Pontiac never produced 421 Super-Duty models in 1961. But they made it really easy for do-it-yourselfers to buy over-the-counter SD Kits and compete in OS/S. Mike and Jackie Bretsch’s ’61 SD-421 Catalina, below, is a picture-perfect example of a ‘Day Two’ OS/S machine.
You could buy a 421-inch, 405-horsepower Catalina, Ventura or Bonneville from a Pontiac dealer in 1961, but it wasn’t a Super-Duty 421. If you wanted a competition SD-421 Pontiac in 1961, you had to buy the parts and pieces at a Pontiac dealer, build an engine and install it in your car. There weren’t many around. A few “name-brand” drag racers, like Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, had SD-421 Catalinas with Pontiac factory support that were just the ticket for NHRA’s new OS/S (Optional Super/Stock). Production model 421 Pontiacs would’ve run in Super/Stock.
Super-Duty Pontiacs were produced in limited quantities starting in 1962. Some were SD-389s, with the bulk displacing 421 cubic inches. Most SD Pontiacs ended up in NASCAR and NHRA competition. In 1962 Pontiac manufactured a total of just 177 Super-Duty cars. Total SD engine production included 15 SD-389s and 225 SD-421s (There were 63 SD motors produced for replacement service.)
Starting in the 1963 model year, Pontiac was fully committed to producing race-ready Super-Duty cars as well as a seemingly endless list of extreme competition components. In 1963 Pontiac built 88 Super-Duty cars including 13 single-four-barrel Grand Prix and Catalinas, 64 dual-four-barrel models and 11 radical SD-421 Tempests for FX (Factory Experimental) competition. They also marketed lightweight aluminum body panels, bumpers, cast aluminum Tri-Y headers, cams and valve trains and intake manifolds.
Factory-built SD-powered drag racing cars weighed some 200 pounds less than production models, thanks to aluminum bumpers, hoods and front fenders and lightweight engine components. Sound deadening and matting were left off the race models; batteries were trunk-mounted. The most radical SD-cars were the rare “Swiss Cheese” cars with lightening holes drilled in the frame rails.
Sarasota Café Racer Mike Bretsch’s ’61 SD-421 Catalina is an authentic recreation of what would be considered a period “Day Two” car. And that’s exactly what any ’61 SD-421 Pontiac would have been considered back in the day.
“My ’61 Catalina was built to show what they looked like back in 1961 when Pontiac Engineering attempted to dominate NHRA’s newly formed O/SS class at the Indy Nationals on Labor Day. They succeeded. Mickey Thompson’s Catalina, driven by Hayden Profitt, won the class. In August Pontiac had released ten SD-421 Kits (Service Package Parts) to select drag racers around the country. Horsepower rating was 373. We wanted to bring back the memories of the good old days of drag racing in the 1960s. It’s a time that will never be replaced,” said Mike
Fitted with a legendary Pontiac McKeller Number 10 solid lifter cam, GTO heads, 1:65 roller rockers, stainless steel valves and 11:25 forged pistons, the 421 been dynoed by Mike at 495 horsepower at 5,800 rpm. Topside there’s a vintage Offenhauser manifold with a pair of 500-cfm Carter four-barrel carbs. Exhaust headers were custom made by Pontiac performance parts guru, Nunzi Romano, Brooklyn, NY. Backing up the stout Pontiac engine is close-ratio B-W Super T-10 four-speed with a vintage 1963 Hurst shifter complete with Reverse lockout. At the rear is an original Pontiac Safe-T-Track (Posi) rear with 4:10 gears.