By on August 5, 2013

07 - 1972 Pontiac Catalina Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin20 years ago, when junkyard parking lots were full of forward-control vans, full-sized GM sedans were as commonplace in self-serve wrecking yards as are Ford Tempos and Dodge Intrepids today. It seemed like the flow of Crusher-bound Impalas, 98s, and Electras would never stop… but that’s just what has happened, save for the occasional appearance of a car such as today’s Junkyard Find.
01 - 1972 Pontiac Catalina Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car, which I photographed a couple months back in Northern California, has the look of a machine that sat forgotten for decades, maybe behind a plumbing shop in Union City, before being hauled off for scrap.
03 - 1972 Pontiac Catalina Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many Pontiac 400s in wrecking yards these days. This was one of the better V8s to come out of Detroit, though its sickly 301-cubic-inch cousin sort of ruined its image.
02 - 1972 Pontiac Catalina Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car wasn’t worth restoring when it was only half this thrashed, but it still has some good parts to offer.
11 - 1972 Pontiac Catalina Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor example, these taillights. Somehow, they’ve remained intact for 31 years.


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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1972 Pontiac Catalina...”


  • avatar
    toadroller

    Love the commercial. A mic drop (well, a crowbar drop) in 1972!

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Someone ought to rip that 400 block out!

    It’s not like BOP crate motors exist.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    Murilee, as far as the taillights go, didn’t you mean 41 years?

    A 2 barrel? Must be the economy model.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    My god I hate personal luxury coupes…

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Yep ;

    Those 400′s make wonderful truck engines or Hot Rod fodder ~

    Simply replace the wheezy 2 BBl carby with a nice progressive 4 BBL and suddenly it’s a screamer and still idles nice and whistles through SMOG tests too .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Plus you gotta have something to replace the Olds 403 or Pontiac 301 in your Trans-Am if you can’t afford/find a 400 car.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Was the Olds 403 a particularly bad engine, or is it just that it was used places where it wasn’t wanted with automatic transmissions? A friend had a downsized Olds 98, maybe a ’78 model, with the 403. I think his did experience the advertized overheating issues, but then so did another friend’s Dad’s Buick LeSabre from the same generation, and it had a Buick engine. As did my friend’s ’79 Impala wagon with a 350.

        • 0 avatar
          porschespeed

          Yes the “6.6 Litre” was absolute junk compared to the even more grenade-ready “T/A 6.6″….

          Both were junk GM plants back in the day, but the 403 Olds was even less reliable (if one can believe) than the 400 Ponticrap.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Indeed. Friend of mine had a TA with the 400 and a 4-speed. Even with 1979′s smog gear, that car could move.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Pontiac deliberately made it rather easy to reactivate the shaker scoop and block off the EGR for more power.

        A bit of time out in the driveway, and your T/A was making more power.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        That car could barely get out of it’s own way in 1979. One of my HS friends had a brand spankin’ new one (that he quickly dumped for a Euro-greymarket-928). Neither quick nor fast, let alone having suspension that wouldn’t get it round a track, the Turdlicker/Amateur lived up to its name.

  • avatar

    Never cared much for this era full size Pontiac. Just too ungainly looking to me. Give me an Electra 225, or a Caprice ragtop and I’m happy.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Boy is that thing ever thrashed. It looks like the hood, front bumper, taillights, and engine are the only usable parts off this thing. Anyone who has the rare convertible version of this car needs to grab their tools and get busy.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Rich…….was not.

    Richard had been tossing and turning for an hour on the front seat. His comfort had not improved. The sun was up early this morning, heating the interior of the Catalina to an unbearable temperature just after the crack of dawn. The cacophony of beeping trucks and banging 5th wheels piercing the seal of his toilet tissue earplugs finally did him in. With a steady creak, he swung open the passenger door and stepped out in the cool morning air behind the Whole Foods distribution center.

    Rich wiped the sweat off his forehead. He scratched his jaw through his grizzly beard. “Co$%$er!” He pulled up the sagging right leg of his heavily-stained basketball pants and slowly made the long journey to the aft section of the Pontiac. “Bi$%h!!” He twisted the key in the trunk lock, and lifted the huge lid to expose all his worldly possessions. He swung down the lid of the filthy Playmate cooler, and grabbed the breakfast waiting for him within. He sniffed the half-eaten Subway sandwich. A glorious find the night before, he had found the oops Italian hoagie still neatly-wrapped, sitting on top of the trash heap within easy reach. Sadly, it had failed the sniff-test. He loosened his grip on the sub and let it fall to earth. “Peanut butter F*&K!” It looked like it would be the tired meal of peanut butter and dry oats again.

    Now un-enthused about eating, Rich slowly made his way down a nearby vacant loading ramp to take care of some business. A door opened a short distance away, and he heard the distinct unmistakeable noise of jingling keys that could only mean one thing. He pulled his thin pants up just as the security guard caught sight of him. “I was going to give you this to be nice, but now you can take it and get the hell out of here.” Richard took the guard’s pity offering of a McDonalds Monopoly piece for a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese, and grumbled with appreciation. Back at the car, he looked up to see the round spy globe that he had missed the night prior. “Gol*&*# sands mother$%&!”

