1967 Pontiac Catalina front

Pontiac Catalina 2+2

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler has a bachelors and masters degree in history as well as a passion for classics and muscle cars. His education and historical knowledge makes him skilled at crafting highly detailed articles about America’s muscle cars and automotive history. His love of muscle cars is undeniable, with him seeking them out at every opportunity during his visits to auto shows and car meets. Chandler’s knowledge and enthusiasm towards automotive history make him a great asset to the Muscle Car Club community.

Named for the island off the coast of Southern California, for many years the Pontiac Catalina was the jack-of-all-trades for General Motors. It excelled as one of the earliest and most potent muscle cars, yet it could also be had with a low horsepower economy engine. In addition, Pontiac also created the Catalina convertible for those looking for luxury, as well as six or nine-seat passenger station wagons, marketed as Catalina Safaris. The ultra high-performance Catalina 2+2 was available from 1964–1967, and are some of the most sought out muscle cars today. 

Pontiac Catalina Overview

The Pontiac Catalina lasted for more than three decades, from 1950–1981. From 1950–1958, the Catalina was only available as a trim option for the Pontiac Chieftain, Pontiac Super Chief (from 1954 on) and Star Chief. Originally, from 1950–1954, the Catalina used Pontiac’s 268 cid straight-eight engine making about 120 horsepower. From 1955 on, the Catalina used the larger 287 cid V8, making 180–200 horsepower. 

In 1959, Pontiac essentially renamed the Chieftain and Super Chief models as the Catalina. From 1959–1964, the Pontiac Catalina was part of the sixth and seventh generations of Pontiac’s full-sized lineup, and had nearly identical options with the other full-sized Pontiacs like the Ventura, Star Chief, Executive, and Bonneville. The Catalina used either 389 or 421 cid V8 engines, with the most powerful versions making up to 410 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. 

From 1965–1970, the Pontiac Catalina was still considered part of the eighth and ninth generations of Pontiac’s full-sized lineup. As a result, they still had almost identical options as the other full-sized lineup cars. This included (from 1967 on) 400, 428, and 455 cid V8 engines, which could punch out as much as 390 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. 

The fifth generation of the Pontiac Catalina, now separate from the full-sized lineup though with similar options, lasted from 1971–1976. Largely due to emissions and fuel economy concerns, engine power output massively declined. This left the most powerful Catalina putting out just 200 horsepower in 1976, though it did make 345 lb-ft of torque. 

The final generation of the Pontiac Catalina lasted from 1977–1981, and saw declining sales amid the introduction of a V6 and smaller (350 cid and smaller) V8 engines. Pontiac sold the last Catalina in 1981, discontinuing it with most of their other full-sized lineup for 1982. 

1950–1958 Pontiac Catalina Trims

When Pontiac first introduced the Catalina to the public, they offered it as a trim option for the Series 25 (six-cylinder) and Series 27 (eight-cylinder) Pontiac Chieftain. At the time, Pontiac only had two models on the market, the Streamliner and the Chieftain, with the Chieftain utilizing General Motors’ A-body platform. Pontiac introduced the Catalina as a two-door hardtop version of the Chieftain, classifying it as a Super Deluxe model. The 1950 Pontiac Chieftain Catalina came in either San Pedro Ivory or Sierra Rust colors. A two-tone option of both paints was also an option. The interior was leather. 

In 1954, Pontiac introduced the Catalina as a trim option for the new (Series 28) Star Chief. This was another application of the Catalina to the A-body, and it remained a two-door hardtop. In 1957, the Super Chief got the Catalina option, too. From 1950–1954, the Chieftain Catalina used the 268 cid Pontiac straight-eight engine. In 1955, Pontiac discontinued the straight-eight, replacing it with the 287 cid V8. For the 1955 model year, Pontiac priced the Chieftain Catalina at $2,335, while the Star Chief Catalina went for $2,499. 

