Convertible Drag Car: 1962 Pontiac Catalina

The terms “convertible” and “drag racing” don’t typically go together, as convertibles often lack the rigidity necessary for high-powered drag racing. Nobody told this Pontiac that! It has a custom traction bar welded to the differential, and peeling paint aside this Catalina looks ready to hit the strip. Know locally in northern Ohio for bracket racing in the ’60s and ’70s, this Catalina convertible has been parked for 50 years and only recently brought out into the light. Vintage race cars are always a point of interest, but something this unique is bound to find a buyer. Find it here on eBay in Ohio with bidding at $3,050 and no reserve. 

Strange looking air cleaner, isn’t it? That’s because there are three carburetors under there! Yep, this is a 389 Tri-Power. With a three-on-the-tree, this car must be quite the experience to drive! Imagining banging gears on the column in a car like this just sounds like an adventure. High-powered convertibles are my not so guilty pleasure, and this Pontiac really has my interest. The seller states that the car does not run and has not run since it was parked 50 years ago, however the engine is not seized. This is also not the original engine, as it is a 1963 389, but the seller believes the car was originally equipped with a 389 four-barrel.

Although something of a roll-cage has been installed (visible in rear seat photo in the listing), with modern drag racing safety standards in place this car will likely need some rigorous safety updates in order to run on the track again. Interestingly, the person who built this Pontiac into a drag car kept most of the interior in place, with only the radio and ashtray missing. The interior looks complete and new carpet and upholstery would go a long way to make this a nice little weekend cruiser! This Catalina was originally painted Belmar Red with tri-tone maroon interior, though it now wears most of a custom flake blue and gold.

Although the cool custom paint looks to be falling off, based on the description this car has a little bit of rust but it sounds like it could be worse. The seller parted out another Catalina convertible of the same vintage, and includes lots of parts that would be needed to make this car nice again. This could be a great starting point for something new. This car could be restored back to mostly original, restored to how it was as a drag car, or built into an all new drag car. No matter what the new owner decides to do with it, this is a cool car with some really neat history. At the very least it is a conversation starter! What would you do with it?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. rob b

    three on the tree ??? simple observation ..this car is an automatic 2 speed

    • Nrg8

      Seller also parted out a 63 convert that was an automatic. That is why the column and brake pedal are blue. But I’m assuming the 3 speed is still in place. Or at least has the set up to.

      Like 2
    • John Newell

      Why would a two speed automatic need a clutch pedal? That second pedal is clearly visible in the photo. Looks like a legit three in the tree to me. If the car were in park the gear selector is the wrong position.

      The photo attached is of a Rebel Machine I found in a storage yard under a number of porous tarps. It had been there so long the rims had sliced through the tires and bent. Even the trim rings are bent.

      It is still solid but for a few minor perforations. Not strictly a barn find still a forgotten diamond in the rough.

      Like 4
      • JCW Jr.

        Nice find John. I had a Machine in 74 only had 3500 mi on it as it was totaled then fixed and sat. Was a beast. Sold it to a buddy he still has it plus another.

        Like 3
    • Ryan

      Has 3 pedals !!!

  2. Todd Fitch Staff

    Man, I love this thing, Andrew. I like it just the way it sits, maybe not as an investment but it’s intriguing. I’ve gone in on a few mystery factor cars and there’s something cool about getting them running again, even though the guys with a perfect one in the garage will always say a finished car is a better investment. I’d have to make it safe and drive it (more or less) as-is for a while. It’s 10x more interesting that another perfectly restored one. But what do I know? I would have looked at the blue column and clutch pedal and seller’s description and assumed he knew what transmission was in it.

    Like 2
    • Andrew Tanner Member

      I think this would be a sweet ride! It would be a lot of fun to cruise in because chances are you won’t encounter anything like it! Three on the tree won’t be winning any races, but I love driving 3-speed column shifters just because of the odd looks you get from people (including unsuspecting passengers).

      Like 2
      • Todd Fitch Staff

        Maybe ten years ago I spotted an older fellow standing outside a 68? or so Toronado in a parking lot and asked if he needed a hand. He said he was just waiting for his son, but we asked about the car and he said it was one of 18? or so made with the 3-speed column shift. Never thought I’d see a clutch pedal on that monster. Pretty cool.

        Like 1
      • Marshall

        The last time I remember riding in a car with a three on the tree, Ford was president. 😎 (though the car was a {1963} Chevy, not a Ford)

        Like 1
  3. J Paul Member

    I would bring it (somewhat) back to stock, as this seems like it would be a better cruiser than a dragstrip warrior. Since it’s not nearly original, i wouldn’t feel bad adding some subtle modern upgrades and my choice of color.

