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1962 Pontiac Catalina Drag Races Firebird and Fox-Body Mustang, Takes No Prisoners

Drag races are quite spectacular when they involve the latest supercars or absurdly powerful funny cars, but nothing beats a beefed-up classic in my book. Especially if it's a full-size vehicle that you wouldn't normally expect to see at the drag strip. Like this 1962 Pontiac Catalina.
1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster 6 photos
Photo: Bobs Classic Cars & Parts/YouTube
1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster1962 Pontiac Catalina dragster
Spotted at an unnamed event by YouTube's "Bobs Classic Cars & Parts," the two-door is obviously far from stock. Yes, the outer shell hasn't been altered much, but the Poncho features aluminum bumpers (like factory-built dragsters had back in the 1960s) and a massively bulged hood atop the engine. Of course, it rides on skinny wheels up front and meaty tires at the rear.

The footage doesn't provide a closer look inside the car, but I can clearly see a race-spec roll cage and I'm pretty sure the rear bench is gone to keep weight down. It's probably the same with the door panels and parts of the dash, all removed to improve the car's power-to-weight ratio.

But the most annoying thing is that we don't get to see the monster that hides under the hood. And that's a shame because this Pontiac likely packs a really massive V8 that displaces more than 500 cubic inches (8.2 liters). But is it also using forced induction to spin the rear tires? Well, that's something I don't know, but this video proves the Catalina is insanely fast.

The footage shows the beefed-up classic going against a fourth-generation Pontiac Firebird and a Fox-body Ford Mustang down the eighth mile. The first race sees the Poncho score a comfortable win by covering the distance in 5.32 seconds. The Firebird can't keep up and crosses the line after 5.92 clicks.

The second race is even more spectacular. The Mustang snaps off the line much quicker than the Catalina, but the latter catches up and scores a 5.33-second run and stops the speed clock at 129 mph. The Mustang settles for a 6.09-second pass. Yes, I'd love to see what this Poncho can do on the quarter-mile, but until new footage surfaces, you can get your fix in the video below.

And if you still think that seeing a Catalina at the drag strip is strange, you should know that Pontiac raced the full-size during the Detroit drag strip wars of the early 1960s. Fitted with the iconic 421-cubic-inch (6.9-liter) Super Duty V8, the Catalina needed less than 14 seconds to cover the quarter-mile, which was quite impressive for a full-size car at the time.

These cars also featured aluminum front fenders and bumpers, no sound-deadening materials and body sealers, while the frame had about 130 holes in them for weight-saving purposes. Come 2023 and these factory dragsters are quite rare and expensive because Pontiac didn't make too many of them. While some sources claim that 177 Super Duty cars were built, others say that Pontiac made only 130 examples. Original survivors are worth almost $500,000 a pop.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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