Jim Minick had the fortune of growing up in one of the most prolific times for American car culture--the ’60s. In 1962, a young Jim was enamored by the latest big Pontiacs, and was quick to lay down the cash for an Aquamarine ’62 Bonneville convertible with a 389 Tri-Power and an automatic trans. "I had great times cruising on the south side of Chicago," he recalls. "I put on cutouts, straight-pipes, and baby moon hubcaps, painted the wheelwells white, and added lightsthat was one great car." His Bonneville made him loyal to Pontiac, and the only thing it lacked, in his mind, was a four-speed.
When Jim wasn’t cruising the streets of Illinois, he was keeping his eye on each new model year of the full-size Pontiacs. "I didn’t like the taillights on the ’63, but I fell in love with the ’64," he says. Unfortunately, this was the same year he graduated high school, so his mind and wallet were focused on college--the Pontiac had to wait. A new ’67 Buick GS 400 convertible followed and then came a ’69 Plymouth GTX. After driving a company car for a few years, "I ordered a ’76 Trans Am 455 four-speed car in Sterling Silver, but I never forgot about the ’64," he admits.
An original Pontiac tachometer...
An original Pontiac tachometer with an owner-settable redline was installed. Can you imagine the warranty implications of being able to set your own redline?
Jim was thinking about his childhood and wishing to relive his youth. "The ’64 was always on my radar screen," he says. Then in September 2006, "I went to the annual Berwyn, Illinois, car show and there it was--immaculate and for sale!"
It was a Singapore Gold (code T) Catalina Ventura with a 421 Tri-Power engine under the hood and a four-speed bolted behind it. Jim quickly rounded up a few of his buddies who were well-versed in automotive restoration to check out the car and confirm its authenticity. They learned it was a real Ventura, but it originally came with a 389 and an automatic transmission. A previous owner had replaced these with a date-correct engine and transmission. Jim thought about this little setback and decided that because it was a tribute car of sorts, he could build it into what he wanted rather than worry about originality. He bought it in November 2006, 42 years after he decided that he first wanted one.
While some would shy away from buying a Pontiac that wasn’t entirely original, it didn’t deter Jim at all. This Catalina was certainly well taken care of by its previous owners. The paint was the original color, but it was resprayed at some point. "I didn’t have to do any bodywork to the car and the paint was very clean," he recalls.
The chassis had all of the suspension bushings and parts replaced with stock pieces by a previous owner. Overall, it was in terrific shape, but Jim wasn’t content to simply enjoy the Cat as it sat. "Since it wasn’t original, I decided to add the options that would make it the rarest it could be, had it been built this way originally," he states.
Finally, the four-speed that...
Finally, the four-speed that Jim had been waiting for. The styling of the chrome trim on the classic Pontiac consoles is pure automotive art.
In reality, not very many Tri-Power 421 Cats left the South Gate, California, assembly plant, or any other Pontiac plant for that matter, which meant that Jim’s car would have been extremely rare if it were originally equipped with one. The Tri-Power 421 is topped with three two-barrel Rochester carburetors. The powerplant features an aftermarket Crane cam (272/284-degrees duration, 0.454/0.480-inch lift, 112 LSA), which articulates the factory 1.5:1 rockers over the 1.92-inch intake and 1.66-inch exhaust valves in the No. 716 heads. The 68cc chambers bring compression to 10.75:1 with flat-top pistons. The connecting rods and 4.00-inch-stroke crank are cast.
A Delco points distributor with date-coded wires and AC plugs delivers the spark, and standard log-type manifolds dispense with the combustion remains through a reproduction exhaust system. The Borg Warner T10 four-speed is mated to a stock replacement clutch and delivers the torque to a 3.23-geared Safe-T-Track rear.