1959–1964 Pontiac Catalina (Series 21/23)

1959 Pontiac Catalina side
Credit: Crispin Semmens/Wikipedia (1959 Pontiac Catalina)

In 1959, Pontiac debuted the Catalina as a standalone model for the first time as they ditched the Chieftain name. For the first two years, the Catalina had the Pontiac internal code of Series 21, which switched to Series 23 in 1961. Pontiac offered the Catalina as either a four-door sedan or Vista, a two-door sedan or coupe, two-door convertible, or a four-door Safari Station Wagon. The Wagon could hold either 6-passengers standard or 9 with the optional third row seating. 

From 1959–1964, the Pontiac Catalina was part of the sixth and seventh generations Pontiac’s full-sized lineup, and had nearly identical options with the other full-sized Pontiacs like the Ventura, Star Chief, Executive, and Bonneville. Differentiating the 1959 Pontiac Catalina from the 1958 Chieftain Catalina was a longer and lower body, twin-grille, twin-fin rear fenders, and a v contour hood. The grille changed in 1960 to a single instead of split, there were new longer side-moldings, and a new deck lid. 

In 1961, the now Series 23 Pontiac Catalina got smaller and lighter by four inches and 200 pounds. The split-grille returned, there was a taller roofline, and horizontal-oval tail lamps. The next year, the 1962 Pontiac Catalina got a few inches bigger again, and the tail lamps became curved. Now, a Ventura trim was offered on two-doors. In 1963, styling changed again, emphasizing new clean square lines, angled roofs, upward curved tail lamps, and a recessed split-grille. 

The 1964 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

Catalina 2+2 logo
Credit: David Conwill and Matt Litwin

In 1964, Pontiac gave the Catalina full-facelift and introduced the now famous 2+2 option, which they marketed as the Pontiac GTO’s big brother. It did not sell particularly well compared with other Catalina models, and was only available as a hardtop coupe or convertible. The 2+2 Catalina had fake louvers on the fenders and quarter panels as well as special 2+2 badges. The base engine was a 283 horsepower 389 V8, but you could upgrade to the 320 or 330 horsepower 421 Super Duty V8. 

1959–1964 Pontiac Catalina Engine Technical Specifications

Model YearsEngineHorsepowerTorque
1959-1963389 cid V8 (2bbl)215 horsepower390 lb-ft
1959-1960389 cid V8 (2bbl)245 horsepower392 lb-ft
1959389 cid V8 (4bbl)260 horsepower400 lb-ft
1959389 cid V8 (2bbl)280 horsepower408 lb-ft
1959389 cid V8 (4bbl)300 horsepower420 lb-ft
1959-1960389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)315 horsepower425 lb-ft
1960389 cid V8 (4bbl)281 horsepower408 lb-ft
1960389 cid V8 (2bbl)283 horsepower413 lb-ft
1960-1961389 cid V8 (4bbl)303 horsepower425 lb-ft
1960-1962389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)318 horsepower430 lb-ft
1960-1962389 cid V8 (4bbl)333 horsepower425 lb-ft
1960-1962389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)348 horsepower430 lb-ft
1961-1964389 cid V8 (2bbl)230 horsepower380 lb-ft
1961-1964389 cid V8 (4bbl)235 horsepower402 lb-ft
1961-1964389 cid V8 (2bbl)267 horsepower405 lb-ft
1961389 cid V8 (4bbl)287 horsepower417 lb-ft
1961-1963421 cid V8 (SD) (2x4bbl)405 horsepower425 lb-ft
1962389 cid V8 (4bbl)306 horsepower425 lb-ft
1962389 cid V8 (SD) (4bbl)385 horsepower450 lb-ft
1963389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)313 horsepower430 lb-ft
1963421 cid V8 (4bbl)353 horsepower455 lb-ft
1963-1964421 cid V8 (Tri-Power)370 horsepower460 lb-ft
1963421 cid V8 (SD) (4bbl)390 horsepower470 lb-ft
1963421 cid V8 (SD) (2x4bbl)410 horsepower480 lb-ft
1964389 cid V8 (2bbl) (2+2)283 horsepower413 lb-ft
1964389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)330 horsepower430 lb-ft
1964421 cid V8 (4bbl)320 horsepower455 lb-ft
1964421 cid V8 (Tri-Power)350 horsepower455 lb-ft

