This is not the typical Pontiac ad of the era. Pontiac was the excitement division, and their ads played that up to the hilt. So where did this run? Good Housekeeping? Thrifty Living?
1968 was the last year for the big Pontiac two-door sedans, so it’s a bit odd in that regard too. They built just 5,247 of these, and called it quits. So why bother spending money on an ad?
The ad does call attention to its standard 290 hp 400 CID V8. Given that this engine had a 10.5:1 compression ratio and needed premium fuel, that wasn’t exactly what a true skinflint would choose. But for no additional charge (how nice) a more modest 265 hp version that ran on regular could be specified. And of course an automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes and anything else other than the bare bones minimum was all optional.
So how does this Catalina’s price compare to “the low priced three”?
Looking at the Catalina’s interior, I’d say it would only be fair to compare it to the Chevy Bel Air, as the Biscayne was a notch skimpier. The Bel Air 2-door V8 sedan was $2786, which in ’68 got one the new 200 hp 307 CID, essentially a 283 with the 327’s longer stroke crankshaft.
If you were really cheap, you could get a Biscayne six for $2581. Of course for an extra $500, you could order it with the solid lifter 425hp 427 L72. Now that would make a stripper of a different sort. But grandma might not approve, although she probably wouldn’t know unless her hearing aids were on.
A high school friend of mine had a 1968 Chevy Biscayne 2 door sedan, six cylinder, 3 on the tree, add on Western Auto air conditioner, no power steering, unassisted drum brakes, sun bleached gold “Magic Mirror” lacquer exterior, beige vinyl interior. The only two options this car had was the heater and the crappy sounding AM radio.
It was reliable had held 6 full sized high school boys.
I drove it only one time. That was enough for me. What a automotive penalty box it was! I marveled at how the owner’s elderly, petite Aunt had been able to muscle this hulk around New Orleans for so long.
It made my Corvair Monza feel like an exotic, expensive foreign car of that time period.
“Even Grandma Will Approve of Your big Stripper”.
And him a married man! Well I never.
Why, things really did get wild in the ’60’s.
Grandma will never look at him in the same way again.
I think I’ve seen that yellow Biscayne in person at the drag strip, but the first place I look on a ’68 Chevy is the fender badge – 427 badges had a red background, which I’ve always thought was cool.
My father was a Pontiac guy since 1949 and he bought a ’68 Catalina but he went for a 4 door hardtop with deluxe wheelcovers but not much else. We got pulled over driving around 85 mph once while driving to get one of my brothers from Army basic training. He told the trooper he was just keeping up with traffic. It was the standard 400 with the Turbo Hydramatic.
As far as the 2 door post big block Biscayne goes, I first saw one in ’69 and have had a soft spot for them ever since. Sleepers are the talk softly but carry a big stick of motordom.
Stripper Biscaynes with big V8s set up for drag racing were often named ¨Bisquick¨.
r u sure about the premium fuel – my dad had two 1960’s Catalina Safaris and one Executive Safari – and the Catalina and Executive 389 and 400’s never required premium – except w/ engine upgrade
especially weird that a stripper would take premium
Yes I am. It’s right in their brochure. 10.5:1 CR. “Premium fuel”.
Maybe he retarded the ignition?
he always used Getty, which only sold premium but there was no indication that the cars needed premium, 2 barrel V8s
unlike the 1965 New Yorker which had the big 4 barrel V8
so maybe he knew, because back then all the cars got Getty, which sold premium at regular prices
thanks for the correction
Wait a minute: you first said he only used regular, and now you say he only used “Getty, which only sold premium”. So he did use premium, right?
The number of carburetor barrels has nothing to do with it; it’s the compression ratio. 10.5 back then was too high for regular. That’s why they offered the low compression 265 hp as a no-cost option.
not really – read it again
I never wrote he used regular
I assumed they only needed regular
many people used Getty back then even when the cars didn’t actually need it – I think Getty actually promoted that
The New Yorker needed it and he used the same station and Getty only sold one grade
OK, it just came off that way: “and the Catalina and Executive 389 and 400’s never required premium”. I think most folks who would read that would take it to mean that he didn’t use premium. But you’ve qualified that adequately now.
looking back I do remember my dad using Sunoco 210 in the Pontiacs before the Getty opened
that was above regular but below super premium and must have worked in the Safaris before the Getty gas
“When the 1960’s was getting under way, some changes were being made in the Sunoco camp. Instead of just 1 grade of gasoline, there were 6 different premium grades found in only 1 Blue Sunoco pump. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sunoco during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, you might find it unusual, but clever.
