Many hobbyists can recall the specific point in their lives that a vehicle made a lasting impression upon them. To some, it was entering a showroom and beholding a curvaceous sight, while to others, it was the first time they spied their dream car peacefully cruising a street or highway. Then there are those who revel in the days when high-performance cars blazed the countryside, leaving the smell of rubber and high-octane fuel, and the bellowing tone of large-cube V-8 power in their wakes.
Herb Patton is one hobbyist who relates to the latter. The 60-year-old product-support-representative retiree grew up in Crete, Nebraska, a small town about 25 miles southwest of Lincoln. Though Crete's population back then was just 3,500, it boasted of two dealerships: Muff Pontiac and Jack Applebee Chevrolet. The pair supplied the area with an amazingly high number of vehicles for their sizes.
"I was only 13 years old at the time, but it seemed there was drag racing every night, whether on Crete's streets or at nearby dragstrips in Kearney, Lincoln, and Omaha," recalls Herb. "I remember seeing the new '62 Pontiacs and falling in love with the styling. There were several high-performance Grand Prixs and Catalinas running around, and I watched them win regularly. It was a great time to grow up."
Making A Connection
Herb was about the same age as Don Gay of Dickinson, Texas, and though the two had never met, the excitement of watching the early-'60s Pontiacs thump the competition appealed to both. Unlike Herb, Don's father, Carl, owned a Pontiac dealership and let Don begin racing locally with a '58 Pontiac in 1961 at the young age of 14.
The dealership's service manager, James Osteen, told Herb, "Don was only 14 when he started racing, so I let him drive on my license to start with." With appropriate credentials in hand, Don took to the dragstrip, but it quickly became apparent that he didn't yet possess enough skill to win. He lost each match race he entered with the '58.
Hayden Proffitt was an accomplished racer that Mickey Thompson employed to drive his Pontiacs during the early '60s. It proved a lethal combination. So lethal in fact, that during his tenure at Thompson Enterprises, Hayden took five '62 Pontiacs to the NHRA Winternationals at the Los Angeles County Raceway in Pomona, California, that year and won five different classes with them: A/FX, Super-Super/Stock, Super/Stock, A/Stock-Automatic, and B/Stock-Automatic.
Just a year earlier, Hayden was traveling cross-country attending events with his '61 Catalina. He recollects, "I was asked to make a publicity stop at Gay Pontiac to display the car and meet the Gay family. Carl asked if he could hire me to teach Don to drive and I agreed. Don was only 15 at the time, but he was a good listener and caught on very quickly. He turned out to be an excellent driver." Carl's investment paid off, as his son won his first trophy the following race.
Pontiac's Super-Duty program of the early '60s was stealing the show at NASCAR circle tracks and NHRA dragstrips everywhere. The largest engine displaced 421ci, and its 4.09-inch-bore block was fitted with forged-aluminum Mickey Thompson pistons, 6.625-inch forged-steel connecting rods, and a forged-steel crankshaft with a 4.00-inch stroke and 3.25-inch diameter main journals.
The engine was fed by a pair of Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors, a cast-aluminum intake manifold, and in 1962, high-flow No. 127 cylinder heads featuring 2.02/1.76-inch diameter intake and exhaust valves. A McKellar No. 10 mechanical flat-tappet camshaft with 308/320 degrees of advertised duration and 0.445-inch valve lift with 1.65 rockers actuated the valves. Spent gases were exhausted through a pair of high-flow cast-iron manifolds with bolt-on collectors that could be uncapped for competition.
Though the Catalina's aluminum front fenders and hood don't presently encase its original
A pair of Carter AFB carburetors (Nos. 3435S and 3433S, front and rear, respectively) and
This '62 Super-Duty Catalina was originally driven by Don Gay of Gay Pontiac in Dickinson,
No. 980 cylinder heads replaced the original No. 127s during the '63 race year to further
This box was part of Mallory's Engine Safety Control System, which limited maximum engine