1959–1964 Pontiac Catalina Engines and Performance

From 1959–1964, Pontiac relied primarily on their 389 cid V8 and 421 cid V8s to power the Catalina. You could really have your pick of the litter in terms of performance. Available was anything from a double-barrel 215 horsepower economy V8, all the way up to the Tri-Power 389 V8 making 315 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque. The Tri-Power was so called because the carburetor was actually three Rochester double-barrel carburetors put together to make a gigantic six-barrel. 

The most powerful 389 Tri-Power V8 lasted from 1960–1962, and made 348 horsepower. In addition, in 1962 there was also a Super Duty version of the 389 V8, but only a few were sold. This version made an incredible 385 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, partly thanks to a large four-barrel carb. The SD 389 V8 lasted for only one year, leaving the Tri-Power as the most powerful 389 for 1963–1964. In the 1964 2+2, the base engine was the 283 horsepower V8 used in the Star Chief, and optional engines were a 267 horsepower 389 V8, or a larger 421 Super Duty at either 330 or 320 horsepower. 

In addition to the 389 V8, Pontiac also used various versions of their 421 cid V8 starting in 1961. In 1963, Pontiac put out the most powerful Catalinas ever with the 421 V8. The Super Duty 421 with two quad-barrel carburetors made either 405 or 410 horsepower, while the SD 421 with a single-four barrel made 390 horsepower. There were also 350 and 370 horsepower versions of the 421 Ti-Power from 1963–1964. 

Transmission Options

Transmission wise buyers had two options, either a three-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The three-speed had a column-mounted shifter, while the four-speed Super Hydra-Matic (Strato Flight) was an extra $180 in 1959. In 1960, Pontiac introduced a new four-speed manual midway through the year, but it was used almost exclusively in race models used in NASCAR. Also available was a Safe-T-Track non-slip differential. 

1959–1964 Pontiac Catalina Production Numbers

Model YearBodystyleProduction Total
19594-Door Sedan72,377
4-Door Vista45,012
2-Door Sedan26,102
2-Door Coupe38,309
2-Door Convertible14,515
4-Door Safari (6)21,162
4-Door Safari (9)14,084
1959 Total231,561
19604-Door Sedan72,650
4-Door Vista32,710
2-Door Sedan25,504
Hardtop Coupe27,496
4-Door Safari (6)14,149
4-Door Safari (9)21,253
1960 Total210,934
19614-Door Sedan38,638
4-Door Vista17,589
2-Door Sedan9,846
Hardtop Coupe14,524
4-Door Safari (6)7,783
4-Door Safari (9)12,595
1961 Total113,354
19624-Door Sedan68,124
4-Door Vista29,251
2-Door Sedan14,263
Hardtop Coupe46,024
4-Door Safari (6)10,716
4-Door Safari (9)19,399
1962 Total204,654
19632-Door Sedan14,091
4-Door Sedan79,961
2-Door Hardtop60,795
4-Door Vista31,256
2-Door Convertible18,249
4-Door Safari (6)18,446
4-Door Safari (9)11,751
1963 Total234,549
19644-Door Sedan84,457
4-Door Hardtop33,849
2-Door Sedan12,480
2-Door Hardtop74,793
2-Door Convertible18,693
4-Door Safari (6)13,140
4-Door Safari (9)20,356
Catalina 2+27,998
1964 Total257,768
1959-1964 Total1,252,826

The 1959 Pontiac Catalina debuted to terrific sales, crushing the previous years’ combined Chieftain and Super Chief sales (130,034) by more than 100,000 units. Sales stayed solid for another year, before a brief one-year decline in 1961. By 1962, the Catalina was back on track, and by 1963 they had completely recovered, and then some. 

