Although factory racing had been effectively banned starting in 1957, Pontiac’s late ‘50s and early ‘60s revamping included racing as a major component and the 1962 Catalina was a big part of that move. In the late ‘50s General Motors’ Pontiac brand began to feel a little old and tired. The cars were big, boring, and slow and not many young people were interested in them.
Pontiac engineers made a turnaround of the brand by ignoring the racing ban and creating parts and packages that helped Pontiac models succeed in NHRA and NASCAR racing. The 1962 Catalina was a prime example of Pontiac’s cars that could be outfitted for racing and which helped to bring the cool back to the brand.
The 1962 Catalina had its origins in the label that designated hardtop Pontiacs from 1950 to 1958 including the Chieftain series. By 1959, Pontiac dropped the Chieftain name and stuck with simply Catalina. This became the line of full-sized, entry-level models.
The 1962 Catalina belongs to the second generation of the label which lasted from 1961 to 1964. For the second go around, the Catalinas were totally restyled including a slightly shorter wheelbase, a squared off roof line and body line, and a roomier interior. The base engine, a 389-cubic inch V8, carried over from the first into the second generation.
Introduced in 1961 and continued in the 1962 Catalina was the option of a larger 421-cubic inch Super Duty V8 engine. It was the largest engine offered at the time and generated between 373 and 405 horsepower. In addition to the race-ready engine, the 1962 Catalina could be purchased with a lighter frame, aluminum front-end body clips, and aluminum exhaust manifolds, which were designed only for quarter mile racing.
As one of the earliest models of the muscle car era, the 1962 Catalina 421 Super Duty was one of the most successful as well. It was fast, powerful, and cool, and it put Pontiac back on the map for young buyers.