Showdown: Awesome Oddball Yank-tank Wagons

pontiac catalina for salestudebaker wagonaire for sale

In our last Showdown, the “Strip Teaser” Fleetmaster managed to collect the lions share of your $1 bills votes, proving you’d all rather get down and dirty old-school style than classy like Bel Air. Today we’re featuring two wagons loaded with far-out technology for their day.

Prior to the universal recognition of disk brakes as the preferred stopping mechanism, Pontiac was doing all they could with front drums. The big problem with drums is their tendency to heat soak and fade over extended braking sessions like a stop from very high speed or repeated stops (think windy mountain road). Pontiac’s solution was to use finned aluminum drums (with iron liners) and a wide-eight lug pattern to dissipate as much heat as possible. The result? I dunno, never used them. But what we do know is that the technology didn’t stick, so parts are nearly impossible to find for the wide-in-a-skinny world 8 lug assemblies.
Wanna talk about not catching on? Here’s a station wagon with a weird roof from a dead brand. The Studebaker Wagonaire features a slide-forward roof, addressing the major problem with station wagons: the inability to transport palm trees upright. Wait, not many people want to do that with their wagons? Hmmm…

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Today’s ’66 Catalina epitomizes the “rough but runs great” wagons that are dear to our hearts. It sports a 421ci V8, power steering power brakes and (non-functional) AC. The exterior’s rough, but only has a couple of serious rust spots. The interior’s…well…rougher than the exterior. It’s sitting at $2650 with the reserve already met, but there’s 4 days to go on the auction. Seems like a great chance to get in on a super-rare collectible example that could also be a great workhorse.

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Compared to the Poncho, this ’65 Wagonaire trades a killer horsepower/dollar metric for much better condition and seriously low miles: only 43k. While nowhere near perfect, it’s still orders of magnitude nicer inside and out. In ’65 Studebaker had switched to GM-sourced engines, so for better or worse this one sports a 283 small block backed up by the 3 on the tree. Maybe it loses some caché to a Stude’ engine, but at least you can find parts for it. Fun fact: Brooks Stevens designed both this and the Willys/Kaiser/Jeep Wagoneer. Maybe it’s just the classic 2-box wagon shape of the day, but we’re kinda seeing some similar lines between the -eer and the -aire. Bidding’s a bit over $3,500 with an unmet reserve. Buy-it-now’s $10,700.

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  1. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    Poncho all the way. Rough or not, that Catalina is a sweet looking ride, and under the hood are 421 more reasons to choose it over the Stude.

  2. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I'll take the Pontiac. With eight lugs the payload capacity has got to be more than the Wagonaire.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      The Wagonaires were also notoriously leaky – not a wonderful trait in an already rust-prone body. It was so bad that Studebaker soon offered a solid-roofed model. The Pontiac is pretty rough for $2650 reserve, even with a 421.

  3. jjd241 Avatar

    I think the slider roof is for carrying extra Superbird wings to Lemons!

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      i like the way you think

  4. Alff Avatar

    I already have enough projects, I want something interesting that requires minimal effort. Studebaker all the way.

  5. SirNotAppearing Avatar

    The Studebaker is the grandfather of the wildly popular GMC Envoy XUV. You NEED a heavy, center of gravity-ruining sliding roof for moving dressers and the like, because laying that shit on its side is for plebes.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    I chose the -aire. First, I do wanna be like UDMan. He's so dreamy!
    Also, the Catalina is sweet and probably a much easier project, but it's also a little more common. I've even seen them and I'm only allowed out of my cage once a month on the 15th.

  7. muthalovin Avatar

    I really doubt they will get 10.7 for the Wagonaire, so that's what I went for. It just looks badass. And UDMan is always right.

  8. dukeisduke Avatar

    I've always dug those Wagonaires, but I'd have to go with the Safari. The 421 makes it worth the bucks, even if it is a Catalina (I'd rather have a Bonneville). I used to have a '64 Grand Prix with 8-lugs, and they were kind of a hassle getting tires mounted. Plus, when the drums couldn't be turned anymore, you had to go find another 8-lug drum. Thankfully, you can buy repro 8-lug drums now.

  9. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
    Slow Joe Crow

    The Stude, with the matchbox model of same glued to the dash.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Hah! I think I still have that model somewhere. In spite of the ~$7500 price difference, I think that's what sways my vote to the Stude.