The final Series 23 Catalina for 1964 was the highest selling Catalina yet, surpassing ¼ of a million units. Of these, just a shade under 8,000 were the new 2+2 option. For the first six years of the Catalina, Pontiac sold more than 1.25 million units, showing it to be a serious draw. 

1965–1970 Pontiac Catalina (Series 252/258)

1968 Pontiac Catalina
Credit: Mopar89/Wikipedia (1968 Pontiac Catalina)

From 1965–1970, Pontiac considered the Catalina part of its full-sized lineup still, so they got pretty much the same options as the Ventura, Star Chief, Executive, and Bonneville, like before. The overall styling of the car changed, as the bodies got much larger, and there were new V-shaped hoods with center bulges. The side glass was curved, front fender badges were V-shaped, and the headlights were vertically stacked and barrel-shaped, and located under cut-back front fenders. 

After few changes in 1966, the 1967 Pontiac Catalina go the “wasp waist” body styling, wood-grain trimmed dashboards, small hubcaps, and a Pontiac badge in the left-side grille. The 1968 Pontiac Catalina got peripheral front bumpers, pointed noses, new interiors, and safety features were now standard. Those who got the Safari or convertible body styles got Morrokide vinyl interior, and the 9-passenger Safaris got a power tailgate window. 

For 1969, Pontiac gave the Catalina split-bumpers, ventless windows, a longer wheelbase, and the famous GM Endura rubber front bumper inserts. They updated the Safari wagons to have two-way tailgates while maintaining the power windows. The 1970 Catalina bumper and grille looked inspired by the Grand Prix, but mostly stayed the same. 

The 1965–1967 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

Pontiac continued the 2+2 sports package for 1965, albeit with some upgrades. Those who got the package got “421” badges on the front fenders, as well as 2+2 numbering on the rear fenders, deck lid, and fake louvers. In addition, the engine packages came with low-restriction exhausts, chrome air-cleaner and valve covers, as well as a Hurst three-speed transmission linkage. 

In 1966, Pontiac made the 2+2 a standalone model, though it was also available as a Catalina option still. It only lasted for two years, before Pontiac retired for the 1968 model year. From 1967–1970, Canada got a version of the 2+2 on the Parisienne. They generally featured smaller displacement engines, but they still made great power. 

Available Catalina 2+2 and stand alone 2+2 engines were a 421 V8 making 338 horsepower, a 421 Tri-Power V8 at 356 horsepower, or a high-output 421 Tri-Power V8 making 376 horsepower. In 1967, Pontiac dropped the 421 V8s in favor of 428 cid V8s. There were two power outputs, 360 or 375 horsepower, and they both used Rochester QuadraJet carburetors. 

1965–1970 Pontiac Catalina Engine Technical Specifications

Model YearsEngineHorsepowerTorque
1965-1966389 cid V8 (2bbl)256 horsepower388 lb-ft
1965-1966389 cid V8 (2bbl)290 horsepower418 lb-ft
1965389 cid V8 (4bbl)325 horsepower429 lb-ft
1965389 cid V8 (4bbl)333 horsepower429 lb-ft
1965389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)338 horsepower433 lb-ft
1965-1966421 cid V8 (4bbl)338 horsepower459 lb-ft
1965-1966421 cid V8 (Tri-Power)356 horsepower459 lb-ft
1965-1966421 cid V8 (Tri-Power)376 horsepower460 lb-ft
1966389 cid V8 (Tri-Power)360 horsepower460 lb-ft
1967-1970400 cid V8 (2bbl)265 horsepower397 lb-ft
1967-1970400 cid V8 (2bbl)290 horsepower428 lb-ft
1967400 cid V8 (4bbl)325 horsepower440 lb-ft
1967-1969428 cid V8 (4bbl)360 horsepower472 lb-ft
1967-1968428 cid V8 (4bbl)376 horsepower462 lb-ft
1968-1969400 cid V8 (4bbl)340 horsepower455 lb-ft
1968-1969428 cid V8 (4bbl)390 horsepower465 lb-ft
1970455 cid V8 (4bbl)360 horsepower500 lb-ft
1970455 cid V8 (4bbl)370 horsepower500 lb-ft

