Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1960 Pontiac Parisienne – I Solve A Profound Cheviac Mystery

posted at the Cohort by Garth Goode

We all know the Cheviac drill by now: it’s a Pontiac body with a Chevrolet chassis and drive train. Well strictly speaking, it’s a shortened Pontiac body on a Chevy chassis, since the Chevy has a 119″ wheelbase and the US Pontiac Catalina has a 122″ wheelbase, all of that extra 3″ being in front of the cowl.

Which would lead one (me) to the logical conclusion that the Parisienne is then also three inches shorter overall, given the reduction in wheelbase. Seems like the obvious thing to do is shorten the body in the area between the front axle centerline and the cowl. Turns out that’s not the case; the US Catalina is 213.7″ long, and the Parisienne is…212.22″ long, or just 1.5″ shorter.

Welcome back to the Canadian Twilight Zone, where things defy logic. But I was determined to find the answer.

I started with these two shots of a Parisienne (top) and Catalina coupe, the closest I could find. Their doors measure the exact same length, as does the distance from the rear of the door to the rear of the car. And not surprisingly, the Parisienne front end measures shorter, but seemingly shorter than just by 1.5″.

Of course subtle differences in where the camera is positioned in relation to these two cars can make a difference. But leaving that aside, if the Parisienne’s 3″ shorter wheelbase is all in its front end, yet the car is only 1.5″ shorter overall, they must have messed with the proportions on the front end that defy logic.

Then I took a closer second look: wait a minute; the front bumper on the US Catalina extend rearward past the front wheel opening, but not so on the Canadian Parisienne.

Time for a closer look:

Bingo! There’s no question that the Parisienne front end is longer ahead of the front wheels. So they extended that area to gain back half the distance that they lost by the shorter wheelbase. Who would have thought? Not me. But it does help keep the Canadian Poncho from looking too short in the front end. Can’t have that; it is a Pontiac, and not a Chevy, whose overall length was 210.8″. If the Parisienne body had lost the full 3″, it would have ended up…1/10″ shorter than the Chevy. Sacrilege!

The Chevy chassis’ narrow tread is mitigated here by these wide wheels, otherwise these tend to look a bit Narrow Track.

Here’s a stock Parisienne; definitely not Wide Track.

This one has a V8 badge on its front fender, meaning the Chevy 283 almost certainly (the Chevy 348 was also available). The Canadian Pontiac 6 had a unique six under the hood, the 261 cubic inch version of the Chevy Blue Flame six, with 150 hp. This engine was only available in trucks in the US, and was noted for its healthy torque curve. Transmissions were either the three-speed manual or the Chevy Powerglide. Guess which one I’d take?

So much for these jet engine afterburners; they were strictly dummies in Canada. In the US, a Tri-Power 389 was a different animal.

There’s something about a big six cylinder Pontiac I find quite compelling; if I’d know David Saunders was selling his 1961, I might have been tempted. At least mentally.

Now I need to figure out if Pontiac did the same thing on the later year Canadian cars’ front end sheet metal too.

Here’s the first part of VinceC’s very thorough History of Canadian Cars. He probably already knew this, but solving little mysteries like this is what keeps me engaged here.