Paying more than half a million dollars for a 1960s Pontiac is beyond what most car fanatics could ever fathom. For many, a good stock full-size Pontiac of the era might be worth $30,000 or $40,000 in good condition, but clearly, this is a special Pontiac.
Earlier this month, Mecum Auctions banged the gavel on an Indianapolis auction of a 1963 Pontiac Catalina that came from a group of 14 known by a strange name — the “swiss cheese.” It went for $530,000, which may have seemed like bargain to the buyer. After all, it was estimated before the auction to be worth $600,000 to $800,000.
Mecum says it was the most famous of the group, a car that came to the rescue of Pontiac’s racing reputation.
As the auctioneers tell it, Pontiac’s drag-racing fortunes were going poorly as 1962 drew to a close. The brand was being overpowered by Ford and Chrysler with bigger engines and lighter cars.
Pontiac engineers sought to lighten the racing Catalina by substituting as many steel parts as possible with aluminum, like the hood and fenders. Plexiglas was substituted for glass, and 120 holes were drilled into the sides of the steel frame that some likened to the look of swiss cheese, hence the name.
The heavily modified 421-inch cubic-inch engine developed 410-horsepower.
The work paid off. The car, sponsored by Packer Pontiac of Detroit, set a National Hot Rod Association record in 1963 in the C/Stock class of 12.27 seconds, a speed of 114.64 mph.
Having set the record, the car went out of the limelight until it was rediscovered in the late 1970s and became part of a private collection. Today, after restoration, it looks just as it did in 1963.