The lightweight package used on this car even extends to the rear, including the different
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.
Arlen Vanke (left) and Jim Schultheis signed autographs and spoke with fans in the Super-D
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!
The 421 Super-Duty Cat has been repainted in the original Firefrost Silver, and the livery
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.
Though the hardtop body was preferred by NASCAR racers for its slight aerodynamic edge, dr
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.
Note the chrome shiftball and patina on the arm of this Hurst shifter from Vanke or Schult
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.
The Sunpro tach that Jim installed on the column was retained for the restoration.
The Stewart-Warner gauges that Jim added are still with the Catalina.
With the exception of the carpet, the interior is factory original. Note that the stock th
“Before I was able to drive and knew what my dad actually had, I fell in love with this car,” he recalls. “I asked him to never sell it, hoping someday we would both restore it. When I was in my teens, my dad would bring it out of the garage and blow the cobwebs out on US 40 in Centerville, Indiana, near our house and then let me clean it before he covered it back up.”
Here’s a copy of the manifest.
One day in 2004, much to his surprise, Jim came over to Bill’s house with the Catalina. He had decided that it was time to hand the car to his son. Two years later, the restoration started. Fortunately, the Catalina was in fantastic original condition, remaining complete and rust-free. There were few missing parts to locate.
It was sent to Ellsworth Auto Body in North Canton, Ohio, where it was completely disassembled and treated to a rotisserie restoration. The engine was sent to Frank Kolbl in Canton, Ohio, who rebuilt it to stock specs. It uses the stock crank and rods, and original Mickey Thompson pistons and pins in the standard bores, as well as a correct McKellar No. 10 camshaft with 308/320-degrees duration and 0.445/0.447 lift with 1.65:1-ratio rockers. A set of 2.02/1.76 valves reside in “980” heads, and compression is 11:1. A pair of Carter AFBs on the famed 9770859 aluminum intake provides fuel and air, and original SD cast aluminum No. 9772521 and -522 exhaust manifolds evacuate the spent gasses.
The rest of the driveline was rebuilt, though the original three-speed was long ago replaced with a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed. A set of 4.30:1 gears are in the aluminum rear center section. The chassis and braking systems were also restored, and their wear items were replaced.
Jim (in sunglasses), shown here with Paul Whipkey, wipes down the fender in this undated p
Since the factory aluminum sheetmetal is very fragile, the original paint was removed using a soda-blaster. The aluminum bumpers were shipped to Paul’s Chrome Plating in Evans City, Pennsylvania, for rechroming, and the body was repainted the original Firefrost Silver, using the underside of the decklid to match the paint color in the PPG Deltron basecoat/clearcoat system.
Bill’s Super-Duty Catalina was completed in 2009. When it made its show debut at the 2010 Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, it was reunited with Arlen Vanke, who rode shotgun as it made a parade pass down the track. It won a Second Place trophy in the SD class and returned for the 2011 edition as well.
Talk about being an integral part of the family. Bill says, “Notice on the copy of the tit
Jim Schultheis passed away in 2010 but not before seeing the completed SD in all of its original splendor. “When we picked it up, he drove it up my driveway,” Bill recalls. “He couldn’t stop smiling!”
HPP photographed this rare Cat at the 2011 Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals. Bill will be showing the car more in the future and has absolutely no plan to sell it. After all, it has been a part of the family almost as long as he has!
Akron Arlen and the a-stock racer
A very happy Arlen Vanke is reunited with his old A/Stock racecar at the 2011 Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals. He remembers the Catalina well. “George DeLorean was a good friend and raced it for a year,” he recalled. “When he decided to sell it, I told him I was interested in buying it, and did so in 1963. I had met Jim Schultheis before and he was a good guy—a real Pontiac enthusiast,” he said. “We became friends and I sold the car to him through Knafel.
“I knew that Jim had the car all these years,” Vanke explained. “When his son brought it to Norwalk, I was very happy to see it back in the light of day. There is no better feeling than to have your old car taken care of and made available to you by the current owner. It is great to be at shows together with them. Not many people can say that.”