1970 Pontiac Catalina: Red Rover, please come over

Pontiac Catalina Klockau Classics lead
Thomas Klockau

I miss Pontiac. Like my other much-loved departed GM make, Oldsmobile, Pontiac had a long line of impressive cars, especially during the salad days from the 1950s to the ’70s. Bonneville. GTO. Grand Ville. Ventura. Star Chief. So much gorgeous rolling stock. But I’d better get on with the program before I digress too much. Today’s topic: the 1970 full-size Pontiacs.

Thomas Klockau

I love ’em. Most folks don’t seem to get too excited with the 1970 neoclassical facelift—right down to faux horn grilles like your great grandfather’s Hupmobile. References to “1970 Edsel” have been known to be uttered. But I love them. Back in the late ’90s, I got hooked on collecting vintage brochures. Ebay was in its prime then, and probably 80 percent of my collection came from there. One of my earliest acquisitons was the deluxe, 52-page 1970 Pontiac full-line brochure.

Thomas Klockau

As the 1970 Pontiac brochure extolled, “Face it folks. The 1970 Catalina is all wrong. For the money, you should get a car of so-so size with hee-haw styling. But no. Catalina is big. Lots of room for heads and legs. And lots of engine. 350 cubic inches and 255 horses. Order a convertible or wagon, and the numbers get bigger: 400 cubes, 290 hp.”

Thomas Klockau

This was during the final years of the terrific Van and Fitz Pontiac artwork, and the ’70 Pontiacs were in fine form in dealer literature. The Catalina, of course, was Pontiac’s lowest-priced full-size car—and very popular. A total of 193,986 Catalinas were built for the model year. By this time, pretty much all Catalinas had automatic transmission, despite it still being an option. Only 579 had the manual transmission!

Thomas Klockau

If you really want to seek out something rare, try finding a ’70 Catalina station wagon with the manual transmission: only 113 were built. The Catalina Convertible was priced at $3604 ($27,681 today), weighed 4027 pounds, and 3686 were built. Convertible sales had been on the downswing for several years, thanks to hardtops, air conditioning, and simple changes in consumer tastes, and 1972 would be the last time you could get a brand new Catalina ragtop.

Thomas Klockau

As previously mentioned, standard engine in Catalina coupes and sedans was the 350 V-8 with 255 horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque, breathing through a two-barrel carb; Catalina convertibles and wagons came with the 290-hp, 428-lb-ft 400.

Thomas Klockau

That was one of the things you got when buying a full-sized Pontiac over an equivalent ’70 full-size Chevrolet. While certain Chevy models made do with a standard six-cylinder engine, every big Pontiac had a V-8.

Thomas Klockau

Of course, if you still wanted even more power, you could get ever increasingly powerful engines, all the way up to the vaunted Pontiac 455-cubic-inch H.O. engine with a four-barrel carb, 370 horsepower, and an impressive 500 lb-ft of torque. As long as you didn’t mind Chris-Craft style fuel consumption.

GM

As much as I love this Catalina convertible, it would have been even better if it was a Bonneville. Bonnevilles are my favorite Pontiac, with the possible exception of the 1971–75 Grand Villes. The 1970 Bonnies would have had the Broughamier grill, fender skirts, fancier seats and door panels, and maybe even an AM/FM stereo with an 8-track player. And all the extra chrome gingerbread that I love.

Thomas Klockau

This car was spotted at the Oneida, Illinois, car show in July 2022. I’d never been to it before, but I had been at a show the previous weekend in Bishop Hill, Illinois, and a guy I spoke to mentioned that the Oneida show was pretty good and encouraged me to attend the following weekend.

Thomas Klockau

The morning of the show, I checked a couple websites that list local car shows, and there it was again: Oneida … 45 miles away … Hmm …

Thomas Klockau

My car was already coated with bugs from driving to Iowa City and back on Interstate 80 the previous Friday, and the weather was great—low 80s and low humidity. So I went. Why not?

Thomas Klockau

All in all it was a great show, and I’ll probably be back next year. There were some really great cars there, including a 1976 Continental Mark IV, 1956 Imperial, and a copper-colored 1986 GMC Caballero, the seldom-seen GMC equivalent to the El Camino. It was really hard to pick a favorite, but as you may have surmised, this car was my  choice. A perfect summer cruiser!

Thomas Klockau
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Comments

    They’re beautiful cars. The hardtop coupes are my fave, but close behind is the stationwagon. In profile, did a stationwagon ever look so good? I’m also a huge fan of ’68 Chevy Impala coupes and convertibles with 15 inch wheels and raised white letter radials. I’ve had six of them – all at once. Now do them!

