Modern Day Moonshiner? 1961 Pontiac Catalina Convertible

David FrankBy David Frank

Here’s a puzzling Pontic for you. Reader Ikey H found this droptop listed here on eBay. It looks normal, right? Well… It has a few secrets, like an extra gas tank in the trunk and an extra set of coil springs inside the stock springs. It’s also has a 3-speed manual transmission, Saf-t-Trac rear end, and no power steering or brakes. The engine is the optional 4 barrel 303 horsepower version of the 389. Then there’s the removable hardtop. This was the early sixties and the original owner made lots of trips from Colorado to California. That leaves a lot to the imagination. As I recall, convertibles of the day were built stouter and stiffer to accommodate the extra weight and lack of a top. Could the heavier suspension be the reason the original wanted a convertible? There are lots of things one could haul from Colorado to California or California to Colorado for fun and profit. The original owner only kept this car for about a year. The seller has done the necessary mechanical work to get this running and driving.

I don’t know what they were thinking, but that top is certainly ungainly. That is one broad “C” pillar and tiny rear window. No wonder these tops are rare.

The interior looks like it could use new carpet and the front seats need recovering. With a little work, it could be a comfortable enough for long drives.

It’s a mess under the hood. Underhood patina is not yet in fashion. The heavy-duty air cleaner is definitely an interesting feature and leaves you wondering where the original owner was taking this car that they needed such heavy-duty components.

The top bows and mechanism are all there and it works. The top material was removed because it was crunchy and stiff.

The floors look solid from this side, at least in better shape than those mufflers.

Hopefully, the rust in the quarters isn’t too extensive. This is the first time I have seen rust blamed on mouse urine.

With an opening bid of $8,500, the reserve has not been met. It would seem the seller is overly optimistic about how much someone will be willing to pay for this droptop. It will be interesting to see what theories you might have about this Catalina. For the right price, it might make a nice driver without too much work.

Like This? Get Our Daily Email!

Comments

  1. DerekF

    Perhaps the extra rear springs are there to support that heinous hardtop- it looks like it weighs a thousand pounds, and I bet it’s a fun one to remove and store!

    6
  2. No money momma

    Who knows but looks decent !
    It probably just was stiffened to pukka trailer in the past.

    I bet it’s a crazy reserve in hopes of a sale of a lifetime 😎😇

    3
  3. Steve

    I always loved the 8 lug wheels…..

    7
  4. PatrickM

    Yeah, owner is gonna hafta come down on price. Plus, if I could get it, I would begin an immediate search for a 421, 2-4. barrels and a 5 spd manual, plus all the required safety features. Repair body, repaint same color and keep it until I die. Then, my son can have it.

    6
  5. flmikey

    According to the seller, the hardtop is extremely rare…and will fit any full size GM in 61 and 62…so my plan would be to sell that top to finance the re-conditioning this car so truly needs and deserves…great story and find!

    12
    • Redwagon

      Best idea I’ve heard all day

      3
  6. Jubjub

    The hardtop isn’t the most attractive thing but it is pretty cool. Never seen one.

    8
    • Alan Blanes

      I have never seen one of these detachable hardtops – but it is hardly “ungainly” or “not the most attractive”….I see it as an amazingly nice feature.

      11
  7. Maestro1

    This is probably my favorite Pontiac design year, especially the Catalina Ventura Bubbletops. I have to pass on this; I have a requirement for Automatic Transmissions and some other comfort items. Advancing Age……..

    12
  8. Mountainwoodie

    Probably installed the tank for long trips. I don’t think there was much of a financial incentive to run booze from Colorado to Cali. 🙂

    The hardtop is a very cool extra…maybe it’s fiberglass and relatively light.

    I had a ’61 a very long time ago…airport limo converted to mountain man living quarters. I think Ive put it on here before but here it is again.

    Love these Ponchos…..have to get another one again

    11
    • Jack

      In the 60’s Coors wasn’t available in all states and could be sold at a nice profit. Been there done that as I’m sure a lot of us of that age did.

      10
      • Mountainwoodie

        True….didnt consider that someone was running Coors to California. LOL….always thought it tasted like water….never understood the appeal……of course at that time I was drinking Near Beer as I wasnt 21 lol

        1
      • Eric G

        When I was young you couldn’t get Coors in Oregon

  9. Bill S

    Very rare,and cool car! My dad had one when I was a kid,he traded his1957 Ford Skyliner for it… although many times he told my brother and I that he wished he would have never gotten rid of the Ford,he hated the fact there was no room in the Ford when the hardtop was down…

    3
  10. BOP Guy Member

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this up for sale. He/she’s been “optimistically” trying to sell this for a while! It’s somewhat rare that you’d find a Cat with a stick, so that’s cool. The 389 and 421 engines were the same blocks, so it could always be bored out and built to 421 specs. That top would have to go, if it were mine! Like others said, I bet it weighs a ton, and is ugly as hell. I’d agree with selling it, but what owners of 61-62 GM full-size convertibles would even be looking for one to purchase?! I’m sure there’s somebody out there, one’s born every minute. The car should be saved, but certainly needs a lot of weekends to get her perty. Must have some big rats in Denver to cause all that rust ! Parts are very plentiful, so I hope someone saves her. Adding power steering and a brake booster wouldn’t be tough. Maybe the heavy duty rear springs are for the extra weight of a full gas tank in the trunk, and he drove to Cali and back regularly to see his Mom? Could be something that simple?

