January 15th through 19th, 2014!
Join these great Featured Consignments at the most unique auction experience ever created: Auction In The Round!
These Showcase Feature Consignments are just a sampling of the many great cars that will join over 750 others to be sold in Scottsdale this January! Check back weekly as these Feature Consignments will rotate and be updated with additional great cars. Prior to the Flagship Russo and Steele Auction, full listings of all the consignments will be posted and also available on our Digital Auction Catalog.
Appointed general manager in 1956 with a mandate to either “fix or kill off” Pontiac, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and engineers Pete Estes and John DeLorean immediately transformed the GM division into the brand of choice for America’s fast-growing and speed-hungry youth market. Success came swiftly and from this point, Pontiac climbed to third place in the sales standings by 1962, a position it held until 1969.
NASCAR and drag racing successes soon followed, and the AMA’s self-imposed racing ban of 1957 was defiantly ignored. Pontiac buyers soon reaped the rewards with such unforgettable road cars as the 1957 Bonneville convertible and the 1959 “Wide-Track” models. The growing popularity of drag racing spurred the release of the full-size Catalina Super Stock drag racing car in late 1961, with the 368-horsepower Super Duty 389 V-8 at its heart. While initially dealer-installed, the SD 389 and the later SD 421 became factory options for 1962 in line with new NHRA requirements, making it possible for buyers to buy a race-ready Poncho right off the showroom floor!
Stiff competition from Chevrolet’s 409 and later Z-11 cars and Ford’s 406 Galaxie threatened Pontiac’s dragstrip dominance. The Catalina’s weight was a major liability and John DeLorean proposed radical mods for the 1963 season. Accordingly, 14 Catalinas (12 finished in color code 3A “Special” Frost Silver and two color code DDA Silvermist Gray) were plucked from the assembly line, with all sound deadener and insulation removed along with one inside section of the frame. In addition, some 120 round holes drilled into the sides of the frame rails gave rise to the “Swiss Cheese” nickname. Notably, the cars’ frames were perforated at the Pontiac assembly plant, and not by an outside contractor.
In addition, the Catalina’s front sway bar was eliminated and aluminum was utilized for the bellhousing and rear-axle center section, as well as the hood, inner and outer fenders, splash pan, radiator supports, bumpers and associated brackets. Plexiglas windows and aluminum exhaust manifolds with cutouts were also available. The “Swiss Cheese” cars were equipped with the top SD 421 engine featuring 12.5:1 compression, Mickey Thompson pistons, a McKellar #10 cam, lightweight valves, high-flow cylinder heads, dual Carter AFB carbs, a special aluminum intake manifold, heavy-duty internals, and a lightweight flywheel. A heavy-duty Borg-Warner 3-speed manual transmission (with 2.10:1 first gear to prevent excessive driveline shock at launch) with aluminum tail housing and an aluminum center section for the 4.33:1 Safe-T-Track rear end rounded out the stout driveline. Altogether, these extensive modifications saved approximately 425 pounds and as completed, the “Swiss Cheese” Catalinas clocked low 12-second ETs at about 115 mph.
This example is one of the 14 “Swiss Cheese” lightweights built by Pontiac and one of the 12 originally finished in Frost Silver. Pontiac stalwart Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick tested it but since he had already received his own car, which became known as the “Passionate Poncho”, the “Swiss Cheese” Catalina offered here was instead delivered new to Wilmington, Delaware’s Union Park Pontiac. During 1963, Union Park salesman Harold Ramsey raced it in Super Stock to great effect against such well-known Mopar rivals as Bobby Harrop’s “Flying Carpet” and Bud Faubel’s “The Honker”. Next, Ramsey altered the wheelbase and raced the Catalina in the outrageous A/Factory Experimental (A/FX) class, the forerunner to today’s Funny Cars. In May 1965, Ramsey broke the 9-second barrier with the (A/FX) Catalina to great fanfare, achieving a blistering low ET of 8.91 seconds at 148.00 mph. In the late 1960s, Larry Johnson bought the car and campaigned it as the “Funny Tiger”.
The current owner acquired the big Cat, still wearing its late-‘60s livery, in 1997. Thorpe’s Body and Corvettes Shop of O’Fallon, Illinois completed a complete, concours-quality restoration with the painstaking 3,000 man-hour job returning the Catalina to its original appearance and specifications. In fact, all parts and components carry the correct date codes, and everything on the car works as it should. The factory inspection marks and stencilling were faithfully reproduced, and a 1969 technical inspection sticker from Illinois’ Cordova Dragway was retained in mute testimony to the old warrior’s colorful history.
Once the restoration was completed in 2010, the Catalina dominated the show field, achieving a perfect 400-point score at the June 2010 Charleston, West Virginia POCI Nationals, followed by Concours and Gold Certification at the November 2010 Corvette & Musclecar Nationals. During 2012, the “Swiss Cheese” Catalina continued its winning ways by earning Senior Gold at the St. Charles, Illinois POCI Nationals and First Place at the Norwalk, Ohio Pontiac Nationals.
Confirmed, documented, and pictured in the definitive Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955 -1979 by Pontiac experts Pete McCarthy and John Angelis as one of the 14 known original, factory-built “Swiss Cheese” Factory Lightweight Catalinas produced for 1963 and one of the nine remaining today, the provenance of the Union Park Pontiac Catalina is simply beyond reproach. Further supporting documentation includes a copy of the original Pontiac shipping manifest and copies of period race reports. Restored with photo-documentation to its original glory and fresh as now offered, it represents the pinnacle of Pontiac’s aggressive racing program and the fulfillment of its stunning “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” turnaround orchestrated by Knudsen, Estes, and DeLorean.