Home » The Long And The Short Of It: 1968 Pontiac Catalina vs 1976 VW Camaro Thingy

The Long And The Short Of It: 1968 Pontiac Catalina vs 1976 VW Camaro Thingy

Sbsd 6 15 2023
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Good morning, Autopians! Today we’re throwing the rulebook and our normal price range right out the window, along with a good chunk of common sense, and looking at two expensive and bizarre vehicles posted to our Discord server. But first, speaking of no common sense, let’s see whether you liked the cheap Brit or the cheap German better:

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The size-XL Jag takes a comfortable win. I’m not surprised. That’s my favorite of the two as well. Though if I wanted to adopt a broken British cat, it would more likely be a Series III or older XJ6, just to get the full experience.

I was going to save today’s cars for tomorrow, but I had another idea for something special, so we’re going to look at these two today instead. Lengthening or shortening a car’s wheelbase can yield all sorts of weird results, from those truncated Corvairs where the back seat becomes the front seat to the utter ridiculousness of a Hummer stretch limo. Both of today’s cars have had their wheelbases altered, in opposite directions, and one of them has had damn near everything else altered as well. Which direction will you want to go? Let’s take a look and find out.

1968 Pontiac Catalina Airport Limo – $22,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 400 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Middlefield, OH

Odometer reading: 197,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

There are longroofs, and then there are longroofs. This eight-door, fifteen-passenger stretched Pontiac Catalina wagon, built by Armbruster-Stageway of Fort Smith, Arkansas, has one of the longest roofs you’re likely to see on a passenger vehicle that doesn’t have a stylized dog on the side of it. It’s an airport limo, the precursor to today’s Ford Econoline-based shuttle vans. Obviously it’s nowhere near as practical as the modern vans, because most of the luggage goes up top on that rack. I guess you’re fine if you’re traveling somewhere the weather is always nice. Where is this thing again? Ohio. Crap. Well, so much for that.

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But it does have something the Econolines lack: presence. A ’68 Pontiac Catalina is a big car anyway; add a couple extra doors per side and the point of that split grille starts to look like the prow of a yacht. In its day, I suppose it would have blended into the scenery as much as the vans do today, but now, fifty-five years later, this thing makes a statement. And forget that clattery drone of a Power-Stroke diesel; this baby is propelled by a 400 cubic inch Pontiac V8, which I’m sure makes an intoxicating big-block throb as you float along from your Pan-Am flight to the front desk of the Howard Johnson’s.

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The seller says this car runs and drives fine, but has an exhaust leak up front that needs tending to, and has inoperative air conditioning. I’m sure the way to fix that would be to yank out all the old hardware and install a new modern system. It would cost you, but it would be the icing on this very big cake. The radio is also missing, but a modern sound system is almost a requirement in something like this anyway.

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But once you fix all that stuff, what the hell do you do with it? I guess if you have a big enough family, this could be an epic road trip machine, as long as you’re willing to dock–I mean, park –it at every stop. Or, with the rearmost seat folded down, it looks like there’s room to sleep in it, so it could be made into an RV the likes of which KOA has never seen. But I think I know the perfect use for it: Band van. There’s more than enough room for a drum kit and a couple Marshall stacks in there.

1976 VW Beetle – I mean, Chevy Camaro? – $20,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter overhead valve flat 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Ballston Spa, NY

Odometer reading: unknown, but doesn’t matter much

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Runs/drives? Oh yeah.

When I first saw this listing, my first thought was “holy crap, that looks like something out of CARToons magazine.” Just in case you didn’t grow up as a car-crazy kid during the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s, let me explain: CARToons was sort of like MAD Magazine for gearheads. It featured comic strips of crazy stylized hot rods, with massively oversized wheels and engines, performing impossible (and impossibly cool) feats of performance. Even better, the magazine often featured tutorials on how to draw your own vehicles in the same style. And apparently CARToons is back, although as of this writing, their website appears to be down.

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So what are we looking at, apart from something Dave Deal could have drawn? Well, it’s a Volkswagen Beetle chassis, shortened 14 inches, with a one-piece fiberglass Camaro Z/28 body shell made to fit. I have no idea whether the body is a custom one-off creation, or a kit that was once available for purchase. Neither would surprise me. The body has no doors, and no roof, meaning that entry and exit is strictly a Dukes of Hazzard affair.