    Like 1
  4. Bob

    I have always liked the styling of that year of Pontiac, and I would just make a good, safe, runner out of it. I think this is a gem in the rough.

    Like 1
  5. Steve R

    There is something not quite right about the car. Stock manifolds and a three on the tree running brackets in the 70’s seems odd. It’s almost like someone started converting it back to the street or was going to do something else to the car. If not, it’s possible the car was run in some sort of “stock” class in the 60’s and the three speed manual put it into a more advantageous class. The seller might be making up parts of the story, or a previous owner did and he’s just passing on what he was told.

    Steve R

    Like 1
    • Bob

      My guess is, that there was a lot more combining from the donor car than the owner wants to admit. Bracket racing is just a matter of dialing in a time and hope you don’t break out, so you are racing yourself more than anyone else. That was the idea of bracket racing, to allow the low buck guy a place to race.

      Like 3
      • Steve R

        I’ve bracket raced for years, you can’t launch that car or shift it consistently enough to be competitive. A three speed column shift would be the worst possible option to run brackets.

        Steve R

      • Bob

        I didn’t suggest that he was winning bracket races. Also, no headers.

      • Rocco

        Back before they had bracket racing, there was stock classes. F/S; G/S; L/SA; etc. I think this car was probably owned by Arlen Vankie in Akron,OH. Him and Oties Automotive(Speed Shop) were good friends. Arlen was famous for Poncho’s, such as the ’62 Lightwieght “Tin Indian”. This might’ve been one of his first Pont. race cars that got him noticed for sponsiorship with the “Tin”. I read recently that Arlen passed away. This might’ve been in his estate. I can’t remember anyone back in these days that could’ve won that many Dragway 42 class winner stickers in a 4K pound tank. But I don’t know everything. It just figures with Arlen passing recently. Arlen was a true racer. He was always in the loop to get factory race cars(’62 Lightwieght Pont.; Z-11; Z-16; even Hemi’s; etc). He knew all the factory big shots. True racers would change their car around for better ET’s. One week they could have a slush box, the next week a hook(stick). 3 speed, 4 speed, auto, whatever worked that week. They were always making changes, hoping to go faster. This car prabably came with a Slim Jim 4 speed auto, and changed to a stick later.

  6. redwagon

    For a ’62 from Ohio this one is in pretty good shape rust-wise. Body may be easy. If the motor truly isn’t frozen it may be a relatively easy project.

    Relative being the operative word here.

    Like 1
    • Angrymike

      That’s one of my top Pontiac’s, love it !

      Like 2
  7. Dave Member

    Love this car!

    Like 2
  8. Dennis M

    “Know locally in northern Ohio for bracket racing in the ’60s and ’70s”

    “has been parked for 50 years”

    Uh, not to pick nits, but 50 years ago was 1967. Just sayin’.

  9. Angrymike

    I really really like this car, this is my favorite body style, it’s the most beautiful style imho !If this was a lil closer to me, I’m a mile away lake Erie @ if it was a Saturday I’d go look.What a Awesome project !!!!I also have a place in my heart for Very, especially a tri-power 389 !Love it !!!!

    • Angrymike

      Wow, this baby looks clean, I want bad, to bad money is a problem at this time in my life. my first car was a Catalina too……..

  10. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Stupids….it’s it’s class – can you crasp that ? Three on the tree….was a winner…..when new…in the late 60’s…and now.

    Like 1
    • philthyphil

      if you look you can see the lettering,on the conv rear window …can ran in auto class back then,prob with different motor and trans then it has now

  11. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    Worth converting back into a smooth resto-modded boulevard cruiser.

    Like 1
    • Greg Member

      I agree. Restore it to a mighty fun cruiser!

      Like 1
  12. Jeepster

    Decal on the hood scoop is the first type design for Lunati – in the shape of Tennessee ! Cool

  13. al8apex

    Fyi

    Convertibles had a stiffer frame and sometimes a stiffer lower body to offset the lack of a rigid roof structure

    They were typically in a “slower” class due to their added weight

    The Red Alert Chevelle LS6 is one that comes to mind

    Like 1
  14. Dt 1

    A fast convertible nice

    Like 1
  15. Rustytech Member

    If it was raced in the 70’s it can’t possibly have been parked for 50 years, unless I been married longer than I thought! Why would anyone try to race with a 3on the tree. That was the slowest shifting mechanism ever produced. I love the 62 Poncho’s though, and the drop top only enhances the desirability. This looks like a good investment.

