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Home/Technical Info/Pontiac/ 11. Car Models Described/
Pontiac 1959-62: The stage is set for the success of the 60s

The 1959 Pontiacs were one of the models introduced as part of Bill Mitchell's change in styling direction.
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Starting with 1959 models, the image of a sporty, youthful car with appeal across the spectrum of new car buyers emerged at Pontiac. The result was six straight years of low-slung, "Wide-Track," full-size performance machines that out¬ran the majority of competitors in both sales and racing. For 1959, major styling changes occurred. These included lower, longer bodies with more interior room, a new twin grille-theme, twin-fin rear fenders, 'V'-contour hoods, increased glass area and flat, rear over-hanging roofs on 4-door "Vista" hardtops. The old Chieftain line was renamed, adopting the previous hardtop name term "Catalina," which now became as series name.

Pontiac's major styling changes for 1960 included undivided horizontal bar grilles, straight, full-length side trim moldings, and a new deck lid which was nearly flush with the tops of the fenders. The "Ventura" Line was added in 1960. It was a Custom trim level Pontiac on the short wheelbase. Once again, the Star Chef was built on the long wheelbase chassis but used the Catalina two-barrel V-8 for its base power.

Downsizing was the theme at Pontiac this year. Thanks to a new perimeter frame design, the bodies on standard sized cars were smaller with a 119/123" wheelbase and lighter in weight. The Vista models featured new rooflines that emulated a convertible with the top up while the sport Coupes retained the "bubble top" look. The 2- and 4-door sedans used the old Vista roofline but were pillared. In the fall of 1960, following intensive research, development and testing, Pontiac expanded the bottom of its line with a completely innovative compact model called the Tempest.

When Knudsen moved to Chevrolet in 1961, Estes took over at Pontiac. Under his able direction the division continued to grow in sales volume and facilities. The Tempest moved the company into third place in U.S. sales in 1961, a coveted position that they would retain for the remainder of the decade

Standard Pontiacs grew about an inch and a half for 1962. Wheelbase on the Catalina and Grand Prix went up to 120", but stayed at 119" for the wagons. Styling revisions included a V-shaped twin grille, full-length side sculpturing and new rear end styling with curved tail lamps. Ventura trim became an add-on package for two Catalinas.
Styling changes for Tempest included a new wider-spaced split grille theme with a third grille section incorporating a V-shaped emblem placed in the center and the addition of bolt-in bright metal fins at the rear.

The big news was that the Grand Prix Sport Coupe bowed, and that the Ventura disappeared except as an interior trim package on Catalina Convertibles and Sport Coupes. Inspired by the success of the Oldsmobile Starfire, Pontiac got the go ahead for their "sport" version and it would prove an immediate success. From then on, Pontiac was the car that everyone wanted to own.

  • To read more about the 1959 Pontiacs - click HERE

  • To read more about the 1960 Pontiacs - click HERE

  • To read more about the 1961 Pontiacs - click HERE

  • To read more about the 1962 Pontiacs - click HERE
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Crisp horizontal lines emphasizing width was the hallmark of 1960 Pontiacs.

1961 Pontiacs looked bigger, but were actually smaller.

The Tempest bowed in 1961, and helped bolster Pontiac's sales success in the '60s.

Stylish, strong looking and slick, the 1962 Pontiacs were huge sales successes.

















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