    Rich pulled up on the hot chrome to open the driver’s door. This door had even more character than the passenger side. It emitted a low groan, followed by a bang as the leading edge contacted the wrinkled fender. Once inside, the sound repeated again in reverse order as the door was pulled shut. Rich inserted the heavily worn, loose fitting key into the chromey receptacle and twisted. The starter motor was just as disillusioned as the man at the helm. It attempted to engage the flex plate with a “ding!” several times as the ignition was cycled. It finally grabbed a cog, gathered electrons, then slowly cranked the big V8. It fired to life, and torqued the entire car to the right slightly. Richard dropped the column shifter into drive and pulled away with a chugging that steadily increased in tempo.

    The Pontiac pulled up to the drive-thru speaker with it’s front end still bouncing on it’s double blown out shocks.
    “Quartrounder cher”
    “Excuse me?”
    “F&^k!”
    Richard had no time for this. The 400 cubic inch V8 with an M.I.A. #7 cylinder consumed fuel at a rapid rate. He pulled to the front window, and handed the girl the Monopoly piece. She grimaced before saying “Next window please.” He collected his food and chugged down the street to the Wal-Mart. “McDonalds.”, he said while carefully chewing a tiny bite in his decayed mouth. He hated McDonalds. Somehow he always ended up eating it despite his best efforts. He wondered why nobody gave him free KFC before suddenly drifting off into a 70′s era LSD-induced fragment. With eyes glazed and mouth agape, he sat there for over an hour. A woman thought he was dead. A passing teenager took a picture with his cellphone to put on Peopleofwalmart.com later.

    Rich locked the door from the outside, and went into the store with his towel. Once in the restroom, he noted the lack of paper towels. A blow dryer was the only thing provided at this location. “Grim%^&!” He wetted a corner of his towel to use as a washcloth. He came in and out of the handicap stall, wetting the towel, and scrubbing his nether-regions. He dried himself with the dry portion of the towel. Using hand soap, he finished up by cleaning his garments in the sink. The motion activated faucets annoyed him greatly. “Sack %&$.”

    The large machine entered the parking garage at the hospital. The V8 chugged rhythmically and the tires squealed against the polished concrete. Normally, he would look for a secluded locale to install the attention-getting sedan. But the garage was nice and dark, cool. The allure was just too great. He had to get a good nights sleep. His movements were tracked on the medical center’s surveillance system with the entire security staff aware of his presence.

    He hung his towel to dry on the cracked rear window. Then, he pulled his ratty knapsack and cardboard sign from the trunk. Rich triple-checked the Catalina to ensure it was secure before leaving for work at the busy intersection a few blocks away.

    It was late before Richard returned to the mostly empty parking garage. He surveyed the entire structure in search of his Pontiac. After an hour of limping around, it hit him. His jaw slowly lowered.
    “Aaaaaaaaaiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeoouggggggghhh.”

  • avatar
    old fart

    Unless I’ve missed something , or traveled 10 years into the future, (or those taillights were used for ten more years), the car is 41 years old

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Wouldn’t it be 41 years, not 31? Even more impressive!

  • avatar
    Monty

    I always feel honoured when Murilee highlights a vehicle I once owned. Although this is a sedan and I owned a wagon. Canadian version Catalina wagon, with the 400 2BBL, factory transmission cooler, heavy-duty tow package. Friggin’ thing could’ve pulled a 100 car train, although with the 2BBL it was not exactly sprightly off the line. Same colour of green too! Same interior colour, although ours was upholstered with morrokide.

    Thanks, Murilee!

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I will never, ever understand what GM was thinking when it introduced this version of Pontiac. To me it looks like what an early 1970′s Edsel would have been, if Ford’s Edsel division had been successful. After all the excellent full-size (heck, the entire line of) cars that Pontiac had throughout the 1960′s, this generation of full-size Pontiac must have been an embarrassment to anyone who worked there during that period.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      The beak doesn’t work on all cars. The 69 Grand Prix with hidden headlights wore it beautifully. The 72 Grand Prix is a shameless pimp-mobile (but I like it). The 70 Bonneville was hideous, while the 69 was proportioned perfectly.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        The all-new mid-sized 69 Pontiac Grand Prix did not have hidden headlights. It had the quad light front until 71 when they went to the single light nose which looked pimpier like it was designed by the Mack. The 67-68 full-sized GP had hidden headlights, though the 68 did have a bit of a beached whale appearance with the fender skirts. The 67 is one of my all time faves, great styling, and the only year of the convertible.

    • 0 avatar
      big_gms

      The “beaked” vertical grille was a retro styling theme designed to resemble upscale cars of the classic era, particularly Duesenbergs. Pontiac even went so far as designating trim levels for some models-notably the Grand Prix and later, the Phoenix-as “LJ” and “SJ, ” further reinforcing the Duesenberg reference, as there had been a Duesenberg SJ, at least. When the theme was subtle enough, as on ’78-’87 Grand Prixs and mid ’70s full size models, it looked okay, but when done to an extreme, as on ’70-’72 full size models, it was far less successful. The ’70 full size was the worst of the bunch; this ’72 looks tame in comparison.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    These cars sold well enough, were not an “embarrassment”. GM still had 50% share, and the car market had record sales in 1972 and 73, despite what myths say. No, the world didn’t end when SAE Net HP ratings, which are more realistic, appeared. And no, not every car sold in the 60′s was a ‘muscle car’.

    This looks like a project car that got canned.
    “Honey, either it goes or…”

    Or, some kid realized it wasn’t a ‘muscle car’, after all?

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Demo Derby drivers love 71-76 GM tanks. So much that some derbies will only allow downsized 1977-80+ cars.

    If this car was further East, would be enjoying a final ride.


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