When a motorist stopped at a Sunoco station, he/she called out a specific number from 200-240 or 260, and the Sunoco attendant filled the vehicle with the gasoline that went along with that particular number. The motorist had the choice of 200 (premium), 210, 220, 230, and 240 (all mid premium), and 260 (super premium). If the motorist asked for 200, the attendant moved the “Blend Selector” dial on the side of the Blue Sunoco pump to 200”
worked for the Pontiacs before the New Yorker was acquired, which probably needed higher test than 210
Not a Pontiac, but here’s Grandma Stembridge’s Chevy, photo taken in 1968. Yep, it was a stripper.
It’s interesting that at this point and again just as briefly in the mid ’70s, GM tried showing cars in the exact appearance the base price would buy you. Usually if the base trim level was depicted at all it would be shown with whitewalls, deluxe wheelcovers and sometimes extra freestanding-option or dealer accessory chrome trim, all in sufficient quantities to dress the car up as much as just buying a higher trim level would be.
I don’t recollect ever seeing an ad like the one above of a full-size stripper model with hubcaps and blackwalls. Instead the ads would show those options, along with an asterisk next to the price:
*(shown with extra cost wheel covers and whitewall tires)
That Catalina looks odd without them. Yeah, you’d see telephone company/government Chevies and Fords like that, but not Pontiacs.
I was thinking the same. Certainly whitewalls would not push the price over $3000. like you said, maybe with full wheel covers, too.
I’ve only seen a few of these in my lifetime (two I think), I can only think Pontiac built these to appeal to skinflints who would have otherwise purchased something like a Chevrolet Biscayne or something similar. Maybe the competition between Chevy and Pontiac extended down to the penny pinchers-at least through 1968.
not a Biscayne – they were for fleets
for the price of an Impala you got a much better car w/ the Catalina
better, much more powerful engine
W I D E T R A C K
there’s a reason Pontiac did so well during the 1960’s
FWIW, I’m not a fan of the ’68 Pontiac’s styling; neither the beak, nor the flare at the rear quarters. I think the Chevy is decidedly better looking.
Going back to 1955. Dad purchased a stripper mint green Pontiac as his first new car. His brother chose a blue/white two tone Chevy BelAir six. Dad was an engineer. He valued the bigger engine and maybe the longer wheelbase, slightly larger brakes, etc. At trade-in time, I’m sure dad got less, because that Poncho was not very stylish.
The ad hits the stripper audience RIGHT ON TARGET. Young accountant or programmer who is the apple of Grandma’s eye. The wife will leave next week to marry a rich gangster with a pimped-out Caddy, but Grandma will be there with good hot chicken soup.
What’s my price? $2,968 to be precise.
In 1968, about 250,000 folks agreed with me and for that amount got themselves a 1968 Chevrolet Impala V-8 HARDTOP sport coupe, a much nicer canvas upon which to start placing options. The Chevy and Pontiac passenger cabins and greenhouses were the same, so the Pontiac offered no advantage in interior room.
My guess is most of the Poncho’s stripper sales went to state patrols that wanted the engine and also entertained some sort of longer wheelbase requirement.
So why the arguably silly ad?
Stripper cars that were sold as all engine for maximum performance certainly had a market in the late ’60s, and Detroit’s executives had a tendency to hold out hope for the performance full-size car in various guises. A vain effort to strip mine the full-size market?
Or was this Pontiac’s way of showing the bare canvas upon which most big Pontiac buyers would add heaps of trim and options?
If nothing else, the value of this ad buy is the conversation that it gives us 50 some odd years later!
America’s favorite full-size for the ’60s….
Most likely this ad was an effort to get potential buyers to visit their local Pontiac dealer. Once they had set foot on the lot, the hard sell for them to upgrade to a better equipped Catalina for “few dollars a month more” would immediately commence. Either that, or they would be shown a nice LeMans or Tempest – again, with more optional equipment.
I doubt the dealers wanted to stock many of these, given Pontiac’s customer base at that time.
I think the “You can upgrade to a ‘better’ car for just a few dollars more” has been a winning sales pitch since forever. Although I think the difference was getting pretty negligible by 1968, I think most buyers were quite sure that a Pontiac was a better car than a Chevy.
