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Thread: Pontiac Catalina (1st gen) 1959-1960

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    Pontiac Catalina (1st gen) 1959-1960

    The Pontiac Catalina is an automobile which was part of Pontiac's full-sized line from 1950 to 1981. Initially, the name was used strictly to denote hardtop body styles, first appearing in the 1950 Chieftain Eight and DeLuxe Eight lines. In 1959, the Catalina became a separate model, as the "entry-level" full-size Pontiac.

    Early history (19501958)
    The name "Catalina" was first used on the 1950 Chieftain Series 25/27 hardtop, Pontiac's top trim level package at the time, and later added to the Star Chief in 1954, Pontiac's equivalent of the Chevrolet Bel Air. Originally referred to as "hard-top convertibles", these vehicles offered pillarless design in the door and window areas, along with the top-grade convertible appointments. The advantage this fixed-roof design offered is its sporty, airy feeling without the expense and drawbacks normally associated with convertibles. With the exception of the 1958 Bonneville, all Pontiac hardtops are designated "Catalinas" from 1950 to 1958. Powered by a flathead straight-eight engine at the time of its debut, it would receive Pontiac's new 287 CID OHV V8 four years later. A one-piece windshield was new for 1954. A padded safety dash became available in 1956.

    First generation (1959-1960)
    For 1959, Pontiac dropped the name "Chieftain" and "Super Chief" models for its entry level model and renamed it "Catalina", while demoting the former top-line Star Chief to mid-line status eliminating the two door StarChief Catalina, the only hardtop for the StarChief was the four door hardtop and expanding the Bonneville nameplate to a full flagship series that included sedans, coupes, convertibles and Safari station wagons.

    In the lower-priced Catalina line, Pontiac division advertising placed higher emphasis on the top trimmed two- and four-door hardtops, convertible and Safari station wagons instead of the pillared two- and four-door sedan variants despite the fact that the four-door sedan was the best seller in this line.

    The Catalina, though it was the lowest-priced full-sized Pontiac, was priced and trimmed below the Chevrolet Impala due to GM's overlapping price structure formula only a step below the Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile 88 in trim and appointments but priced about $100 to $200 less. Catalinas also came standard with more amenities than Chevrolet models and included a larger and more powerful V8 engine of 389 cubic inches, compared to the Chevy's six-cylinder or 283 and 348 cubic-inch V8s. Pontiacs also benefited from a much better automatic transmission than their Chevrolet counterparts - the four-speed Hydra-Matic - versus the Chevy's two-speed Powerglide.

    Though the basic Catalina started out with a full rubber mat, it could be ordered with full carpeting, glovebox and trunk lights; dual front ashtrays, cigar lighter, glove compartment snack bar (two cup indents on the glovebox door that could be opened for use at drive-in restaurants) were standard, heater-defroster and a choice of cloth and Morrokide vinyl upholstery or expanded Morrokide (all-vinyl trim) optional. Pontiac buyers could add even more trimmings for a few dollars more by ordering the "decor group" which added full wheel covers, deluxe steering wheel, chrome pedal trim plates and more. Also offered from 1962 to 1970 on most Catalina models was the Ventura custom interior (which was a separate model from 1960 to 1961), which included the interior and exterior upgrades offered with the extra-cost decor group option plus a slightly more luxurious interior of cloth or Morrokide trims similar to the costlier Pontiac Star Chief or Executive depending on the year.

    Catalinas and other 1959 Pontiacs were completely restyled on a new General Motors B-body that was shared by all GM divisions from Chevrolet to Cadillac, replacing the previous A-body utilized for Pontiacs and Chevrolets that was used only for 1958. Twin tailfins, two on each side, were new and only in 1959. Styling highlights include thin-pillar rooflines and greater use of glass for increased visibility. Pillared four-door sedans feature six-window styling, while two-door hardtops were dubbed "bubbletops" due to the large wraparound bubble windshield and thin c-pillar and large rear window; four-door hardtops featured flat-blade rooflines with an overhang past the rear window. Wheelbases were 122" for Catalina and 124" for StarChief and Bonneville inches, but overall length on Catalina was 7" shorter than Bonneville and StarChief at 213.7 inches (5,430 mm).

    The 1959 Pontiacs featured a "split grille", which came about by accident when the styling studio were exploring grille design. Experimentally, a design for a conventional, full width, oval grille, containing horizontal quad headlights, was cut in two and the halves transposed. With the lights remaining at the extremities, this gave the split center, open ended look of the '59 Catalina. Along with the wider body came a 5" wider chassis in which the wheels were moved out towards the fenders. This not only improved the appearance of the car but led to improvements in ride and handling - spawning the term "wide track" ride and handling which Pontiac would use in its promotional efforts for many years to come.

    All Pontiacs were powered by various renditions of the new 389 cubic-inch Tempest V8 (which was later renamed from 1961 as the Trophy V-8), which was basically a version of the previous 370 cubic-inch V8 with stroke increased to 3.75 inches (the 370ci was used in 1958-model Pontiacs and based on the Pontiac V8 design introduced in 1955). Catalinas came standard with a 235 horsepower (175 kW) version of the 389 with two-barrel carburetor and 8.6 to 1 compression mated to the three-speed manual transmission. When the optional four-speed Hydramatic transmission was ordered, the standard engine was 280 horsepower (210 kW) version of the same engine with higher 10.5 to 1 compression ratio. Available as a no-cost option with the Hydramatic transmission was the 215-horsepower 389 (dubbed the Economy V8) with 8.6 to 1 compression ratio which burned cheaper regular gasoline, instead of the premium and super-premium fuels required for the high-compression engines, and capable of achieving more than 20 MPG on the highway. Optionally available at extra cost were higher-power versions of the 389 V8 with four-barrel carburetion rated at 283 horsepower (211 kW) with manual gearbox or 303hp with Hydramatic, a 4-barrel carburetor version with a horsepower rating of 318hp, or "Tri-Power" options with triple two-barrel carburetors and 330hp or 345 hp (257 kW).

    For 1960, Catalina and other Pontiacs received a minor facelifting of the '59 bodyshell with a new full-width horizontal bar grille similar to the 1930s Cord 810/812 replacing 1959's split grille (for this year only-the split grille returned in 1961) and round taillights. Bodystyles and drivetrain offerings were unchanged from 1959. New to the option list was a "Sportable Transistor" radio that could be used in the car in place of the regular "in-dash" radio or removed from the car for use as a portable with battery power. Also new for 1960 were the optional "eight lug" aluminum wheels with integral brake drums that not only enhanced the car's looks but also provided improved stopping power. Another popular option for performance enthusiasts was the "Safe-T-Track" limited slip differential. In the suspension department the front track was increased from the 59's 63⅞" to 64". In the engine compartment the so-called "gusher type" cooling system (with cooling liquid entering the engine over the exhaust valves, reverse of what is more normally done) was replaced by the so-called "Equa-flow" type (with conventional V-8 cooling configuration). Turn signals were standard, while the A/C was $430 and padded dash was $19. Inside, a revised instrument panel featured a new horizontal sweep speedometer along with minor changes in trim patterns.

    Source: Wikipedia

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