It’s a surreal experience seeing a famous, long-lost vehicle for the first time. There’s a certain radiance of the moment—that instant you realize it’s the very same machine that was in those grainy black-and-white photos in a copy of some yellowed magazine from a half a century ago. The historic significance can leave you scratching your head, thinking of the complete unlikelihood that this car somehow beat the odds. For whatever reason, it didn’t end up as some rusted-out, forgotten and recycled chunk of metal that was melted down and is now running around as a new Ford Focus.

When showgoers came to the 2010 Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, they were treated to a special display of original Super-Duty Pontiac racecars in the area between the showfield and the midway. It was organized by Merle Green, owner of the ’66 Knafel Pontiac Tin Indian GTO.

Many Super-Duty fans, especially those from Ohio, thought they were seeing a ghost—a Firefrost Silver ghost. There it was, in living color, as beautiful as the day it rolled out of Pontiac Engineering in May of 1962—the original Anderson Pontiac Big Bear, the A/Stock 421 Super-Duty Catalina lightweight record-holder piloted by the legendary Akron Arlen Vanke, and now owned by Bill Hemperly. Better yet, Mr. Vanke was sitting right next to it—talk about a reunion!

This car has a pretty interesting story. Originally built in Pontiac Engineering, it had all of the best late- season performance upgrades, such as the 980 heads and high-rise dual-quad intake. It also featured the complete array of lightweight aluminum sheetmetal and driveline components, including aluminum front and rear bumpers, hood, front fenders, inner fenderwells and radiator support, a super-rare aluminum decklid, aluminum differential housing, cast-aluminum exhaust manifolds, and an aluminum alternator support—pretty exotic stuff for 1962, and today, highly prized and extremely rare.

Interestingly, the Catalina was built with a three-speed manual transmission, which was often picked over the four-speeds by racers of the era. The idea was that the three-speeds, while not as smooth shifting, were more durable, and only two shifts had to be made during the course of a run.

The Catalina was originally owned by George DeLorean, who obtained it directly from Pontiac Engineering. After a short period of ownership, it was sold to Akron Arlen Vanke, who raced it with some sponsorship from Anderson Pontiac in Akron, Ohio. Anderson later became Knafel Pontiac. At the time that Vanke bought it, the Catalina came to him with a 389 four-barrel in it. Arlen then built a correct 421 Super-Duty and began racing it.

The Catalina proved to be a successful mount, and it managed to set an NHRA National Record in A/Stock and won the 1962 A/S Points Championship in York, Pennsylvania. Vanke moved on to building and racing the Running Bear ’63 Anderson Pontiac-sponsored Tempest. Having no need for the Catalina, he put it up for sale.

As it turned out, the Catalina’s history after Arlen retired it was a pretty pampered one. He sold it to Jim Schultheis of Canton, Ohio, on February 24, 1964, for the sum of $2,900. Jim raced for two years after that with quite a bit of success. He was the Pittsburgh International Dragway class winner in 1964, and that year went on to rack up a Magnolia Dragstrip season championship, Norwalk class win, Detroit Raceway season championship, a pair of Timing Association wins at Quaker City, and a Dragway 42 class win.

This ’62 SD 421 Catalina sedan has been a part of Hemperly’s life, a consultant from Massillon, Ohio, for as long as he can remember, as his stepdad was Jim Schultheis. As a child, he knew it was a neat old car that he and his father would take out and occasionally exercise. In his teens he learned the storied history of this old Cat.