    5
    • 70kingswood

      power brakes would be easy may as well make them discs at least in front, but can you retain the eight lugs? power steering however was a complicated system in those years with a slave cylinder and a valve that sensed movement of the steering wheel. maybe a 605 style box will bolt in? neat car!

      2
      • Miguel

        Don’t they make electric steering columns for these old cars now?

      • George

        No power steering that’s made for them. But I’ve heard that retrofitting a Toyota electric power steering setup from late model cars works well since there is no plumbing and few size issues.

  11. Wayne

    I love this vintage of Pontiac also. (To all those that do, a must see is Bill’s Backyard Cars in Amarillo Texas. He is the total Pontiac freak!)
    I would be very surprised if this did not end up at Bill’s Backyard Cars. It would fit right in.
    I agree 100% with PatrickM

    3
  12. Denis Flaherty

    I like the car…more power and a 4 spd…lose the hardtop. It’s fixable and would be kool but we are a ways apart on $$…

    2
  13. Beatnik Bedouin

    Interesting find. The springs may have been installed to handle the second fuel tank, but it would have been easier to just install heavy-duty station wagon springs – I’ve done the latter many times, and coincidentally, mostly on Ponchos.

    BOP Guy has the right idea as to what to do with it – actually, I’m surprised that it didn’t already have a 421/Tri-Power under the hood. I did dig the po’ boy, low-restriction air cleaner mod.

    A new convertible top, restored body and chassis and somebody would have a quick, fun car to wow the troops with…

    3
  14. Rustytech

    I wouldn’t do anything but restore it as a convertible, sell the top to someone that would appreciate it. The 389 has plenty of power to move this around, and if it’s #’s matching it’s probably more valuable if it’s left alone.

    5
  15. Dirk

    Original owner probably a mob hitman. HD springs to support the weight of bodies and for better handling on rough dirt and gravel roads. Extra tank for making non-stop long distance runs to his dumping ground up in the Colorado mountains. Custom top probably bullet proof Kevlar.

    8
    • glen

      You, sir, have nailed it! Nothing else makes sense.
      Seriously, it looks really good with the top down.
      I have no clue about travelling between California and Colorado, but I guess 2 tanks is better than running out of gas in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.

      3
      • Mark-A

        Especially when you have a trunk full of Bodies!

        1
  16. Miguel

    The 1961 is a very rare car as not many were made that year.

    As I understand it, the auto workers were on strike that year so not many got made.

    This is one where I see the price as being in line for how rare this car is.

    4
  17. BOP Guy Member

    I didn’t realize that. Looked it up and only 113,000 total made that year. Only 6000 were manual transmission. And only 12,000 convertibles. Production numbers were double that in 1962. Probably not many 61 convertible/sticks left out there.

    3
    • WQ59B

      1961 calendar year US production was 340,248, good for the #5 spot. 113K is just Catalinas- less than the surrounding years but not what most would call ‘rare’.

  18. GearHead Engineering

    I like it! The hard top is cool, and I have never seen one like it. I would restore it to original. I think it’s very cool as is. I would probably remove the extra fuel tank to gain the trunk space. Keep in mind this thing only gets about 10mpg, so that extra range would be helpful out west.

    For what it’s worth, I understand the mouse pee comment. I have seen where continuously soaked mouse nests have caused serious rot.

    Not sure on the price. It’s more than I would pay but I’m pretty cheap. But you don’t see these very often and it is unusually equipped. So if you really want one, this might be worth it.

    – John

    4
  19. Oncle Paul

    Do a search for “Carson Tops” to find out about removable hard tops.

    4
  20. Johnmloghry

    I only know of one other G.M. Car that had a removable hardtop. I always thought it was custom but maybe not. It was a 50 Chevy owned by a neighbor about a mile down the road from our farm. I was just a child but my best friend’s mom owned the car. It had latches just like a regular convertible. Never seen another one.

    3
  21. craig m bryda

    I had a kid sister that went to college in New Mexico in 1971. On my vacation visits to her I had a taste of COORS & really liked it so when I left to come home to N. Y. I loaded up the back of my van with 10 cases of COORS. It wasnt sold east of the Mississippi River. Somebody told me that it had to be in constant refrigeration because it wasnt homoginized and could spoil. I never tasted any difference and wished I would have imported more then 10 cases. AHHH , THE GOOD OLD DAYS !