  16. Gasser Man

    It’s a 3 on the tree column. The gear indicator from the original automatic is still on the dash causing confusion. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s automatics were rare in drag cars because the lack of high stall torque converters. They didn’t launch well.
    3 speeds were cheaper and more plentiful than a 4 speed, and yes, column shift was common. You use to have to actually “drive” a race car. It took skill and a big set of nads!

    The 389 probably has a huge solid lift camshaft. Stock exhaust manifolds on Pontiac engines actually flowed quite well. This car could of well been a class racer that was limited to modifications that had to be production pieces.
    Neat car. Would love to hear it run.

    Like 2
  17. Bob

    Hey Rustytech,
    I’ve been married that long, and I promise you, you would know it! Just sayin’.
    Bob

  18. Gasser Man

    This car was a terror in the South during the 60’s. Originally a 327 small block, six 2 barrel carbs and a column shifted 3 speed.
    Its still running a stock front suspension with drum brakes, but with a stroked small block and a power glide now. The original owner and driver is 86 years old and getting the job done!

    Like 1
    • Rocco

      Isn’t “Big Iron” out of Pensacola,FL or Mobil,AL area? Does he race with the Southern Gassers? I’ve seen this car at the “Old Drag Racers Reunion” in Panama City, FL and Atmore,AL at the Gasser races.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      86! The man is a hero!

      Like 2
  19. Keith

    I gotta say, I think this is one of the coolest cars I have seen here! It is just different enough. I would fix the rust issues, probably repaint it in the blue/gold, keep all of the stickers and the rollbar, make it safe and enjoy actually having something no one else has!

    Like 1
  20. Bobby

    It looks to me like the carpet over the transmission tunnel was cut at one time. Maybe it had a four speed if and when it was raced. You’d be surprised what some people race and some hot shoe that dragged race back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s probably could shift the three on the tree faster than a lot of people shifting a four speed on the floor.

    Like 1
  21. Marshall

    If that were mine, I would want to debominate (restore back to original) it. Except for one thing, if that was a famous racecar back in the day, then that would ruin it’s historical value. In which case, I would instead want to restore it to its former racing glory days splendor. In either case, I would always want to replace as few parts as absolutely necessary, with only safety trumping originality(within reason). Example, if it originally came with a single chamber master cylinder, I would replace it with the dual chamber master cylinder. But I would not install airbags.

    Like 1
  22. Rustytech Member

    Hey Bob. I hope your wife doesn’t read barn finds, you might be sleeping in you car tonight! Just kidding. But my point still stands, count back 50 years and you land on 1967, not the 70’s

  23. PAPERBKWRITER

    This street fighter needs to live again.

    Like 1
    • Rocco

      I’m not a big fan of ‘verts, but I agree it needs to live again.

      Like 1
  24. Bob

    Hey Rustytech, Yeah, she will occasionally read this stuff, but living dangerously is what keeps the relationship alive. I am comfortable sleeping in my car for a principal ( not physically comfortable, ’cause I’m old and busted).
    Aside from the math and all the other little points, I would still like that car.
    Bob

  25. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Probably kept things cooler inside if the driver wanted to drop the top while waiting for the Christmas tree lights to go green. But I would guess there were other regs preventing drivers from going topless.

  26. DAVID KIRSCHNICK Member

    Still looking for 65 ‘ pontiac A-body station wagon, any eyes on info or a car please call . 773-988-8239 dave

  27. James Balke

    I want to clear up a few things about this car. I bought it. Since then, I gave gotten a good deal of history that explains why it is the way it is. The car was taken apart completely in 63 and modified into a race car. That owner is still alive and I talked to him. He raced from 64-74 when he blew up the engine and gave up on racing. He sold off the speed parts and put away the rolling body. In the same town, owner 2 had a 62 vert (turquoise)bought new. He had it in a shed retired until his boy turned 15 (1977). Upon pulling the car out in the light, he realized the car had rusted to the ground. He, then, contacted the drag car owner and bought his body. Otie’s prepped the 389 for owner 2 and the plan was to make this his boy’s 1st car. That explains why it has stock manifolds and 3 on tree. The car was never finished and was put in the back of a 4 car garage. The boy ended up getting a 77 Trans-Am. The car sat untouched in that garage from 77 until I got it in August 2017. I now have it running and drivable. My plans are to keep it preserved as much as I can leaving the car mostly as found. I am in S.W.Ohio.

    Like 2

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