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Home/News and Feature Articles/*Featured Cars and Trucks/Pontiac Featured Cars/ 1960s Cars/


Mike and Jacki Bretsch's 1961 Pontiac Catalina has been restored as a tribute to racing back in the day.

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Looking like back in the day!

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1961 Pontiac Catalina 421 - Mike and Jacki Bretsch's tribute to big Indians from way back then
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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Mike and Jacki Bretsch knew right from the start that their project would be a tribute to racing. They found their 1961 Pontiac Catalina north of Phoenix in Black Canyon City, Arizona in 1995. What they learned from the seller was that it had come from Yuma, Arizona some years before and that it had been raced by a young kid. The car had been built at South Gate, California and came originally with a 389 V-8. It had since had a 421 with two four-barrel carbs installed for racing. As purchased, it was in many pieces with no driveline and some missing parts.

Mike and Jacki brought the car back home to Toledo, Ohio where they immediately began the task of restoring it back to racing glory. The car was completely disassembled, and the frame and all chassis components were powder corrected in the correct black. Engine parts to rebuild it as it might have been raced were located, and it was reassembled to 1961 racing specifications. The driveline was restored and included a Lakewood steel bellhousing, steel flywheel, Dana driveshaft, and a racing clutch.

The body was stripped to bare metal and prepped with PPG DP red oxide-epoxy primer. While the body was repainted in the original Bamboo Cream, the underside was left in the red primer as that' s the way it would have come from the factory. To stay as close to original as possible, no base coat/clear coat system was used. Rather, the car was painted with PPG Concept Acrylic Urethane.

The only non-original item is the hood scoop, but a scoop was allowed for racing, so it is period correct. But it wasn't that simple. Because the NHRA originally had said that adding a scoop was illegal unless one could have been had from the factory, Pontiac came up a part number to go with it. The scoop is actually a Ford part.

Mike and Jacki were able to locate NOS interior material in the correct Tri-Tone Fawn color, and it was installed with the original stitching pattern. To further the racing look, new Hurst seven-inch wide Cheater Slicks, a Sun SuperTach, and old style Stewart Warner Gauges were added.

At car shows, people are always stopping to talk about how they remember cars at the drag strips just like this one. Mike points out that, while winning awards is nice, what they enjoy more than anything else are the looks on people' s faces and the stories they have to tell. The car has won many top awards and has been featured in three magazines.

The restoration was completed in 2003, and the family then moved themselves and the car to Sarasota, Florida, where they continue to display their beautiful ' 61 Catalina, a tribute to the way it was back then.

The car

  • 1961 Pontiac Catalina 2-door "Bubble Top"
  • heater and back-up lights delete
  • factory painted steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps
  • 7.10 x 15 Firestone (front) / Hurst 7" cheater slick (rear) 4.10 Richmond Gear w/ Safe-T-Track
  • B/W T-10, close-ratio, aluminum-case, 4-speed transmission
  • Hurst Competition Plus shifter w/Hurst Reverse Loc-Out Drive shaft loop

The engine
  • 421 Cl, 500 HP, 11.75 CR on VIP 110 race gas
  • SD Forged Rods / Crank Pontiac Engineering Heads
  • McKellar #10 Solid Lifter Cam
  • 1.65 Roller Rocker Arms
  • Aluminum intake w/2 - Carter 500 CFM Carbs
  • '61 Pontiac point type distributor /no vacuum, re-curved Delta Mark Ten CD box
  • Champion Spark Plugs-J63Y
  • Stock oil pan deepened & baffled
  • Mad Dog custom headers ceramic coated black

The car is run as it was raced, with open headers, which is a real crowd-pleaser.


Beautiful looking from any angle

Looks right at home at the track - getting the hammer down!

A great profile, complete with color-matching wheels and dog-dish hubcaps.

Interior upholstery is NOS and stitched in the original, factory pattern.

Originally equipped with a 389, this 421 V-8 was installed for racing by a prior owner.

The underside of the body was left in red-oxide primer, just as it would have been from the factory.



Hood scoop is a Ford part. While not available from the factory, Pontiac had to come up with a part number for one before the NHRA would allow them at the track.