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Unfinished: 1959 Pontiac Catalina “Custom” Pickup Project

I always admire people who take on a custom project, because they can see something special and distinctive in their mind’s eye. They often want people to recognize their creation as something distinctive and different. At the same time, many of them want people to look at the fruits of their labor, and to ask why a particular manufacturer didn’t build a vehicle like theirs. Maybe that was the motivation behind to construction of this 1959 Pontiac Catalina Pickup, but it is a vehicle of unfulfilled promise. If it appeals to your sense of taste and adventure, you will find the Pontiac located around Marsing, Idaho, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. If this is a project that you wish to take on, then hand the owner $1,000, and it’s all yours.

As you can see from this photo (which I believe may be an earlier shot of the vehicle), this Pontiac started life as a station wagon. The top has been cut off just rear of the front seats to transform the vehicle into a pickup. I think that the first photo is more recent, because you can see that the rear doors appear to have been welded closed, and rear pillars for the cab area have been fabricated. There is also a rear window fitted as well. The frustrating thing about this project is that we only get the three photos, and none of them are particularly clear. It does appear as though there will be a fair way to go before the Pontiac is even close to completion. The other thing that I would be investigating is how structurally sound the vehicle now is with so much of the top removed. The last thing that you would want is to turn the Pontiac over and to find the top collapsing around your ears. That’s an experience that is guaranteed to ruin your day.

Powering the Pontiac is a 403ci V8 that began its life in an Oldsmobile. The transmission is an automatic. Beyond that, we are completely in the dark. It isn’t clear whether the engine runs, or whether the car even drives. One thing that I will say is that with the amount of metal that has been removed from the Pontiac, it would now be significantly lighter than when it rolled off the line. Therefore, if it does run and drive, the combination certainly promises lively performance. All it needs now is for someone to grab a handful of “brave pills,” a fist-full of cash, and see this project through to completion. Will that person be you?


  1. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    El CamiNO.

    Like 17
    • OhU8one2

      Great idea, but the bed is too short. Couldn’t haul a sheet of plywood. Wouldn’t work for me.

      Like 3
    • Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

      El CrapiNO.

      Like 6
  2. local_sheriff

    I think this is actually a rather sad sight – there has been built a couple 59 ‘El Catalina’s before (actually Pontiac created a prototype themselves) that looks just like what Pontiac could’ve offered in the Elky market segment. The project featured here has such a short WB this one seems more like a Falcon-based Ranchero than any Elky and with a horrible C-pillar/backlight arrangement.

    It could’ve been a nicely done El Catalina – sadly, the final result at this stage is just another ruined ’59 longroof

    Like 7
  3. KKW

    Never heard of a 403 in anything, let alone an Oldsmobile.

    Like 0
    • Ian C

      Late 70’s TransAm’s were a common dumping place for them. Unless you were lucky enough to get a Pontiac with a Pontiac engine.

      Like 3
    • Bob C.

      They were shared between Oldsmobiles, Buicks, and Pontiacs between 1977 and 79. Pretty much a station wagon engine with a mere 185 horsepower.

      Like 0
      • Stu L.

        200hp when installed in Toronados. Less restrictive exhaust manifolds, among other improvements. Bolts right in where a 260 resides…:D

        Like 0
  4. Fred W

    Good way to be laughed at behind your back at any cruise in.

    Like 1

    This is a photo of my 1979 Lincoln Town Coupe conversion. (please laugh BEHIND my back) I believe with any car to truck conversion you should start with a 2 door otherwise the proportions just don’t make it. This Pontiac should have stayed a wagon. P.S. mine was an already cut up abandoned project.

    Like 19
    • mikestuff

      There was a Lincoln pickup that used to show up in car shows when I lived in Las Vegas (until 2015). It was well done but the proportions were odd. Good work on your part.

      Like 4
  6. Will Fox

    Home-made back yard projects seldom come out as intended; this one’s no exception. There was only ONE `59 Pontiac pickup (actually two, but only one was found & restored.) Sorry, but the factory prototype is still the standard; not this mess.

    Like 5
  7. Gaspumpchas

    The one shot of the side view hurts my feeble head. Like Jack says, the proportioning is way off, and possibly , like jack also said, if you had started with a 2 door it would work. Idea is good, execution not good. save your grand.
    all IMHO.

    Like 6
  8. JimZ Member

    Had to show off my 1974 Eldo-Camino again. I do like JackinNWPA’s Lincoln Town Coupe conversion, very classy! Thinking about giving my girl the ‘Flag’ treatment seen here a while back.

    Like 8
  9. Philip Bregar

    I don’t know why it looks so short? 59 Poncho’s were one of the largest cars of that year. I’ve got a 58 Chevy Yeoman 2 door, and mentioned to a friend once that I wouldn’t mind making a 58 Camino. He said you would have to start with a 4 door so the doors would look like a Camino’s doors; 2 door would be too long a door.

    Like 0
    • local_sheriff

      Turning your rare Yeoman into a UTE is nothing you ought to take upon unless you have outstanding fabrication skills and artistic flair.Sadly this one was obviously shortened while they were at it.

      Pontiac built their prototype starting out with a Catalina wagon and El Camino. The inner structure of the bed and cab came off the Elky and was fitted to the Cat frame followed by outer sheetmetal being ‘adjusted’ to the hybrid.

      Now it gets complicated,’cuz 59 Poncho wagons has a 122 inch WB while the Elky 119, overall length of an Elky is 210.9 opposed to the 213.7 Cat(HT, don’t know if that goes for Safari also?).

      There are several proportionate issues to be solved for such a marriage to look right. Given both 59/60 Elkys and 59 Safaris are now high $ vehicles one should know his skills before breaking out the angle grinder…

      Like 0
  10. PatrickM

    Oh, my word!! You did not do this to a ’59 Pontiac!! I really do not like car-to-truck conversions. And this one is one I like the least.

    Like 1
  11. Rodney - GSM

    A 1959 Pontiac Stubby. A car no one asked for, even in 1959…

    Like 3
  12. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Tough crowd – guess they buy their cars turn key. Nice build of what might have been a crushed wagon – yes it looks shortened – but the proportions aren’t off that bad…needs to be finished and put on the road !

    Like 2
  13. Rube Goldberg Member

    Just like the models, “build it 1 of 3 ways”,,aw, come on, good ol’ boy fun. Just an old Poncho wagon that wasn’t too cherry to begin with. Ok, maybe a swing and a miss, but I bet a bunch of friends tipped a few, got away from the old ladies and had fun, nothing wrong with that. ( cue Tim Taylor grunt)

    Like 4
  14. Del

    Another Barn Finds nightmare

    Like 0
  15. TimM

    Scrap heap!!!

    Like 0

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