1965–1970 Pontiac Catalina Engines, Transmissions, and Performance

For 1965–1966, Pontiac kept the 389 and 421 V8s as the available options. For 1965, the most powerful 389 V8 was the Tri-Power, which made 348 horsepower. The next year, the 389 Tri-Power jumped up to 360 horsepower. There were also two versions of the 421 Tri-Power V8, at 356 or 376 horsepower. 

Starting in 1967, Pontiac dropped the 389 and 421 V8s from the Catalina lineup. In their place were the large 400 cid and 428 cid V8s. The most powerful 400 cid V8 made 325 horsepower for 1967 and 340 horsepower for 1968–1969. For the 1970 Pontiac Catalina, the 400 cid V8 dropped to either 265 or 290 horsepower (depending on transmission, manuals made more power). Pontiac also introduced the larger 455 cid V8 for 1970. Strapped with a four-barrel carburetor, in the Safari Catalinas they made 370 horsepower – or 360 horsepower in other body styles. 

Transmission options included a three-speed manual and two different automatic transmissions, a two-speed and a three-speed. The two-speed was the short lived Super Turbine 300, while the other was the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400. 

1965–1970 Pontiac Catalina Production Numbers

Model YearBodystyleProduction Total
19654-Door Sedan78,853
4-Door Hardtop34,814
2-Door Sedan9,526
2-Door Hardtop92,009
2-Door Convertible18,347
4-Door Safari (6)15,110
4-Door Safari (9)22,399
Catalina 2+211,521
1965 Total271,058
19664-Door Sedan80,483
4-Door Hardtop38,005
2-Door Sedan7,925
2-Door Hardtop79,013
2-Door Convertible14,837
4-Door Safari (6)21,082
4-Door Safari (9)12,965
Catalina 2+26,383
1966 Total254,310
19674-Door Sedan80,551
4-Door Hardtop37,256
2-Door Sedan5,633
2-Door Hardtop77,932
2-Door Convertible10,033
4-Door Safari (6)11,040
4-Door Safari (9)18,305
Catalina 2+21,768
1967 Total240,750
19684-Door Hardtop136,168
2-Door Sedan5,247
2-Door Hardtop92,217
2-Door Convertible7,339
4-Door Safari (9)13,363
4-Door Safari (6)21,848
1968 Total276,182
19694-Door Sedan48,590
4-Door Hardtop38,819
2-Door Hardtop84,006
2-Door Convertible5,436
4-Door Safari (9)13,393
4-Door Safari (6)20,352
1969 Total210,596
19704-Door Sedan84,795
4-Door Hardtop35,155
2-Door Hardtop70,350
2-Door Convertible3,686
4-Door Safari (9)12,450
4-Door Safari (6)16,944
1970 Total223,380
1965-1967 Total1,476,275

For 1965–1970, production on the Pontiac Catalina was very consistent, never dipping below 210,000 units per year. The four-door hardtop was usually the most popular option. This contributed to Pontiac selling more than 200,000 more Catalinas from ‘65–’70 than from ‘59–’64. The Catalina 2+2 options never sold particularly well, facing a nearly 90% decline from ‘65–’67.

Note: Official Pontiac Production numbers do not include Safari Station Wagons. However, all Catalina models are included in the above figures. 

1971–1976 Pontiac Catalina (Series 252/2L/2BL)

Starting in 1971, Pontiac split their full-sized lineup into individual car segments, creating what is essentially the fifth generation Pontiac Catalina. The styling got major revisions, as new “fuselage” bodies replaced the more “coke bottle” shape that came out in 1965. The split V-shaped radiator grilles got larger, and Morrokide upholstery became standard on most models.

