The 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2 + 2 convertible dates from the halcyon days of the 1960s, when car designers and engineers seemingly had a free hand with new-model preparation. Want more power? Add cubic inches. Styling outdated? Have the folks in the studio draw up something “longer, lower, and wider.” No crash tests to pass, no EPA or CAFE requirements to meet.
The only people that had to be satisfied were the corporate bean counters and John Q. Public. Needless to say, this type of thinking resulted in some exciting cars, and Pontiac was responsible for more than its share.
Affectionately known as the “Nimble Brute” (a Pontiac term), the 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 offered great bang for the buck years before that clich came into vogue.
Priced at $3,228 and based on the standard Catalina model, the 1965 2+2 (available as either a hardtop or ragtop) featured a huge steel perimeter chassis with a wheelbase of 121 inches.
Much like its fellow GM brethren, the 1965 Catalina used an upper and lower A-arm/coil spring front suspension with telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers and reciprocating-ball power or nonpower steering.
Pontiac’s Safe-T-Track live rear axle was held in place by semi-trailing arms, telescopic shocks, and coil springs.
But it was Catalina’s wider track (62.5 inches front, 64.0 rear), stiffer coil springs, and a heavy-duty front sway bar that gave the car that “Pontiac Feel and Ride” (more Pontiac advertising lingo).
Stopping was also enhanced with power assisted, heavy-duty four-wheel drum brakes that were integral with the highly distinctive eight-lug wheels.
For 1965, the top-rated 421 was listed at 376 bhp, and all big Pontiacs boasted a new look.
The Catalina hardtop acquired a full fastback roofline, front-end styling had more character than the rather flat 1964 face, and sharply defined lower-body sculpturing lent a more rakish air to the profile.
A former GM stylist once said the new design was “one full styling wave” ahead of other Detroit offerings that year. It was arguably the best “big” Pontiac of the decade.
Alas, the 2 + 2 did not enjoy the GTO’s sales success.
For one thing, the big cat cost a good $500 more than its sportier linemate, and no one was singing its praises. Whether due to customer indifference or declining profitability, Pontiac phased out the 2 + 2 option after 1967.
Pontiac styling in 1965 was aggressively bold and beautiful. The fullsize Catalina and midsize GTO shared several styling cues: stacked quad headlights, sweeping hood, and fastback roof line.
The Catalina’s interior, with front bucket seats and a rear bench, feels exactly like a big car should, comfortable and luxurious. The 2+2 also features a full console and well-appointed instrument panel.
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More Catalina 2+2s were made in 1965 than any other year (11,521). Since Pontiac started downsizing fullsize cars the following year and pared down available performance packages from 1967 on, the 1965 Catalina 2+2 was the definitive fullsize GM muscle car.