With teams like Royal Pontiac making headlines in the Midwest, Union Park Pontiac tearing it up on the East Coast, and Gay Pontiac in Texas amazing the Pontiac fans down south, Bill Barry Pontiac in Southern California was also flying the Pontiac flag proudly. Its sponsorship of Jess Tyree’s long run of Pontiac racecars was a successful venture for all involved.
“Bill Barry asked me if he could get his name on my ’61 Catalina,” Tyree recalled in an August, 2013 phone conversation. “I owned the cars, but he sponsored them.” Jess’ ’62 421 Super Duty Catalina continued that successful partnership.
According to factory records, the Tyree Catalina was built on July 30, 1962, and was the 150th Catalina two-door hardtop built. It featured the 405-horse, dual-quad version of the 421 Super Duty, four-speed transmission, 4.30 gears, and interestingly, an all-steel body. The reason? The car was originally ordered by Chief Engineer John Z. DeLorean to be sent to Ford, who requested a car from Pontiac for comparison testing against the 406 Fairlane. Not wanting the Blue Oval bunch to see lightweight panels, DeLorean stuck with regular production sheetmetal for this car.
The Catalina stayed at Ford for more than a year, and it proved to be a good thing. Jess Tyree contacted DeLorean in late 1963 looking for a ’62 Catalina to race in A/Stock. This was actually a pretty tall order -- the racing ban had been in effect for months. DeLorean remembered the car he loaned to Ford and told him that one was available.
Tyree took delivery of his Catalina at the Ford Proving Grounds in Arizona and brought it back to California. He was later sent a full array of aluminum sheetmetal, including a full front end, decklid, rear bumper … even a pair of doors. After the lightweight sheetmetal arrived, Jess had it painted white and lettered to reflect his sponsorship from Bill Barry Pontiac.
The Cat proved to be a very competitive machine, so much so that it earned the nickname Big Stinker. Because it beat the Chevys so handily, there were many “big stinks” about its legality. The numerous protests prompted Tyree to paint the phrase “Legal A/Stocker” on the front fenders, a thumb to the nose aimed at the whiners.
This column-mounted tach adds a racy authenticity to the restoration. It’s pretty clear th
A Hurst shifter controls the Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission, which was built by
This close-up of a rear wheelwell shows no signs of the sledgehammer-induced sheetmetal da
The Tyree Catalina cleaned house just about everywhere it went, setting the NHRA A/Stock national record at Halfmoon Bay Dragstrip, just outside of San Francisco. It also set the AHRA World Record in Stockton and took the AHRA Nationals in Phoenix. In 1965 Tyree won the World Championship at Lions Raceway in Sacramento with it.
After Tyree was finished racing the Catalina in ’67, he sold it to Florida racer Bill Turner, who received the car with steel doors. Apparently, Tyree had removed them and stored them in a garage he owned. He didn’t want Turner to have trouble running a car with potentially illegal parts.
Tyree later sold the garage and never had a chance to empty it of its contents before the building was leveled and the doors were lost. The only other pair of ’62 aluminum doors are on the Royal ’62 Catalina and they are sedan doors, not the hardtop versions.
The Catalina soldiered on through the years, continuing to win for Turner. He sold it to P.J. Heck in 1969, who then sold it to Pontiac racer Fred Davisson, who sold it in 1973 to Alton Minchey, from Lafayette, Tennessee.
The Cat proved to be a very competitive machine, so much so that it earned the nickname Big Stinker
It came as a package deal with an Orbit Orange ’70 Judge, and another ’62 Super Duty Catalina that Davisson raced. Minchey held onto it for 30-plus years, collecting the parts needed before sending it to Tommy Davis and Bobby York of Southern Muscle in Monticello, Kentucky.
The Catalina was in very good shape, with only 6,600 original miles on the odometer. The only rear damage was some massaging of the rear wheelwells with a sledgehammer. No panel replacement was necessary, and the body was ready for paint after five block-sanding sessions. It was painted in a PPG basecoat/clearcoat system.
Alton Minchey smiles for the camera with his just-restored Super Duty, in July 2012. Sadly
The cabin is rather proletariat, even by ’62 standards, as these cars were built for maxim
Original, as-raced livery was re-created by Tommy Davis and applied by Frankie Davis (show
The engine was built by Richard Carter from Smithville, Tennessee. He started with an original 421 Super Duty block from NASCAR racer Banjo Matthews’ race shop. It was bored 0.030-inch over and fitted with custom Ross pistons that swing on Eagle H-beam rods on an original 990 crank. The cam is a Comp Cams replacement McKellar #10 and the valvetrain is all NOS GM componentry, including the 1.65:1 rockers and valves in the 980 heads. The ignition system is all correct stock and centered around a 1110976 dual-point distributor.
The engine is topped off with an 859 dual-quad intake and correct 3435S front and 3433S rear Carter AFB carbs. The correct Tyree headers were replicated by Mad Dog headers since the originals were long gone. The aluminum T-10 four-speed was rebuilt by Bobby York, with parts supplied by Jon at Kajun Enterprises from Whitney, Texas.
The interior was restored with interior fabric and cloth, expertly stitched by Pro Fit Auto Interiors in Munford, Alabama.
The result was certainly worth the wait. The restoration was completed in nine months and it is a stunner. Its first time out -- the 2013 POCI-GTOAA Co-Vention in Dayton, Ohio -- the Catalina won a Points Judged Gold in stock.
“I met Alton a few years back at a race in Kentucky,” Tyree recalled. “He came over to introduce himself. He told me that he had my ’62 Super Duty and was surprised to hear that I had known he had it stored in his basement. He was a very nice, down-to-earth person.”
Sadly, Alton Minchey passed away on July 22, 2013, just nine days after High Performance Pontiac photographed his prized Super-Duty Catalina for this feature. He was not able to attend, but was very happy to learn of the award and the upcoming story. Mission accomplished.