Q: Greg, I purchased a 1961 Pontiac Catalina 2 door Hardtop new in that year. It was the coolest car that I ever owned.
I want to obtain another "61" Catalina in good condition for restoration. Probably a number "2" condition if it can be found.
The one I owned had the biggest engine that was coupled to an automatic transmission. I think at the time GM billed it as "the lowest weight per horsepower automatic in production."
What should I expect to pay for this car and how do I go about finding one? Jim Hudson, Laclede, Idaho.
A: Glad to help, Jim. First, expect to pay in the neighborhood of $8,400 for a 2-door sedan (that's the one with the lip on the rear of the top, or $11,350 for the bubble top 2-door sport hardtop (this is the most popular model and one that you owned).
The engine can up the price substantially, as the 389-V8 with a 3x2 Tri-Power setup will add 35-percent to the cost in the 348-horse version, and 20-percent more in a 318-horse version.
There are several four barrel equipped 389's that also increase the value, especially the 335-horse version which pushes the price up 25-percent.
If you can find a four speed, add another seven to 10-percent. These are prices based on a number "2" condition Catalina, which means it is in very good to excellent condition. A number "1" is a frame off show car, so you probably don't want to go there as the cost skyrockets to over $25,000.
My recommendation is don't walk away from a nice two-door post model (with the lip on top), as this was a popular car on the dragways back then and costs quite a bit less than the bubble-top.
Of course, if price is no concern and you really want what you had "back then," by all means go for the bubble-top hardtop as it is indeed more popular and will command future respect and appreciation over and above the post model.
You mention the automatic transmission, and that's OK as the first price I gave is for a 61 Catalina with a 389-267 horse engine and an automatic transmission. If the car you select has a three-speed manual, deduct 10-percent from the cost, but if you happen to find one with the eight-lug wheels, add five-percent.
Good luck in your quest to buy a neat 61 Catalina. I'd check the noted car magazines, like Auto Round-Up and Hemmings Motor News, both of which also offer nice websites and are available at newsstands everywhere.
Also, don't forget eBay Motors, as it is always loaded with vehicles for sale. Another great place to look is your local classified sections of your newspaper, where you may just find the gem you are looking for at a great price.