  10. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    8 Lug with a 421 and patina to spare. Come on people!!!!
    And you get to become friends with these people –

  11. dukeisduke Avatar

    I've always dug those Wagonaires, but I'd have to go with the Safari. The 421 makes it worth the bucks, even if it is a Catalina (I'd rather have a Bonneville). I used to have a '64 Grand Prix with 8-lugs, and they were kind of a hassle getting tires mounted. Plus, when the drums couldn't be turned anymore, you had to go find another 8-lug drum. Thankfully, you can buy repro 8-lug drums now.
    Update: Oh, okay, it's engine code YH. Have to look that one up. There's no leading zero on the engine number, so it looks like it has two-bolt mains, not four-bolt. The factory code is "C", so it was built at the South Gate, CA plant (where my old '68 Bonneville 4-door sedan was built). The 05B on the body plate tells me it was built the second week of May, 1966.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Assuming it's got the original parts.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        According to the '66 engine codes, a YH is 338hp 421, for auto trans., 10.5:1 compression, and was the standard 421 for a 2+2. A 421 in a Catalina wagon should be either a 338hp YT or a 356hp YJ. Of course it could have been special ordered, especially seeing how it has A/C and 8-lugs. All 421s had four-bolt mains (I forgot that), so it wouldn't have a leading zero on the S/N like a 389 would. The YH used a single 4bbl, a 9779067 cam (or "067" as we used to call them), and HD dual valve springs. I wouldn't be surprised if that wagon had a posi rear axle.

  12. longrooffan Avatar

    This olelongrooffan would be content with either one of these classics. The Poncho needs some work but in the end, it will be a sweet big *ss longroof that will last forever. Plus I would suspect that engine and drive train components are fairly reasonable and readily available. The Wagonaire, on the other hand, is a rare specimen that would easily be the star of any car show. But, as my parts friends down at Beachside Auto Parts told me once, "You buy an IH Scout, you have to find new parts friends."
    Even though it is all the way on the left coast, my vote goes with the Catalina. Especially since TheGentlemanFarmer, that would be my dad to my fellow Hoons, and my Uncle Frank both were Pontiac Hoons back in the day.

  13. dmilligan Avatar

    I'll take the Stude. If it had 2 doors it would be the perfect shooting brake. You could cruise the estate looking for things that need to be shot at, and when you found something, you could slide open the roof and your gunners could just stand up and blaze away. It would make a good technical too, if you're into that sort of thing.

  14. CptSevere Avatar

    While I think the Studebaker is a great car, and I love the 283 and 3 speed combination, I have to go with the Pontiac. We had almost the same wagon when I was kid, maybe a year earlier and without the eight-lugs. I loved that car, it was great to put the rear seat down and go sliding around the slippery way-back floor on my back while Mom hooned the big wagon. Nowadays, they'd put dear Mom in jail for that kind of thing.

  15. rocketrodeo Avatar

    That Catalina would look great towing a mid-60s Airstream. An excellent candidate for a restomod. The Stoodie is more of a sunny-Sunday garage queen.

  16. junkman Avatar

    I've got a '65 Wagonaire and really can't imagine a better wagon. Crisp styling, unique features, comfortable ride, ample room and a Chevy small block all in one great Brooks Stevens package. This very rare and super cool car represents one of the greatest collector car bargains in today's market.
    The Poncho is attractive, especially with the 421, but I would want the two door hardtop.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      I always get a kick out of how little size difference there is between the full-size coupes and wagons.
      There's an Impala down the street from me with a trunk big enough to fit a whole high school cheerleading squad.
      <img src="; width="500" height="334" alt="1967 Impala Fastback (12)" />

  17. dukeisduke Avatar

    Wow, the Wagonaire has the same pressed headliner material as a Rambler. That was a selling point in Ramblers, because they wouldn't sag or tear, and added sound deadening.

  18. Tomsk Avatar

    Gotta go Poncho. Bodywork hell or no, there's no escaping the siren song of a 421 and 8-lugs (plus I really like the '66 styling).

  19. njhoon Avatar

    I have a soft spot for Pontiacs. Gotta go with that. I do loe me some Studes, the Pontiac is just too cool.

  20. Stumack Avatar

    A '65 Stude is no Yank Tank, it's a Canuck Truck!!

  21. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

    I'd have to take the Catalina, unless I were magically endowed with a garage. Even in Los Angeles, it does periodically rain, and whatever its novelty value, the Wagonaire leaks…

  22. Alff Avatar

    Are you speaking from experience?

  23. Black Steelies Avatar

    give me the stude, dude!

  24. dukeisduke Avatar

    After 13 bids, the Catalina Safari went for $4,000. The Stude went for $8,900, after 14 bids.

  25. scratch and dent appliances Avatar

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