Pontiac Catalina Gen 3
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
The 1965 full-sized Pontiacs were completely restyled with more flowing sheetmetal featuring "Coke-bottle" profiles and fastback rooflines on two-door hardtops. Wheelbases increased to 121 inches (3,100 mm) on all models. A new three-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission replaced the previous Roto Hydramatic unit on full-sized Pontiacs for 1965.
The "Turbo" was a three-speed torque converter unit similar in basic design to Chrysler's Torqueflite and Ford's Cruise-O-Matic transmissions - a move that made torque converter automatics the universal design for shiftless transmissions, and relegated the original fluid-coupling Hydramatic to history. Though the "Turbo" transmission continued to use the Hydramatic name, it shared none of its design with the older transmission. The Turbo Hydramatic also adopted the standardized "P-R-N-D-S-L" shift pattern which replaced the "P-N-D-S-L-R" pattern long familiar to owners of Hydramatic-equipped Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs.
The 389 and 421 cubic-inch V8s received a number of revisions including thinner wall block castings. The standard engine for Catalina models was the 389 two-barrel rated at 256 horsepower (191 kW) with base three-speed manual transmission and 8.6 to 1 compression or 290 horses with Turbo Hydramatic transmission and higher 10.5 to 1 compression. An economy regular-fuel 265 horsepower (198 kW) version of the 389 two-barrel with 8.6 to 1 compression ratio that burned regular gas was available as a no-cost option with Turbo Hydramatic.
Optional engines included a four-barrel 389 rated at 325 horsepower (242 kW) with Turbo Hydramatic or 333 with stick shift, a Tri-Power 389 rated at 338 horses, a four-barrel 421 rated at the same 338 horsepower (252 kW), 353 horses with Tri-Power or the 421 HO with Tri-Power and 376 horsepower (280 kW). The 2+2 option changed from a trim package to an all-out performance car package for 1965 similar to Pontiac's intermediate-sized GTO. The base engine with the 2+2 was now the 338-horsepower 421 four-barrel with the 353 horsepower (263 kW) Tri-Power or 376-horsepower 421 HO with Tri-Power available as options.
The 1966 full-sized Pontiacs received minor a facelifting of the '65 body with new grilles and taillight treatment. Inside, the instrument panel was revised along with interior trim. The 2+2 was upgraded from an option to full model status and engine/transmission offerings on all Catalina models remained the same as 1965 with the exception being the elimination of the 338-horsepower 389 Tri-Power option. For 1967, Catalinas and other full-sized Pontiacs received a heavy facelifting of the '65 bodyshell with more rounded wasp-waisted body contours and fuller fastback rooflines, along with concealed windshield wipers - an industry first. Replacing the 389 and 421 V8s of previous years were new 400 and 428 cubic-inch V8s built off the same Pontiac V8 design in use since 1955.
The standard Catalina engine was a two-barrel unit rated at 265 horsepower (198 kW) with three-speed manual transmission or 290 horsepower (220 kW) with Turbo Hydramatic. The 265 horsepower (198 kW) engine was available as a no-cost option with the Turbo Hydramatic and differed from the standard 290 horsepower (220 kW) unit by using regular gas as opposed to premium fuel. Optional engines included a four-barrel 400 rated at 325 horsepower (242 kW), a four-barrel 428 rated at 360 horsepower (270 kW) or the four-barrel 428 HO rated at 376 horsepower (280 kW).
The Tri-Power engine options were dropped for 1967 thanks to a new GM corporate policy which prohibited the use of multiple carbs on all vehicles except the Chevrolet Corvette. Front disc brakes and stereo 8-track tape player were new additions to the option list. The 2+2 was offered for the last time in 1967 in both hardtop coupe and convertible. The 360-horsepower 428 was standard and the 428 HO was optional. This model was dropped due to low sales since its 1964 introduction as performance car buyers overwhelmingly preferred smaller and lighter intermediates such as Pontiac's own GTO and the new Firebird ponycar, which was introduced for 1967.
For 1968, Catalinas and other full-sized Pontiacs received a minor facelifting of the '67 body with a new beak-nose split grille along with a reverting back to horizontal headlights, and revised taillights. Engine offerings were similar to 1967 with revised horsepower ratings including 340 for the four-barrel 400, 375 for the 428 four-barrel and 390 for the 428 HO. The 1969 Pontiacs received a major restyling with somewhat more squared off sheetmetal (though not as much as similar cars from other GM divisions) and rooflines.
However, the basic 1965 chassis, inner-body structure and four-door pillared sedan roofline were retained although vent windows were dropped on all models and Safari wagons got a new two-way tailgate that could be opened to the side like a door or downward like a tailgate - similar in design to that introduced by Ford Motor Company on Ford/Mercury wagons in 1966. Catalinas also got a one-inch wheelbase increase to 122. Variable-ratio power steering was a new option this year and front disc brakes were now automatically included when the power brake option was ordered.
Engine offerings consisted of a standard 290-horsepower 400 two-barrel (or no-cost optional regular-fuel 265-horsepower 400 with Turbo Hydramatic transmission), 330-horsepower 400 four-barrel, 370-horsepower 428 four-barrel or the 428 HO rated at 390 horses. The standard three-speed manual transmission and optional three-speed Turbo Hydramatic were continued as before, but the four-speed manual with Hurst shifter was dropped from the option list.
All full-sized Pontiacs, including Catalinas, received a new Grand Prix-like V-nose grille for 1970 along with 'horns ports' on a facelifted front end and new taillights mounted in the rear bumper. Catalina sedans and coupes now came standard with a smaller 255-horsepower 350 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 as standard equipment with optional engines including the previously standard 400 two-barrel rated at 265 and 290 horsepower (still standard on convertibles and Safari wagons), a 330-horsepower 400 four-barrel and a two versions of the new 455 cubic-inch V8 rated at 360 horsepower (270 kW) or 370 horses with the "HO" option. As in past years, a three-speed manual transmission with column shift was standard equipment, but most cars were equipped with the optional three-speed Turbo Hydramatic. Also offered for 1970, but seldom ordered, was a two-speed automatic transmission, Turbo Hydramatic 300 that was available with the 350 V8.
The 1965-1970 GM B platform is the fourth best selling automobile platform in history after the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Model T and the Lada Riva.