    Steve,
    My Dad bought a new ’68 Impala with the one year color of Sequoia Green with the medium green cloth brocade interior. The interior was at least 10 times more attractive than the paper grocery bags that pass for cloth interiors now. Yuk! 😱🙄

    My first car was formula 350 ,brother has 66 gto convertible tripower,4 speed with frame off restoration ,l am huge Pontiac fan

    I had a Canadian produced 1970 Pontiac Strato Chief 4 dr sedan which was the base model in Canada. Basically a Chevy Bel Air with Pontic frint and rear lights, grille and bumpers.

    Only options on mine were the Am radio ad a 350-4 bbl engine backe up by a 3 spd manual on the tree. I always wanted to drop in a 454 and a 4 spd for a perfect sleeper with the hub caps. But being a student it didn’t happen.

    So, adjusted for inflation this V8,full size luxury car would sell for the price of a 2023 Toyota Corolla? (27,000) this has to be incorrect.

    Correct. And in a moderately bad accident that you would see you walking away from the Corolla, you would have been dead. Never mind the fuel consumption… but to be fair, the Corolla is boring and this Pontiac is gorgeous!

    My Driver’s Ed car in High School was a 1970 Catalina. It was a great car and since my parents already owned a 1966 Bonneville it was exciting to drive a new Pontiac.

    My dad owned a 1970 Bonneville 4-door with the 350, blue with the black pebble vinyl top. On a family trip from NY to Florida, we averaged 20 MPG with the air conditioning on full power. Not bad for those days!

    My dad drove a 1970 Pontiac Executive 4-door.
    It was equipped with the 400ci V-8 but did not have factory air. He added an under dash unit.

    I have a 1970 Catalina base sedan. Just turned 31,000 miles. Smooth running, floats down the road, leisurely acceleration. Took a 900 mile drive from New Jersey to Florida. 14 mpg, really missed an overdrive gear and cruise control. A/C still working.

    I had a 70 Catalina 9 passenger wagon! What a comfy platform with enough room to take the entire neighborhood for a ride!

    My Ma bought a new 1969 Bonneville convertible. Yellow with black top and interior, 428, dual exhaust and A/C. What a cruiser. Could do 80-85 on the interstates all day. Plenty of trunk space for luggage when traveling. Got traded for a 74 Grand Prix in baby blue with a white vinyl top and interior.

    As stated in the article, 1970 Pontiac Catalina 2 door and 4 door models were equipped with a 350 (actually 353.8 in) 255 hp 2 bbl V-8 as standard equipment. The convertibles and SWs got the 400 reg gas 265 hp 2 bbl as standard equipment. From there, you could choose the 400 290 hp 2 bbl (high compression), 400 340 hp 4 bbl, the 455 360 hp 4 bbl, or the 455 HO 370 hp 4 bbl.

    Fun article. I love the big Pontiacs. I have a ’67 Catalina convertible and I love it! I also thought the Bonneville would be cool. My garage just barely fits the Catalina. A Bonneville wouldn’t fit!

    Cool convertible. When I was growing up, a neighborhood lady had a 1970 Catalina two-door hardtop; I always thought that front-end looked a little contrived, but over the years, I have kind of gotten used to it.

    In 1973 I bought a used 1970 Bonneville rag-top, 455ci, 370 horse, from a Pontiac dealer. Beautiful dark Atoll blue with Sandalwood interior. In the midst of the Arab oil embargo, they were practically giving away these monster cars. Had it for 3 years. Never any problems. I have many fond memories of top-down driving through hot, sultry summer nights with my unbelievably hot girlfriend (at the time) tight up against me on that massive front seat.

    Although not as baroque as the 1970, I owned a ’73 Pontiac Grand Ville convertible in white with red interior. And boy what a boat she was. I loved that car. I could really pile a lot of people in it and go cruising. But my favorite use for it was to haul girls around on the rear deck in parades. That is Americana at its finest!

    I sold my car at the Charlotte Auto Fair. A man who was looking at it asked me if it got bad gas mileage. My reply was “for a car its size and weight and with a 455, it’s not all that bad.” Was that ever a political answer or what? LOL

    This is what she looked like. https://barnfinds.com/455-v8-survivor-1973-pontiac-grand-ville/5-1263/

    I still have my 1968 SS427 Impala. Rides great and with the 385 hp and 460 ft-lbs of torque gets up and goes! Bought it from Dana Chevrolet, January 1968.

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