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Monday, December 7, 2015

This “Swiss Cheese” Pontiac Shouldn’t Exist, But it Does


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

The late 1950s and early ‘60s weren’t exactly straightforward days for U.S. racing fans. In 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association banned factory-backed racing efforts altogether…yet it still went on behind the scenes, and spawned clandestine projects like Chevrolet’s stripped-out “Black Widow.” 
Fast forward to January 1963 and General Motors officially severed its racing ties—again—putting to bed some of the absolutely screaming Super Duty race cars that Pontiac had been building for the oval and the drag strip.

With that in mind, this car—a Pontiac Catalina Super Duty built in April 1963—simply should not exist. Yet it does, and it’s one giant racy exception to an otherwise dire GM edict. It’s also got a rather cheesy nickname, more on that below.


Back in 1962, things were looking pretty good from behind the wheel of a Pontiac. The Super Duty Catalinas were blisteringly quick on a drag strip but competitors were creeping ever closer. To stave them off, Pontiac engineers began drilling 130 holes into the frames of 1963 Super Duty Catalinas, hence the “Swiss Cheese” moniker. Weight reduction would be the name of the game.

While the potent 421ci and 405 hp V8 racing engine (actually closer to 450 hp) maintained a spot under the hood, little else remained the same. The front sway bars were ditched, along with all sound-proofing and every other unnecessary bit of equipment. What couldn’t be shaved off was instead substituted with aluminum, which included a new hood, bellhousing, axle center, fenders, bumpers, support brackets, and exhaust manifolds.

These were undoubtedly special cars and up to January of 1963, only 14 Swiss Cheese Super Duty Catalinas were built. That GM no-more-racing edict would effectively be the end of the line for these cars, which could complete the quarter mile in around 12 seconds flat.


But it wasn’t. Somehow, this 1963 Swiss Cheese Catalina was snuck down the production line—presumably when no GM higher-ups were looking—and it was finished off on April 2nd, designated as a “company car” for engineering purposes. Sadly, this one does mark the very end of the Catalina Super Duty.

It isn’t the end of this story though. This rare Pontiac Super Duty is scheduled to cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block next month in Scottsdale, Arizona. Given its significant rarity, it won’t be bought cheaply.