Updated: Feb 11
Only 14 Swiss Cheese Catalinas were built by Pontiac, and only 9 are known to still exist today.
One of many factory lightweight drag cars to leave Detroit in the ’60s, the Swiss Cheese cars were all about weight savings. With very thin aluminum for the inner and outer front fenders, hood, front bumper, and radiator core support. Employing all of these light weight components to the big Catalina dropped the weight down to 3308 lbs vs the street production car’s 3725 lbs.
With a 120-inch wheelbase and 64-inch track, the Catalina was a very big machine compared to most of the Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Plymouth cars it was running against.
Powering the ’63 lightweight was Pontiac’s Super Duty 421ci V8, rated at 420 hp at 5,600 rpm. Most likely it’s closer to 500 hp when properly tuned. Running high-flow heads, a McKellar #10 camshaft (Pontiac engineer Mac McKellar), and two Carter AFB four-barrels a top the aluminum intake.
The exhaust manifolds were cast aluminum as well and available as a dealer installed part in 1962. the light weight manifolds were standard equipment on the ’63 lightweights Pontiac’s.
Unable to withstand higher temperatures for long periods of time, but were quite adequate for a quick 1/4 run and weighed in at a featherweight 27 lbs per pair side compared to 72 lbs for the iron boat Anchors.
With a Hurst on the floor connected to a Borg-Warner T-85 heavy-duty three-speed with a trick close-ratio gears featuring a 2.09:1 first gear. Many racers would pitch the three and swap in the Borg-Warner T-10 four speed.
The Swiss Cheese Pontiac has around 120+ large-diameter holes punched in the rails leaving the frame strong enough to hold the car up and send it down the quarter but making it as light as possible.
George DeLorean, the younger brother of then GM executive John DeLorean ran a Swiss Cheese Catalina that put down very respectful times in the 12.30s at 115 mph. The lightweight Catalina was classed B/Factory Experimental. DeLorean also drove the smaller and lighter Pontiac Tempest Super Duty in the A/FX.
Sadly the Swiss Cheese Pontiacs did not see much track time before Pontiac’s racing program was shut down before it had really even getting off the ground. In January of 1963, GM President John F. Gordon and Chairman Fred Donner issued that the company would no longer be competing in racing activities.
Today the Swiss Cheese cars are remembered for there fascinating history, construction, and can bring big money when they do come up for sale in the half-million dollar range.
You have to love those few short years when The big Detroit auto makers were in an arms race for the lightest fastest and most powerful machines they can build!