Road Trip Outtake: 1960 Pontiac Catalina Safari Wagon – Suddenly It’s 1962

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It’s 1962, and we’re off to the Rockies again for our vacation. I have my notebook and pencil in hand, and am diligently keeping track of the make of every car that we encounter; coming the other way, passing it, or being passed (more likely). As we roll by the big wagon on one of the newly-finished stretches of I-80, another “I” is entered on the ledger next to “Pontiac”. It’s my way of determining what cars (and trucks) Americans are really buying, and and to determine whether the manufacturers are cheating in their ads when they make a claim about their sales. Yes, Chevrolet really is Number One.

How I wish I still had that notebook; I do remember very clearly that White/White-Freightliner was a solid #1 in the big truck category.

Pontiac 1960 starchief-vert

The folks across the street in Iowa City had one of these wagons, in navy blue, along with a matching 1960 Bonneville four-door hardtop; a real hers and his combo. How I wished I was their kid…but I got some memorable rides in it, with their hot-rod crazy son behind the wheel, fetching parts for his and his brother’s old Ford hot-rods/jalopies, which hardly ever seemed to run. But the Big Pontiac sure did, with its husky 389 V8 teamed up to the four-speed Hydramatic.

He tried to pull the wool over my eyes, telling me it had a Tri-Power under the hood. Yeah; right. I’d lifted up the hood before and knew what was under there: a four barrel; yes, but no Tri-Power. But the big Vista wagon could still have run circles around his ’52 Ford coupe with its flatulent flathead; even when it actually ran.


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