many cars
    And most never cost me for use
    When i sold them
    And for my money
    I would NEVER spend 10 k on a carburated land yacht like this

  8. bone

    I remember when GM wagons came out ; I thought they were such a cheap looking , underpowered squared off car compared to the earlier models , and even though its 40 years old, that thought is still in my mind , so I could never own one – BUT , if one was at a show I would be all over it ,this is a time capsule car and wagons were meant to haul stuff , so few survive .

  9. Britcars4me

    Wasn’t this car listed here in the last year or so?

  10. Kenn

    “Genuine and documented 28,000 miles..”!? By whom? That odometer has been tampered with. Not an uncommon practice here when folks are looking for top dollar, but still.

    On a whole ‘nother subject: What’s going on ‘tween the two Steves on this site?

  11. Stevieg

    What did I do?

  12. Tom C

    I have the original dealership order books that the salesmen would have used back in 1978. My Uncle was a Pontiac salesman for 50 years! Pontiac allowed you to order gages in several different combinations.

  13. Maestro1 Member

    It seems to be in nice shape but the car is too far away for me, and no power windows nor Air makes things difficult. Frankly, although it’s a great long roof to have the lack of accessories makes the price too high.

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