Also in 1971 was the introduction of the Catalina Brougham. This was basically the same thing as the standard Catalina, but had luxury upholstery, an electric clock, Castilian leather appearance instrument panel inserts, deluxe wheel covers, and a Brougham script on the rear roof pillar. 

In 1972, Pontiac switched the Catalina from the internal designation of Series 252 to the 2L. They also gave the Catalina energy-absorbing bumpers, revised tail lights, and redesigned radiator grilles. This also marked the last year for both the convertible and short lived Brougham option. For the 1973 Catalina, Pontiac used full-width grilles and now put Catalina script behind the front wheel wells.

In 1974, the Catalina carried the internal series of 2BL for Pontiac, and they dropped the two-door coupe option. The car was restyled again, including two-piece rectangular parking lamps set into the front panel under the headlights. Pontiac, Catalina, and engine displacement scripts also appeared on the sides. 1974 Catalina Safari station wagons had glide-away tailgates, power windows, and a split-back seat and rear-facing third seat. 

Pontiac redesigned the roofline in 1975 and gave the Catalina a wider and more distinct grille. Triple-stacked tail lights were new, as was a radial-tuned suspension system. The 1976 Pontiac Catalina became the Series 2B internally, and was very similar to the Bonneville styling-wise. 

1971–1976 Pontiac Catalina Engine Technical Specifications

1971350 cid V8 (2bbl)250 horsepower350 lb-ft
1971400 cid V8 (2bbl)265 horsepower400 lb-ft
1971400 cid V8 (4bbl)300 horsepower400 lb-ft
1971455 cid V8 (2bbl)280 horsepower455 lb-ft
1971455 cid V8 (4bbl)325 horsepower455 lb-ft
1972350 cid V8 (2bbl)175 horsepower275 lb-ft
1972400 cid V8 (2bbl)175 horsepower310 lb-ft
1972-1974400 cid V8 (4bbl)200 horsepower325 lb-ft
1972-1973400 cid V8 (4bbl)250 horsepower325 lb-ft
1972455 cid V8 (2bbl)185 horsepower350 lb-ft
1972455 cid V8 (2bbl)200 horsepower370 lb-ft
1972455 cid V8 (4bbl)220 horsepower350 lb-ft
1972-1973455 cid V8 (4bbl)250 horsepower370 lb-ft
1973350 cid V8 (2bbl)150 horsepower270 lb-ft
1973400 cid V8 (2bbl)170 horsepower320 lb-ft
1973400 cid V8 (2bbl)185 horsepower320 lb-ft
1973-1974455 cid V8 (4bbl)250 horsepower370 lb-ft
1974400 cid V8 (2bbl)175 horsepower315 lb-ft
1974400 cid V8 (2bbl)190 horsepower315 lb-ft
1974400 cid V8 (4bbl)225 horsepower320 lb-ft
1974455 cid V8 (4bbl)215 horsepower355 lb-ft
1975400 cid V8 (2bbl)170 horsepower305 lb-ft
1975400 cid V8 (4bbl)175 horsepower310 lb-ft
1975-1976455 cid V8 (4bbl)200 horsepower345 lb-ft
1976350 cid V8 (2bbl)155 horsepower280 lb-ft
1976400 cid V8 (2bbl)185 horsepower310 lb-ft

1971–1976 Pontiac Catalina Engines, Transmissions, and Performance

Starting in 1971 and continuing until the Catalina’s demise a decade later, Pontiac started downgrading the power outputs. That year, the most powerful engine was the 455 V8 making 325 horsepower. However, starting in 1972 Pontiac was forced to begin listing engine outputs in SAE Net instead of SAE Gross figures. While this did not make the engines any less powerful, they appeared that way because now they had to account for parasitic losses. 

As a result, the most powerful engine in 1972 was a four-barrel 455 V8 that made 250 horsepower. Even though it was very similar to the 325 horsepower version from the year before, marketing surrounding it was impossible, and most people assumed it was woefully underpowered. By 1976, the 455 V8 made just 200 horsepower maximum. Other contributing factors were oil shortages and environmental concerns, which caused most American manufacturers to opt for less displacement. 

