Any hobbyist of the early-'60s performance scene knows that the Super-Duty Pontiacs instilled fear in the competition. It didn't seem to matter if the challenge came on a NASCAR oval or NHRA dragstrip, triumphant results were commonplace. Pontiac distanced itself from others as a performance leader with continual engineering developments and larger displacements.

To many, the pinnacle was the '62 model year, and retired auto-parts wholesaler Mike Marsh of Lafayette, California, owns a timepiece from that era. His '62 Catalina is equipped with the potent 421 Super-Duty engine and has accumulated a mere 14,000 miles in its lifetime. While some low-mile cars have led storybook lives, this Catalina's tale contains a few different twists. The end result, however, is a stunningly original example that serves as a vestige of Pontiac's glory days.

The 421 Super Duty
Pontiac's 421 Super-Duty engine debuted late in the '61 model year as a larger version of the SD 389. Neither engine, however, was factory installed. Instead, the components were shipped to factory-backed racers for post-delivery installation, and the Super-Duty program's overwhelming success forced racing organizations to limit engine eligibility to factory-installed units. Pontiac countered by offering the SD 421 as a regular-production option on '62 Catalina and Grand Prix models.

The 389 and 421 Super-Duty packages were engineered for maximum performance, but the larger mill often overshadowed its smaller brethren. It featured a four-bolt block containing a 4.09-inch bore and a No. 542990 forged-steel crankshaft with a 4.00-inch stroke and 3.25-inch diameter main journals. The cylinders were filled with Mickey Thompson forged-aluminum pistons and No. 529238 forged-steel connecting rods. Its flat-tappet, mechanical camshaft was the newly designed No. 541596 McKellar No. 10 with 308/320 degrees of duration and 0.445/0.447-inch lift with 1.65:1-ratio rocker arms.

Two cylinder-head castings were used during the '62 model year, both with a combustion chamber volume of 68 cc to produce an 11.0:1 compression ratio. Casting No. 540306 featured 1.92/1.66-inch valves and was carried over from the previous model year. It was used into March 1962 before casting No. 544127 with larger 2.02/1.76-inch valves entered production. Since both heads were designed for competition, neither was equipped with an exhaust crossover.

A cast-aluminum intake manifold housed two Carter four-barrel carburetors, and like the cylinder heads, a few different manifolds were used in '62. Functionally the same, early model-year engines with No. 306 heads received casting No. 542991, while late-year engines with No. 127 heads utilized No. 9770319. Strangely, both contained an exhaust crossover though the cylinder heads did not. One last casting, No. 9770859, was available towards the end of the model year and had no exhaust crossover whatsoever.

Pontiac engineers designed a pair of highly efficient, cast-iron exhaust manifolds for the Super-Duty package. The units boasted separate bolt-on collectors that contained cutouts to bypass the 2.25-inch dual-exhaust system and low-restriction mufflers. This engine also received a specific harmonic balancer, oil pan, and fuel and oil pumps. A conservative gross rating of 405 hp at 5,600 rpm and 425 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm was the end result.

The bulletproof engine was mated to a heavy-duty clutch and pressure-plate assembly and backed by a heavy-duty three-speed manual or a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual transmission in the Catalina, but only the four-speed in the Grand Prix. Though a limited-slip differential was optional, 4.30:1 was the only axle ratio available. Total documented production for Catalina and Grand Prix models equipped with the 421-SD is 155 and 16 units, respectively.

A typical Catalina weighed around 3,550 pounds in street trim, and a unique feature aimed at reducing weight was found on a number of '62 Super-Duty cars. Such steel body components as the fenders, inner fenders, hood, radiator support, and front bumper were replaced with stamped-aluminum units, shedding nearly 200 total pounds. The number of cars that received aluminum pieces is presently unknown, but some researchers believe all would have had them unless the buyer specified otherwise.

The '60s
Marsh's Cameo Ivory Catalina is one such vehicle equipped with an SD-421 engine and a gamut of aluminum sheetmetal. It was built at the Pontiac, Michigan, assembly plant on July 11, 1962, and shipped to Mission Pontiac Company in San Bernardino, California, for delivery. It's unclear if the car was ordered for a customer or employee, but the absence of convenience options and the presence of a four-speed transmission and 15-inch wheels indicate it was intended for maximum performance.

Renowned Pontiac hobbyist Pete McCarthy is partially credited with discovering the Super-Duty Catalina. In the late '60s, Pete was an area manager for the Pacific Bell telephone company, and his duties included bill collecting. Pete sent employee Larry Williams to a home in Bloomington, California, to collect on a delinquent bill. Larry found that the homeowner was recently widowed, and-like him-her deceased husband had an interest in cars. She told him about her husband's Pontiac and led him to the garage to see it.