The name "Catalina" was first used on the 1950 Chieftain Series 25/27 hardtop, Pontiac's top trim level package at the time, and later added to the Star Chief in 1954, Pontiac's equivalent of the Chevrolet Bel Air. Originally referred to as "hard-top convertibles", these vehicles offered pillarless design in the door and window areas, along with the top-grade convertible appointments. The advantage this fixed-roof design offered is its sporty, airy feeling without the expense and drawbacks normally associated with convertibles. With the exception of the 1958 Bonneville, all Pontiac hardtops are designated "Catalinas" from 1950 to 1958. Powered by a flatheadstraight-eight engine at the time of its debut, it would receive Pontiac's new 287 CID OHV V8 four years later. A one-piece windshield was new for 1954. A padded safety dash became available in 1956. For 1959, Pontiac dropped the name "Chieftain" and "Super Chief" models for its entry level model and renamed it "Catalina", while demoting the former top-line Star Chief to mid-line status eliminating the two door StarChief Catalina, the only hardtop for the StarChief was the four door hardtop and expanding the Bonneville nameplate to a full flagship series that included sedans, coupes, convertibles and Safari station wagons.In the lower-priced Catalina line, Pontiac division advertising placed higher emphasis on the top trimmed two- and four-door hardtops, convertible and Safari station wagons instead of the pillared two- and four-door sedan variants despite the fact that the four-door sedan was the best seller in this line.The Catalina, though it was the lowest-priced full-sized Pontiac, was priced and trimmed below the Chevrolet Impala due to GM's overlapping price structure formula only a step below the Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile 88 in trim and appointments but priced about $100 to $200 less. Catalinas also came standard with more amenities than Chevrolet models and included a larger and more powerful V8 engine of 389 cubic inches, compared to the Chevy's six-cylinder or 283 and 348 cubic-inch V8s. Pontiacs also benefited from a much better automatic transmission than their Chevrolet counterparts - the four-speed Hydra-Matic - versus the Chevy's two-speed Powerglide. The 1961 full-sized Pontiacs were completely restyled with more squared-off bodylines, the reintroduction of the split grille first seen in 1959 and dropped for 1960 and an all-new Torque-Box perimeter frame with side rails replacing the "X" frame chassis used since 1958. The new frame not only provides greater side-impact protection than the "X" design but also improves interior roominess.The distinctive protruding grille made its appearance on all Pontiac products during the early 1960s, and was a modern revival of a similar appearance on Pontiac products during the 1930s and early 1940s, as demonstrated on the Pontiac Torpedo.Rooflines are more squared off on four-door models with the six-window styling dropped on pillared sedans and wider C-pillars with flat rear windows on four-door hardtops. A revised version of the 1959-60 "bubbletop" roof was used on two-door hardtops. Wrap-around windshields were dropped in favor of flatter glasswork for improved entry and exit to the front seat.
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