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Powering this ridiculous contraption is a 2,332 cc VW flat-four making way too much power for it. Air-cooled Volkswagen engines are a bit like Lego sets; the modular design makes it easy to simply bolt-on bigger cylinders for more displacement, and therefore more power. The builder of this engine has gone a bit overboard, and nearly doubled the size of a typical stock Beetle engine. All that power is funneled through a beefed-up four-speed VW transaxle.

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The entire concept of this thing is utterly foolish, and I love it. I don’t want it, but I very much want to build a model kit of it. I mean, doesn’t this car look like it belongs on a cardboard box with an MPC logo in the corner?

Obviously, neither one of these is something any of us are likely to drop twenty grand on. But let’s just pretend that you’re outside a diner, ready to ride off into the sunset with a pretty shopgirl who was plain and nerdy a few minutes before, and the ghost of Dusty Hill is holding out two sets of keys. (I’d better explain this reference for David’s sake.) Which keys are you grabbing?

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(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

As for today’s post, both of these would be almost certain Lemons Rally domination. Hell, there are even bonus points given to VW Beetle-based kit cars.

As the proud owner of a different aircooled VW with “CAMERO” plates (a carry-over from the previous owner running the Ugly Brown Camero with plates to match that get put onto his Lemons car du jour)………I know which one I want more, though.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

The size-XL Jag takes a comfortable win. I’m not surprised. That’s my favorite of the two as well.

YOU WERE WRONG! All of you who voted against the Cayenne were WRONG!

(I’m okay with this if you promise not to jack up Cayenne prices, though.)

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
11 months ago

I’d cut the roof off the Pontiac and make the world’s longest El Catalino

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
1 year ago

Well, it’s a Volkswagen Beetle chassis, shortened 14 inches, with a one-piece fiberglass Camaro Z/28 body shell made to fit.

Actually the chassis was shortened 24″ for the Funtastik Camaro kit.

I have no idea whether the body is a custom one-off creation, or a kit that was once available for purchase. Neither would surprise me.

A few seconds of googling would have led to this article that explained a little bit about them and their larger “full -size” siblings for un-cut Beetle pans. https://jalopnik.com/there-was-a-time-when-you-could-build-a-tiny-camaro-in-1846417534 with all the other [-ed] comments in so many of the articles, the one time it would actually add to the article it isn’t there.

Cal67
Cal67
1 year ago

Not sure what the Camaro/Bug mutation is made from but possibly this: https://www.artfiberglass.com/auto/7081camaro.html

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
1 year ago

I mean, I would road trip the heck out of the limo, and I’m not sure I would comfortably fit in the VW. So… Limo it is.

DDayJ
DDayJ
1 year ago

These are both utterly ridiculous, but I’ll take the little Cameetle just because I could park it at my house, unlike the wagon. The power boost is probably a lot of fun trouble too. I will say that wagon is pretty cool, but way too much. You could make it into a sweet tail gate machine so long as you and your buddies buy at least two consecutive parking spots.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 year ago

Both are pretty steep, but I’ll take the goofy little micro machine if forced to make a choice.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Bus pass for me. I truly wouldnt pay scrap value for either because no room to make a profit.

M K
M K
1 year ago

Airport limo….but back in my young/dumb days I had a ’78 Trans Am that had a severely rusty rear floor pan. Young me thought it would be a good idea to just remove the rear floor pan and make a short open top T/A. I shortened everything, welded back together and added non opening structure in place of the doors. Ended up with about a 98″ wheelbase. It sucked in most every way conceivable and was eventually collected for scrap. I do wish we could post pics here, it would hurt your eyes.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

I suppose in Arkansas the Classic Poncho might be considered a redneck wedding requirement. Neither of these are worth more than scrap value, but at least they are unique. I would maybe take whichever has a title and I could actually register. both are sketchy as all get out, but that is FB market place for you.

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
1 year ago

I wouldn’t buy either, but if the ghost of Dusty Hill won’t give me the keys to the Eliminator, I guess I would drive off with the “bitchin’ VW” and be on my way to the Bahamas. But no way am I dropping $20k on either of these. Crack Pipe…

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
1 year ago

If I had money to burn, the VW looks like it would be a hoot. I think the XL station wagon is cool, but would just be a hassle to deal with.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

That was my thought. The stretched Pontiac is way cool, but is also a major white elephant automobile. Can I even get it onto my street? Where do I park it? How long does it take to get to 60mph even when it’s empty?! Can you even drive it in a parade??

On the other hand, how cool would it be to show up on a job site with 16′ stretches of siding and pre-formed gutters in the back? (Wood is probably too heavy)

Last edited 1 year ago by SlowCarFast
Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 year ago

Those prices? No Vote for me today.

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