The other thought that comes to mind is that the new car market had been pretty flat in 67-68, especially in this segment. Might they have been constrained in A body production and trying to juice demand here?
We’ve discussed at length how Sloan’s ladder died with the introduction of the Caprice.
Well, if Chevy can move up, Pontiac can move down.
Sloan’s ladder was created for the 1920s, when income stratification as well as the car pricing stratification were both very different. It started to die in the late ’30s. And was essentially dead when Buick priced its Special very close to the low price three. By the mid ’50s, it was essentially done for: the ’55 Nomad cost more than a Buick Century Riviera.
And Pontiac had always sold low end “strippers” that were very close to Chevy prices. Nothing new in that regard.
AHEM! As stylish as many Pontiacs were, I have ridden in many over the years that belonged to friends or some rentals. Sitting in the rear, one always heard road noise from the rear wheels. One gent owned a brand new 1969 Bonneville four-door hardtop. One night six adult men traveled in it for sixty miles, one-way. Being the youngest of the lot, I chose the center rear seat. Oh, what a pain in my butt! The seat padding was insufficient to prevent the drivetrain tunnel from hitting me there on every bump in the road. I conclude that these vehicles were great for two front passengers. Others must beware! So, that night was 120 miles of sore behind. Flashy cars, I must say and great for front passengers.
This is the underside of that rear seat.
You must have been a heavy kid to bottom it out on each bump.
There was a 1969 Canadian Pontiac stripper much like this called a StratoChief. Two door sedan, no chrome, basic interior and a big rubber nose. My father bought one from a coworker who lived in Quebec. Both the 350 engine and slightly shorter wheel base were from Chevrolet. It was painted gold, with then-undesirable small hubcaps and black wall tires, a painful sight to my teenage eyes.
After the two-door sedan body style was dropped, the Strato-Chief was offered as a two-door hardtop in 1969 and ’70. The Strato-Chief was a Biscayne level stripper – the other low-trim hardtops unique to the Canadian market in this era were all one trim level up (Chevy Bel Air, Ford Custom 500 and Plymouth Fury II). Pontiac offered a Laurentian hardtop at that price point as well.
Yep, my buddies and I used to mock people who bought strippers like the StratoChief. Yet, that model and the Laurentian were popular or seemed popular in Alberta.
It might be that a lot of people who lived through the Great Depression were very careful what kind of car they bought in later years.
Frankly, except for the premium gas and the mpg, I’d like this car. Make it four doors and it would be a very versatile vehicle to have. I wouldn’t call it a stripper. I’d call it a honest car.
I’ve wondered at the kind of people that would buy a stripper full size car.I imagine that they were cash buyers. Their maximum price in this case, had to be below three thousand dollars. When I bought my F150 long bed in 2007 I wanted to pay cash and I wanted to replicate my old ’66 F250. No power windows, seat, or mirrors. Vinyl upholstery and a rubber floor mat. Base V6 motor with automatic and a/c. All the good stuff was engineered in, power rack and pinion steering, power four wheel discs brakes with ABS. It even came with a pretty good AM/FM stereo radio. Thirteen years and 150,000 miles later I’ve yet to regret my choice. I’ve been all around the Western states from north to south. The only thing it lacks is cruise control. I didn’t want to have to move up to the next trim level, so I decided to do without.
Years and years ago my Dad bought an old but clean, 1961 Dodge Seneca two door sedan. It was a total stripper. The first time I had ever seen a radio block off plate! Three on the tree, Slant six, and a heater. Dog dish caps with blackwalls. The plainest nylon or vinyl upholstery with a rubber floor mat. It didn’t even have reverse lights. I drove that thing quite a bit. I glorified in how ugly and un cool it was. Of course I had my Harley Sportster to be proud of, I named it the PIG. Unlike my modern stripper truck, I don’t think that I could find long term joy with that old Dodge.This isn’t a photo of the actual car, our’s had a clean white finish that I spent the first weekend washing, polishing and waxing.
OOOPs. Here’s the photo.
