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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Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 year ago

That airport limo would indeed make an epic RV conversion, though the lack of headroom could be an annoyance unless you fabricate a pop-top for it. Although, imagine the sheer size of rooftop tent/cargo box (or both!) that you could fit on this thing! It’s so vast, the possibilities are endless!

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 year ago

Mark, the beetle was definitely a kit and IIRC there was a mustang too?
Torch wrote about it on the other site:

Lightning
Lightning
1 year ago

It’s fun to imagine the Pontiac as a transporter for a sled dog team with a couple sleds on top and a dozen or more dogs inside all comfy in their own seat.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
1 year ago

Oh wow, this is close.

But for me, it’s the Beetle-Camaro. It’s so stupid, but I really want to drive it.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago

CARt00ns! That Camaro-buggy absolutely looks like something Krass and Bernie would throw together over the course of a weekend or two.

Still had to vote for the Pontiac Widetrack Wagon, long-ass edition. It would be the perfect backup car to the Oldsmobile Jetway 707 I intend to purchase someday.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago

Both of these are about 10x too expensive. How about “None of the above”?! No? I guess it will be the Camarowagen thingy.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 year ago

I can’t think of any other time were I was so intrigued by both cars presented here on SBS but yet am not desirous of either of them ! ╮(╯_╰)╭

Last edited 1 year ago by Shooting Brake
Vishnuisgod, a Gawd, not thee Gawd
Vishnuisgod, a Gawd, not thee Gawd
1 year ago

While I would rather own this “Camaro” than the real thing, Ill vote Loooong roof.
Ill do an ev conversion with solar panels ontop. Itll take all week to recharge, but its ok, my rolling “condo” wont need to move. Its awesome!

Last edited 1 year ago by Vishnuisgod, a Gawd, not thee Gawd
Myk El
Myk El
1 year ago

Aw, HELL NAW!

Bomber
Bomber
1 year ago

I’m gonna have to pass on both. 5 figures is 2 figures too much for both. lol

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

That Pontiac is how you use a vehicle to compensate!

MEK
MEK
1 year ago

The limo is kinda cool but what the hell would I ever do with it? I doubt I could even turn it around in my street and there is a better than even chance it would get high centered trying to crest the hill at the steep entrance to my neighborhood.

The Camarowagen thing on the other hand, looks like an absolutely, fantastically, ridiculous way to die. If I had 20 grand lying around I’d almost be tempted. I can’t see how that thing isn’t an absolute hoot to bomb around in.

Last edited 1 year ago by MEK
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

I have to go limo-wagon because I’m tall and my knees only bend in one direction.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
1 year ago

Man, I love that Pontiac extendo-wagon and I’ve got the room for it! The only thing more impractical would be the Bluth Company stair car.

https://arresteddevelopment.fandom.com/wiki/Stair_car

Beater_civic
Beater_civic
1 year ago

Obviously the Camarowagen, I don’t think that limo could even turn onto my block. Even breaking my Rule of Shifters for it (spheroid handles only!), because that thing looks like a really cool way to die.

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

Neither.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

Camero for the win. It’s a VW Bug underneath so there’s a ton of parts. Fiberglass isn’t too hard to work on and doing the doorless entry looks like fun. The WTF looks while having the ability to garage it add to its appeal for me.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
1 year ago

I didn’t even need to see the Camaro-thingy; you had me at Airport Limo Wagon. Though, I’m pretty sure I can’t get this in my driveway.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
1 year ago

Don’t know if the Pontiac is worth the asking, but a VW kit car with no doors is definitely not worth the amount requested.
My vote is for the Pontiac, this is way cooler and a better value.

Ricki
Ricki
1 year ago

Going with the limo. At least if it ends up a bust, I can probably get most of the money back in scrap. So much steel on that thing.

Isis
Isis
1 year ago

Why can’t you pick neither?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

Nobody has mentioned the Roadkill episode in which Mike & Dave road trip one of these airport limos (I believe it was also a Catalina). They try a donut or two, and fail miserably at a Rockford. End up taking it to a dirt oval with the predictable results.

Also, I’m happy to see this Camaro kit as I saw something like it sometime back. Way it was parked, I could only access the front to see that it looked like a VW pan under there. Couldn’t find any info on it and have wondered if my memory was playing tricks since. With that short of a wheelbase, it’s likely terrifying, but I voted for it because the airport car would almost certainly get high-centered trying to get it up my road.

Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
1 year ago

This was a hard one for me as I am intrigued by both cars, but Pontiac for the win! For one, I am a big man and am not sure if I can get in and out of the cockpit of that Camaro thingy.

Plus, I love vintage wagons and damn that would make a good rig to take to metal/rock festivals and sleep in at night.

Added Bonus, when not doing metal festival duty you could use it to haul lumber from Lowes.

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Brooks Fancher

I would get so many laughs from ordering a few 16 ft boards and then pulling around in this thing to load them

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 year ago

Oh damn! I just tied up the vote at 107 each!!!!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

And I just tied it at 121 apiece

Crisis
Crisis
1 year ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Cool, I just broke the tie. 122-121 for the Pontiac!

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  Crisis

I voted for the Fauxmaro to tie it at 126! 😀

The Matts
The Matts
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

And another VW Camaro vote re-knots it at 139.

Data
Data
1 year ago

I got to have a shot
Of what you got is, oh, so sweet
You gotta make it hot
Like a boomerang, I need a repeat

Gimme all your lovin’
All your hugs and kisses too
Gimme all your lovin’
Don’t let up until we’re through

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