Cheap Project: 1966 Pontiac Catalina Convertible

We’ve seen a few affordable project cars in recent times here at Barn Finds, and this 1966 Pontiac Catalina Convertible is one of the cheapest. Returning it to its former glory will be a significant undertaking, but the buyer will be starting with a car that does appear to be complete. Located in Poolesville, Maryland, you will find the Catalina listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the BIN at $1,900 for this Pontiac Project.

The Catalina must have been a magnificent car when it was new. The combination of Montero Red paint and a Black soft-top would have given it a sense of presence that would have made it a head-turner. Sadly, those days are long behind it, and returning it to that state will be a significant undertaking. Most of you won’t be surprised to learn that there are some major rust issues to be tackled. The floors are particularly bad, and these will need replacement. The owner doesn’t supply any photos of the trunk pan, but there’s a good chance that it will be in a similar shape. However, the frame provides its share of good news. It wears a coating of surface corrosion, but it appears to be structurally sound. The panels sport plenty of dings and dents, but the owner has replaced the damaged driver’s side fender with a good secondhand panel since this photo was taken. There is also rust in all of the usual lower body extremities, so the buyer will be facing their share of cutting and welding. Some of the trim is beyond salvation, but most of the glass and the frame for the soft-top look okay.

Unfortunately, this is as close as we get to seeing the Pontiac’s engine. The owner also supplies no information, so we are flying blind on this one. It could be a 389ci V8, although we can’t rule out a 421 as a possibility. That means that there would be at least 256hp on tap when the motor is in good health. However, that figure could also be considerably higher. Even with the least powerful engine, the Catalina Convertible could offer respectable performance levels. Backed by the 3-speed Hydramatic transmission, it could cover the ¼ mile in 17.3 seconds. There are faster cars out there, but that V8 is dragging 4,105lbs, making the numbers look better than expected. The owner has no idea about the state of the engine, but he intends to investigate it and update his listing. If it turns freely, it might be possible to coax it back to life with minimal effort. It is worth remembering that given how involved this restoration is likely to be, the buyer will probably choose to pull the engine to restore the engine bay. Even if the motor is healthy, it will offer the opportunity to replace seals and gaskets as a precaution and detail the V8 within an inch of its life.

The Pontiac’s interior is consistent with the rest of the vehicle. It is complete, but it needs some significant work to be returned to its former glory. There isn’t an upholstered surface that won’t require replacement, while seat foam and carpet will also need to go onto the buyer’s wish list. There are no clear photos of the Catalina’s dash or pad, so we can only speculate on their state. I undertook a brief search for trim kits, and while I had no success finding a complete kit, I did manage to locate many of the pieces that the buyer will need. These included carpet at $220, door trims at $350 per set, and inner rear panels for $120 per pair. Seat covers will be the items that sting because these cost around $700 per set. However, it is always worth remembering that even though interior trim is not cheap, it does represent a one-off expense. Once an interior has been restored, it should last for decades if treated with respect. If you tackled this restoration, there’s a good chance that you will have enjoyed the ownership experience and moved the car on to a new owner before the trim requires another refresh.

There’s no denying that whipping this Catalina Convertible into shape will be a big job, and it will take a determined individual to achieve this. However, it is a classic that has generated a reasonable level of interest since it was listed for sale. Ninety-six people are currently watching the listing, which indicates that there could be a few people who like what they see. Is there enough in this Catalina to interest you, or is this one a bit too much for you to tackle?



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  1. Steve R

    From this and his other eBay listings, it looks like he recently cleared a field of rusty GM full size convertibles. This is priced more like a parts car than a project.

    Steve R

    Like 7
  2. Charles Sawka

    Friends, not all of them are worth saving. This one should have a DNR certificate.

    Like 5
  3. Rodney - GSM

    “…a car that appears to be complete.”
    Of course that does not include a roof in this case.

    Like 2
  4. Kenn

    Well no Rodney, this being a convertible and all.

    • Rodney - GSM

      Yes, a permanent convertible.

      Like 1

    Nobody with even half-a-brain would bother restoring this lost cause. And I’m the most psychotically optimistic restomod fiend out there. Scavenge whatever parts…crush the rest.

    Like 2
  6. Ragtop Man

    This one would be a parts car to harvest, but be forewarned: They are friggin huge. You need to have the room to keep it someplace. Would be a potential convertible donor for a HT, assuming you were a body man with a big shop and a pain streak.

    Like 1
  7. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    In one picture it looks like the left fender is hit then in another it looks straight.

    Did somebody do some work between one picture and another?

    This is giving me shivers as it looks like my ’65 Wildcat in the back yard. It reminds me of the work I am going to have to do on it.

  8. erik j

    I think it was mentioned of a fender replaced. This pontiac is rough and will need someone that has a love for these. I finaly found a buyer for my 66 pontiac 2+2 convert. Evan the guy that bought it didnt think it was a real 2+2 so he paid me a parts car price.(it was as rough as this one! and missing the 421) He called me a few weeks later and was thrilled to let me know it was a real one-so its now going to get fixed,or not a parts car. At least i saved it from getting junked. It is a fairly rare pontiac.

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