The Rare 1962 Pontiac Catalina Royal Bobcat Shines as a Classic Car Gem

Introduced in 1950 as a top trim-level package in the Chieftain, the Pontiac Catalina evolved into a stand-alone model in 1959. Slotted right below the Bonneville, the Catalina became Pontiac’s bread-and-butter full-size car until it was discontinued in 1981.

1962 Pontiac Catalina Royal Bobcat

Photo: Lou Costabile/YouTube

A massive success since day one, the Catalina moved more than 230,000 units in 1959. And despite its full-size footprint and a curb weight of over 3,900 pounds (1,769 kg), the Catalina was also a successful race car in its early years. From 1959 to 1963, it was Pontiac’s main rig in the NASCAR series.

The Catalina rose to prominence in 1961 when it scored no fewer than 30 wins but narrowly lost the title to Chevrolet. In 1962, it helped Pontiac win its first and only manufacturers’ championship. But the Catalina also won races at the drag strip, thanks to the iconic 421 Super Duty package.

The latter spawned a road-legal production model. Created to homologate the 421-cubic-inch (6.9-liter) V8 for the NHRA stock classes, the Catalina Super Duty is among the rarest and most sought-after Pontiacs ever built. However, the Super Duty isn’t the only beefed-up Catalina built for public roads. A certain dealership from Royal Oak, Michigan, also sold a high-performance version.

I’m obviously talking about Royal Pontiac. Run by Ace Wilson Jr., the dealership was heavily involved in Pontiac’s racing program. An avid racing fan, Ace gained access to the company’s high-performance parts catalog and talked Pontiac into letting him sell race-ready cars. And to advertise this new venture, Ace and his team campaigned a Tri-Power Catalina in 1960, winning everything its class at the 1960 Winternationals.

These wins turned Royal Pontiac into a widely known and respected dealership. New car and performance parts sales soared as the Ace’s team remained successful at the drag strip through 1963. Following the company’s withdrawal from racing that year, Royal Pontiac became the place to go for racing enthusiasts.

The prepped cars became known as Royal Bobcats, and the package expanded to other Pontiacs, including the iconic GTO. Later in the 1960s, Ace began dropping tuned 428-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8 engines from Pontiac’s full-size lineup into GTOs and Firebirds. The swaps annoyed GM, and Ace eventually abandoned the high-performance program in 1970. With muscle cars dead and buried by 1974, Wilson Jr. sold the dealership.

There’s no info on how many Royal Bobcats are still around more than 50 years later, but some survived thanks to diehard enthusiasts who either maintained them as survivors or restored derelict examples. The 1962 Catalina you see here is one of those rigs.

Built during the nameplate’s successful racing career, this red-over-red Catalina is now a fully restored beauty with factory-correct components. It rocks the famous and unassuming 421 V8 with dual carburetors but lacks a heater and radio. This land yacht was ready to tackle the drag strip when it was put together more than 60 years ago.

But even though it was designed to outgun Impalas and Galaxies down the quarter-mile, this Catalina was optioned up with the Ventura interior. The package includes a fancy upholstery layout with two shades of red and white stripes. The Ventura was a custom trim package available on the four- and two-door hardtop version of the Catalina from 1960 through 1970.

It’s safe to assume this Bobcat is a one-of-one gem, but the really important thing here is that it’s one of only a few Royal Catalinas that are still on the road today. Check it out in the video below. 

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