    4
  22. Jim

    Reminds me of the 61′ Pont Convert my father had. I took my road test in it in 1970. It was my fathers work car & a lot better then this one. Wish I had a better photo.

    4
    • Alan Blanes

      I have always found the 61 Pontiacs to be one of the most sophisticated and beautiful of the 1960s cars. I hope that the one that is up for sale is turned into a fantastic restomod, with orthopedic seats, and fully updated electronics, brakes, steering, and suspension.

      1
  23. Ron

    Pardon my curiosity Mountainwoodie, while I admire it and love both Pontiacs and Buicks, but your car appears to be a 61 Buick

    4
    • Mountainwoodie

      Ron.

      Jeez! I AM getting old..that was 1972 in Frisco Colorado…………yes it was a Buick……….my apologies to all…I got so excited I fished out that picture without taking the time to think it through……….WOW!

      Again mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa……though I also had a ’63 rope drive Le Mans !

      2
  24. jw454

    I’ve only seen a removable hardtop once before on a 1963 Impala. I worked for a towing company in the early seventies. It was towed into the lot for being abandoned / illegally parked. The top on that one looked just like the 62~64 GM full size two door hard top. The top was fiberglass. It fit very well and had a glass rear window and stainless trim just like a hard top car. It was never claimed and was sent to the shredder after 90 days.
    That’s the only one I ever saw until today.

    2
  25. Bill Shields

    I do think there is an air of mystery to this beautiful blue beast.
    1) even in the sixties I’d question how many people in Colorado would buy a convertible to start with and then throw what was probably an expensive hardtop on it.
    2) with the options it was definitely built to be a fast runner
    3) the original owner spent the time and effort to set it up this way and got rid of it after a year? Maybe he didn’t get rid of it, it was taken by maybe the Feds?

    If it was mine I’d want to dig for the backstory before I made any decisions on how to redo it.
    There’s definitely a story there!😎

    2
    • George

      It can get pretty damn cold in a convertible in winter. Especially in the rear seat.

  26. Bill Shields

    Maybe as somebody mentioned above it was involved in running Coors!
    Who’d think of a beefed up Pontiac running blocker for an illegal truckload of booze?😜

    2
  27. Derek

    In 1998 I had a 1962 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible. Car was built like a tank, had a smooth ride and great cornering. Pontiac made some great cars back then. It had factory AC and power windows. The only thing I hated were those god awful automatic transmissions. It is a shame GM had no good tranny until the 1964 Turbo 350 or 400.

  28. Ron

    LOL that is great, welcome to Seniors are us I am 72 and fully appreciate the position no worry a 61 Buick was a great car too and unlike one other comment, the Buicks had great Trannies, because the Pontiacs through 64 that had the old Slim Jims were terrible, I know had a 64 that they rebuilt 3 times before they gave up and put a new one in, Had a 59 that was never trouble and many buicks that were great. Hey just be glad we can still remember these cars and enjoy Barn finds

    1
    • Derek

      The shiftless tranny in the Buick’s were good not great on gas but at least unlike the Pontiac built well. The slim jims in the Pontiac and Olds cars were awful. I had a 62 Olds that you feel the gear rev up and then suddenly drop into third gear. Horrendous tranny. The Chev had the decent powerglide and the Buick had the Dynaflow which was ok but took a lot of gas to get the car moving.

  29. Patty

    I had a 64 Pontiac Catalina, back around 1975. I loved that car but it was rusted out pretty bad. My dad told me a story about someone who taped aluminum foil over some body rot to pass the inspection. I did the same thing just to see if it would work and painted over the foil. Unbelievable, the mechanic passed it. I would have never believed that in a million years.

    1
  30. John

    When I was a state inspection mechanic in the 1970s we would often paste heavy foil patches over non-structural rust holes (as long as they weren’t more than a few inches across) if the owner didn’t want to pay for proper repair (new metal) or hack-job bondo patches. We did go through a lot of bondo, though! And we then got to replace that bondo at the next inspection (6 months, at that time) as the hole grew!

    Pennsylvania is much more lenient towards rust today, as long as it isn’t at a spot that could injure a pedestrian or let exhaust into the passenger compartment. We also get to go 12 months between inspections now!

  31. leiniedude Member

    Well, at least the story continues. Ended: Apr 16, 2018 , 9:30PM
    Winning bid:US $8,500.00
    [ 1 bid ]

  32. George

    Considering the gas mileage and the stretches of desert between CO and CA, it may have simply been to cut down on gas stops. Adding an extra 150# of gas, and who knows how much for the top would necessitate the extra springs.

    1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.