The 400 V8 stayed as the main engine in the Catalina, and various 350 cid V8s were also used. No longer were there any Tri-Power options available, and most engines could not top 200 horsepower SAE Net. For 1971, all of the manual transmission options were dropped, leaving just the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic option available for the rest of the Catalina’s lifespan. 

1971–1976 Pontiac Catalina Production Numbers

Model YearBodystyleProduction Total
19714-Door Sedan59,355
4-Door Hardtop22,333
2-Door Hardtop46,257
2-Door Convertible2,036
4-Door Safari (6)10,322
4-Door Safari (9)9,283
1971 Total149,586
19724-Door Sedan83,004
4-Door Hardtop28,010
2-Door Hardtop60,233
2-Door Convertible2,399
4-Door Sedan (Brougham)8,007
4-Door Hardtop (Brougham)8,762
2-Door Hardtop (Brougham)10,545
1972 Total228,262
19734-Door Sedan100,592
4-Door Hardtop31,663
2-Door Hardtop74,394
4-Door Safari (9)14,654
4-Door Safari (6)15,762
1973 Total237,065
19744-Door Sedan46,025
4-Door Hardtop11,769
2-Door Hardtop40,657
4-Door Safari (9)6,486
4-Door Safari (6)5,662
1974 Total110,599
19754-Door Sedan40,398
2-Door Hardtop40,657
4-Door Safari (9)4,992
4-Door Safari (6)3,964
1975 Total90,011
19762-Door Hardtop15,262
4-Door Sedan47,235
4-Door Safari (6)4,735
4-Door Safari (9)5,513
1976 Total72,745
1971-1976 Total888,268

For the fifth generation Pontiac Catalina, really only the 1972–1973 model years were successful. Every other year saw sales decline to below 200,000 units, bottoming out at under 100,000 by 1975. This was a drop in nearly 200,000 from the peak year of 1968, when more than ¼ of a million were sold. Over the same-length six-year period, Pontiac sold under 1 million Catalinas for the first time, a drop of more than half-a-million over 1965–1970. The Catalina was in trouble.

Note: Official Pontiac Production numbers do not include Safari Station Wagons. However, all Catalina models are included in the above figures. 

1977–1981 Pontiac Catalina

1978 Pontiac Catalina front
1978 Pontiac Catalina

The sixth and final generation of the Pontiac Catalina lasted from 1977–1981, after which Pontiac dropped it from the lineup for good. The 1977 Pontiac Catalina was smaller than before and weighed a lot lighter, resulting in much more headroom and rear legroom for passengers. Pontiac raised the roofing and gave it rectangular headlamps, as well as a Freedom battery and brushed-knit cloth interior. If you bought a four-door coupe/sedan or Safari, a CB radio was standard. 

Not much changed for 1978, with the two-door hardtop coupe being brought back the following year in 1979. The grille, head, side, and tail lamps were all new, except wagons which kept their tail lamps from 1978. Pontiac downsized the Catalina again in 1980, also making it lighter, too. Part of this was to accommodate the smaller and less powerful engines now being used. Even though it was shorter it actually looked longer, thanks to the rear and front overhang design. 

The final year 1981 Pontiac Catalina featured a new grille and bumper design, but not much else changed. Pontiac dropped the Catalina for 1982 along with the rest of the full-sized lineup. The similar Bonneville still remained, though in a much smaller G-Body. 

