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1962 Pontiac Catalina - The Phantom Bubbletop

Pontiac Changed The Catalina Roof In 1962. Today, David Greene Changes It Back.

Photography by Steve Magnante

Tech Notes
Who: David Greene
What: '62 Pontiac Catalina bubbletop conversion
Hometown: Lenoir City, Tennessee, where the first settlers were Overhill Cherokee Indians. Knowing that, we could have titled this feature "Hatchet Job" . . . but we didn't.

Short-block: It's a stock rebuild of the original Trophy 389 bottom end. That means a cast nodular iron crank and Arma Steel rods with cast 10.25:1 pistons, certainly not Super Duty stuff, but tough enough for the job. The hotter-than-stock Comp flat-tappet hydraulic cam has 280/280 duration and 0.507-inch lift.

Heads: The '62 vintage No. 177 heads are lightly ported and feature stock-size 1.88/1.60 valves and 68cc chambers. Hardened valve-seat inserts assure unleaded survival.

Valvetrain: The stock stamped-steel rocker arms-which GM engineers developed in conjunction with those used on the '55 Chevy small-block-are retained but chrome-moly retainers, Comp springs, and thick-wall pushrods boost rpm potential and reliability.

Induction: The super groovy vintage Mickey Thompson Power Ram intake manifold was found under a friend's workbench. It swills premium fire water through a pair of box-stock 1405 Edelbrock 600-cfm carbs. Dave says it idles smoothly at 1,100 rpm and delivers 12 mpg if he doesn't hammer on it.

Exhaust: A set of standard Trophy 389 cast-iron manifolds send smoke signals to dual 21/2-inch pipes and Flowmaster mufflers. Each head pipe has a dump plate that can be uncapped for a few extra horses and a bunch more decibels.

Cooling: A rebuilt four-core station wagon radiator and high-volume water pump keep it nice and cool-even in heavy, low-speed traffic. That's the charm of a mild mill.

Drivetrain: A formed steel blow shield contains Zoom clutch goodies and is coupled to an aluminum-case T10 four-speed. The rebuilt 3-inch-diameter driveshaft feeds the burly Pontiac differential, which packs a rare Eaton Safe-T-Track limited slip and 3.63:1 gears. Offered under option code 691, Safe-T-Track originally cost $42.50; today it sells for 20 times that.

Chassis/Suspension: The standard Catalina frame got a set of fresh body-mount biscuits, but Dave kept the hole saw in the tool locker; there's no Swiss cheese here. The station wagon-spec springs and sway bars are from Ames Performance, so body roll is no problem.

Suspension/Brakes: The big 'Cat originally had standard 11-inch iron drum brakes, but Dave stepped up to a set of gennie eight-lugs. Originally sold as option code 694 for $122.66, the cast-aluminum drums feature integrally cast-iron friction linings. Dave says the gorgeous finned brakes are a direct bolt-on deal. The front drums share the same spindles, wheel bearings, and backing plate as the standard brake package, while the rear drums fit over the existing brakes and bolt to the axleshafts. The aluminum brakes even share the same brake shoes as the standard iron drums. Unfortunately, none of this big-car stuff fits GTOs or Firebirds, so stop dreaming.

Wheels/Tires: Front rim hoops are stock 14-inchers, while Dave whipped up a set of custom 15-inch rear hoops. Tires are Coker redline radials, 225/75R14 in front, 235/75R15 out back. Dave says the only hassle with the hoop-style rims is making up a flat plate so the tires can be balanced.

Body: Besides the custom scalp treatment, the body is all stock. The paint and bodywork were handled by the guys in Dave's shop, Greene's Classic Cars, while the vinyl retro lettering was done by Scott's Graphic in Loudon, Tennessee. Ironically, Pontiac Super Duty race cars and Ford Super Duty trucks shared the same hoodscoop.

Interior: Greene's shop refurbished the interior panels and seats in the stock vinyl pattern, and the stick-shift floor tunnel and pedals were swapped in from a donor car. The trunk-mounted utility light was a popular Pontiac option and sold for $7.10 ($5.50 wholesale).

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