Russo and Steel Cuts to the ‘Cheese’

Angelo Van Bogart |

Russo and Steele to offer ‘Swiss Cheese’

1963 Pontiac Catalina at Scottsdale

As one of the most radical factory-built weapons conceived during the Super Stock wars of the early 1960s, Pontiac’s outrageous “Swiss Cheese” Catalina lightweight was purpose-built just for one mission: to maintain dragstrip supremacy. To do this, 14 full-size 1963 Catalina Pontiacs were plucked from the assembly line, stripped of all sound deadener and insulation, and relieved of one inside frame section. Aluminum body and mechanical parts were used extensively. Some 120 round lightening holes drilled into the sides of the frame rails at John DeLorean’s suggestion begat the famous “Swiss Cheese” moniker. As completed at the Pontiac assembly plant, the Super Duty 421-powered cars were some 800 pounds lighter and easily produced low-12s at about 115 mph on the quarter-mile. Now, as then, the “Swiss Cheese” lightweights reign among the quickest, rarest and most coveted muscle cars in existence. Just nine remain today.

This 1963 Pontiac Catalina “Swiss Cheese” factory lightweight is one of 14 built and 9 remaining.

The example that will be sold at the 13th Annual Russo and Steele Scottsdale auction event January 16-20 is one of the 14 original “Swiss Cheese” lightweights built by Pontiac and one of the 12 originally finished in Frost Silver. After being tested by Pontiac stalwart Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, who already had received his own car, this particular “Swiss Cheese” Catalina was instead delivered new to Wilmington, Delaware’s Union Park Pontiac.

During 1963, popular Union Park salesman and driver Harold Ramsey raced it to great effect against Mopar’s finest Super Stockers including Bobby Harrop’s “Flying Carpet” and Bud Faubel’s “The Honker.” Next, Ramsey altered the car’s wheelbase for A/FX, the forerunner to today’s Funny Cars. In May 1965, Ramsey ultimately achieved a blistering low ET of 8.91 seconds at 148.00 mph with the Catalina, which continued racing into the late 1960s with Larry Johnson as the “Funny Tiger.”

The current owner acquired the big Cat, still wearing its late-‘60s livery, in 1997. Thorpe’s Body and Corvettes Shop of O’Fallon, Illinois executed a complete, concours-quality restoration with the painstaking 3,000 man-hour job returning the car to original appearance and specifications.  In 2010, the restoration was completed and the Catalina dominated the show field; achieving a perfect 400-point score that year at the June 2010 Charleston, West Virginia POCI Nationals, followed by Concours and Gold Certification at the November 2010 Corvette & Musclecar Nationals. During 2012, its winning streak continued with Senior Gold at the St. Charles, Illinois POCI Nationals and First Place at the Norwalk, Ohio Pontiac Nationals.

The 1963 Catalina Super Duty “Swiss Cheese” example offered at Russo and Steele Scottsdale is confirmed, documented and pictured in the definitive book “Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955 -1979″ by experts Pete McCarthy and John Angelis. As one of the 14 known original, factory-built “Swiss Cheese” factory lightweight Catalinas produced for 1963 and one of just nine remaining today, the provenance of the Union Park Pontiac Catalina is simply beyond reproach. Restored to award-winning perfection, it is more than worthy of headlining any serious collection of American high-performance cars.

About Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions
Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles is one of the nation’s premier collector car auctions; specializing in the world’s finest European sports cars, American muscle cars, hot rods and customs.  Its auctions each year attract clients all over the globe not only because of its reputation for stellar collector automobiles, but also unique auction experiences unattainable at any other collector car auction in the world.  Its auction events take place with its signature auction in Scottsdale, Arizona every January, and Monterey, California every August.  For additional information please visit www.russoandsteele.com or call 602.252.2697.

Related Resource

Read the book we use for all the Pontiac facts, Jack: The Standard Catalog of Pontiac

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