Wide Track: 1959 Pontiac Catalina Convertible – Sold?
November 10th Update: We just confirmed the Craigslist ad for this car expired and with no replacement listing found, we’re assuming this car sold. This one may have got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330
General Motor’s Pontiac Division was on a roll in 1959 as their new “Wide-Track” Pontiacs had the best combination of advanced styling and improved handling. Motor Trend magazine awarded the entire 1959 Pontiac line their Car of the Year trophy. Additionally, Pontiac retired the “Chieftan” brand name and replaced it with “Catalina” for their entry-level trim offerings. This Royal Amethyst Catalina listed recently on Craigslist in Trumbull, Connecticut appears to be a great driver-quality example with the current caretaker asking a firm $20,000. A look at the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his Catalina firmly priced $300 above the #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $19,700.
The Pontiac Catalina was part of the GM Division’s full-size line-up from 1950 through 1981. While the sub-brand initially denoted hardtop body styles of the Chieftain and DeLuxe Eight lines, for 1959 it became the separate entry-level Pontiac. In the lower-priced Catalina line, Pontiac division advertising placed a 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 latter 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. However, trim and appointment wise, Catalinas were just below the Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile 88 despite being about $200 less expensive. 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.
Catalinas and other 1959 Pontiacs were completely restyled on a new General Motors B-body platform shared by all GM divisions from Chevrolet to Cadillac, replacing the previous A-body utilized for Pontiacs and Chevrolets only used for 1958. Twin tailfins, two on each side, were new and only appeared for 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. While wheelbases were only separated by two inches (122 inches for Catalina and 124 for StarChief and Bonneville), Catalina’s overall length (213.7 inches) was over one-half foot shorter than either the Bonneville and StarChief.
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.
For 1959 all Pontiacs relied on various versions of the new 389 cubic-inch Tempest V8. Catalinas came standard with a 235 horsepower version topped with a 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 version of the same engine with a 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 with a manual gearbox or 303 horsepower with the Hydra-Matic. “Tri-Power” versions with triple two-barrel carburetors provided either 330horsepower or 345 horsepower depending on transmission ordered.
Here’s a 1959 Pontiac commercial highlighting the GM Division’s new “Wide Track” design language combined with bragging about winning MotorTrend Magazine’s coveted Car of the Year Award:
This Catalina appears to be a nice driver quality car you can enjoy now while you plan to repair the trunk floor area over the winter. The biggest immediate consideration is whether your garage is deep enough to fit this long Wide Track Pontiac. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
“1959 Pontiac Catalina in the original Royal Amethyst factory color, original 389 2 barrel automatic drivetrain. Starts right up every time. Great year with those fins! Needs a little TLC, but runs and drives as is. Has some rust (holes) in the trunk pan near the wheel wells. Frame and floors are good. Left Dvr side fender shows some previous repair. Top is newer. Ride it dirty or restore!
Again, running and driving 59 ragtop!! Look around, they are NOT that easy to find and when you do find a convertible it’s either a tin can or a $60k restoration. This one is just right, all there and you can drive it while you restore it at your own pace!
Send me an email if you need any info or pics/videos. I have a video of the car running, but I can’t load it on here. Car is located in Connecticut.
I Have the original dealer invoice, titles and last registration. $20k firm”
Do you have a Pontiac Catalina story you’d like to share? Comment below and let us know!