1977–1981 Pontiac Catalina Engine Technical Specifications

Model YearsEngineHorsepowerTorque
1977-19793.8L (231 cid) V6 (2bbl)105 horsepower185 lb-ft
19775.0L (301 cid) V8 (2bbl)135 horsepower240 lb-ft
1977-19785.7L (350 cid) V8 (4bbl) (Chevy)170 horsepower270 lb-ft
1977-19785.7L (350 cid) V8 (4bbl) (Olds)170 horsepower275 lb-ft
19775.7L (350 cid) V8 (4bbl)170 horsepower280 lb-ft
1977-19786.6L (400 cid) V8 (4bbl)180 horsepower325 lb-ft
19776.6L (403 cid) V8 (4bbl) (Olds)185 horsepower320 lb-ft
1978-19805.0L (301 cid) V8 (2bbl)140 horsepower235 lb-ft
1978-19795.7L (350 cid) V8 (4bbl)155 horsepower280 lb-ft
19795.0L (301 cid) V8 (2bbl)150 horsepower240 lb-ft
1979-19805.7L (350 cid) V8 (4bbl)160 horsepower260 lb-ft
1980-19815.7L (350 cid) V8 (MFI) (Olds) (Diesel)105 horsepower205 lb-ft
1980-19814.3L (265 cid) V8 (2bbl)120 horsepower210 lb-ft
1980-19813.8L (231 cid) V6 (2bbl)110 horsepower190 lb-ft
19815.0L (301 cid) V8 (4bbl)135 horsepower235 lb-ft
19815.0L (307 cid) V8 (4bbl)145 horsepower240 lb-ft

1977–1981 Pontiac Catalina Engines, Transmissions, and Performance

Starting in 1977, Pontiac started using liters instead of cubic inches (cid) for engine displacement. This was part of a larger effort to switch to the metric system – which never ended up happening – and engine displacement sizing in liters stuck. For 1977, Pontiac still offered 350 and 400 cid V8s, but they were woefully underpowered and dropped following 1978.

For the 1977 Catalina, Pontiac offered the first six-cylinder engine since the Catalina was just a trim option for the 1954 Chieftain. This time, instead of an inline-six it was a 2.3 liter V6, and it made 105 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Pontiac bumped this up to 110 horsepower and 190 lb-ft in 1980. Largely due to emissions restrictions in California, Pontiac offered the Catalina with a variety of 5.7 liter V8 engines. The Chevy and Oldsmobile 5.7 V8s were sold exclusively to California Catalina buyers. 

From 1980–1981, Pontiac also offered the Oldsmobile 5.7 liter diesel V8, making 105 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque. Despite heavy marketing, the Oldsmobile diesel has garnered one of the worst reputations among diesel engines ever made. Many people blame the Oldsmobile diesel for souring the country on diesel engines before they could really be put into widespread production. 

By this point, performance was a thing of the past, and the most powerful engine in 1981 made just 145 horsepower. The Catalina was firmly past its muscle car era by this point, having left that behind with the large displacement V8s. Once again, the only available transmissions were automatic: A three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 200, four-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 200-4R, and a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 350. 

1977–1981 Pontiac Catalina Production Numbers

Model YearBodystyleProduction Total
19772-Door Hardtop14,752
4-Door Sedan46,926
4-Door Safari (6)13,058
1977 Total74,736
19782-Door Hardtop9,224
4-Door Sedan39,707
4-Door Safari (6)12,819
1978 Total61,750
19792-Door Hardtop5,410
4-Door Sedan28,121
4-Door Safari (6)13,353
1979 Total46,884
19802-Door Hardtop3,319
4-Door Sedan10,408
4-Door Safari (6)2,931
1980 Total16,658
19812-Door Hardtop1,074
4-Door Sedan6,456
4-Door Safari (6)2,912
1981 Total10,442
1977-1981 Total210,470

By the sixth generation of the Pontiac Catalina, production had severely declined from its highs in the late-’60s. Every year production declined more and more, until barely 10,000 were made in 1981. For the entire five year period, Pontiac sold just 210,470. This was roughly 27,000 less than they had sold in 1973 alone, showing most buyers had soured on the Catalina by then. 

Note: Official Pontiac Production numbers do not include Safari Station Wagons. However, all Catalina models are included in the above figures. 

*Thanks to John Gunnell’s “Standard Catalog of Pontiac” for all production figures, most styling information, and most engine specifications. 

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