I had a base model 1971 Duster when I was a junior in high school and for both of my senior years. (Seems like missing 40 days of class precludes you from passing) The Duster had no power options, no carpet, bench seat 3spd on the floor and a 318 2bbl. And it was Moped Orange with dual exhaust and glass packs. I bought it from the parents of one of my little brothers friends. What a Blast!!! Not nearly as fast as my 71 Cutlass SX that my buddy had drove off the side of Skyline Drive and almost killed us all. It was still pretty quick for the late 1980s. Loud as he’ll with the glasspacks. I swear people must have thought they were seeing things. I had more people pull out in front of me driving that thing than any other car. Sold it for way to cheap. Wish I had never gotten rid of it. But at the time I had a 70 and 72 Chevelle. The 70 was the prettiest car I ever had. Unfortunately it needed a new engine and front end. The 72 had a 350 hp 350 and 350 turbo trans with a shift kit and 2800 stall. Man could that thing wind up!!! Meanwhile only that 72 Chevelle and the 71 SX 455 powered Olds were faster than a turn of the century Nissan Maxima.
In the 1960’s, we had a small-town Pontiac-GMC dealership nearby that sold a fair number of those base model, stripped Catalina, even with manual shift! The school district let bids for the driver’s education car, and Mac won with a stripped Catalina with stick shift. It had to be the cheapest Pontiac I ever saw: rubber mats, dog-dish hubcaps, cloth seats, solid gray. I think they were fleet-spec’d models. He would take them in trade the next year or two, always had customers who bought them, primarily farmers who still distrusted those new-fangle automatics.
Both this Catalina 2-door sedan and the illustrations are a far cry from the glamourous images in those Fitzpatrick & Kaufman Pontiac advertisements of the ’60s. Looking at the picture of the front bench seat, though, I can’t help but be charmed by this car. I can almost hear the “click” of those GM seatbelt buckles.
In 2020 money the Catalina would be around $22,500.
Throughout the sixties the price of a Catalina with automatic and a base V-8 Impala with automatic was within $100 or so. On first blush you would think the Catalina was the better value, with an engine over 100 cubes larger and the superior 3 speed Hydramatic over the 2 speed Powerglide. But the interior of the Impala was much nicer, with chrome window frames and accents, nicer seats, clock, deluxe steering wheel and other stuff that was optional on the Catalina. So, the value was pretty much equal. To get a truly nice Catalina one would have to order the Ventura package, which got the interior up to Impala standards. Of course that cost a few hundred more. You always get what you pay for.
My mother was born the year before the stock market crash that ushered in the Depression, and she bought cars like this. Here’s our ’67 Chevy Bel Air 2-door sedan with a single option, an AM radio. It had the 250 six, 3-on-the-tree, no power steering, and 4-wheel manual drum brakes.
This photo was taken and developed by my cousin. This was after the car was several years old, and my younger brother had removed the then-uncool dogdish hubcaps and jacked up the rear end. Take a gander at those skinny blackwalls, especially the snow tires on the rear!
Love that picture. Very…real, especially the raised rear end and those snow tires.
Into the early 70’s, my dad considered a car overpriced if it cost more than $1/lb.
This is similar to a lot of US and Canadian cars sold in Israel in the 50s-60s when owning ANYTHING made in North America was glamorous enough. The most important thing for buyers though was the dependability of those cars (when compared with British, European or early Japanese products), not geegaws like power this or that which added to the already not inconsiderable price (Israel had, and still has very high import duties on cars).
My Aunt married her boss when she was 66. He always got the first new Cadillac in his town each Fall, and it was a stripper. It was always off white 2 dr , with alternating green or brown interior and no air.
He died in 1958. She did not drive until my Mother taught her in 1965. She was 77 and bought a 2 dr off white, new 1965 Calais w/o air, and a green cloth interior. .She traded the 1958 Coupe Deville. She passed the test, including parallel parking, on the first try.
In 1975 aqt the age of 15, I accompanied my family on a vacation to Florida on winter break in our 1972 Vista Cruiser. Being a car guy, my face was glued to the window watching the other smowbirds heading south. One thing I noticed was that many Canadian plated cars were stripper versions of higher brand cars. Mercury (Meteor) , Pontiac Strato Chief and Laurentian, Chrysler Newports etc with dog dish wheelcovers and no chrome or vinyl roofs. Thy looked quite strange, enough that I remember it 45 years later. In the US you might see Fords, Chevys and Plymouth full sizers without options, though even that was rare.
I always thought the Catalina’s seat trim and interior door panels were decidedly less-nice than the same year Impala’s. The instrument panels were sometimes nicer in the Pontiac I think.