Introduced as a trim level on the Chieftain in 1950, the Pontiac Catalina became a stand-alone model in 1959. It debuted as the company’s take on the Chevrolet Biscayne, which had been introduced in 1958, and soldiered on until 1981
Even though it was Pontiac’s lowest-priced full-size model, the Catalina came standard with more amenities than the Chevrolet Biscayne. And while the latter was offered with an inline-six before options, the Catalina used a larger and more-powerful, 389-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) V8 in 1959.
Come 2022 and first-year Catalina models have become sought-after collectibles. Sure, they’re not as desirable as the fancier Bonnevilles of the era, but they’re great classics to own if you’re on a budget. Because they’re not very expensive. While Concours-ready examples cost around $35,000 according to Hagerty, units in Excellent condition will fetch less than $25,000.
Unfortunately, many early Catalinas are still rotting away in junkyards and barns, many of them with no hopes of getting a second chance. This 1959 two-door coupe, for instance, spent a whopping 30 years in a barn. But it got lucky when it was rescued by YouTube’s “IowaClassicCars.”
Sadly, the once-gorgeous Catalina is in pretty bad shape. Parked sometime in 2000 in an old barn, it spent 22 years behind locked doors, gathering a massive amount of dust and grime on its upper body, as well as a lot of rust around the side skirts and the wheel arches. On top of that, the 389-cubic-inch V8 is completely stuck and will most likely need a rebuild to fire up again.
But the new owner isn’t giving up on it just yet. After hauling it back to his shop, he gave the Catalina a much-deserved cleaning, its first in more than two decades. The process reveals a somewhat solid body except for the rust in the lower section and a somewhat rare paint called Blue Castle.
All told, it’s a cool survivor with original paint and a numbers-matching unit, but it’s too far gone to be more than just a parts car. But the owner wants to get that V8 running again so we should see it fire up (and maybe even take a drive around the block) soon. Meanwhile, see it get rescued and cleaned up in the video below.
And in case you’re wondering, 1959 Catalinas aren’t exactly rare. Pontiac built almost 200,000 of them that year, not including the Safari station wagons, and almost 65,000 of them left the factory as two-door sedans or hardtops. The rarest 1959 Catalina out there is the convertible, of which only 14,515 were sold. If we’re also taking drag-prepped factory cars into account, than the Catalina Super Duty takes the cake at less than 200 units.
The first-generation full-size remained in production for only two years, being redesigned, like the rest of the GM lineup, for the 1961 model year.