Introducing muscle cars to the American market brought power and performance to the masses. However, the rise in popularity of sanctioned racing saw the need for more specialized cars in the form of factory drag racers. These cars were made in minimal numbers and weren’t street-legal, but they had unreal quarter-mile times. They featured unique technology, high-compression engines, and rear slicks straight from the factory. These vehicles weren’t advertised in magazines could only be bought if you were in the know.
Today, we looked back at 40 fantastic drag-racing muscle car specials. Very rare, extremely powerful, and brutally fast, these cars shaped the history of the muscle car segment and helped establish legends on the tracks and streets. So get prepared for a quarter-mile ride of a lifetime and check out these cars right here.
Pontiac Catalina 421 “Swiss Cheese” (1962)
In the early 1960s, Pontiac realized that racing helps sell cars and that the famous Detroit mantra “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” works. Pontiac had a sound basis for a fast Super Stock car in the form of a two-door Catalina and a potent 421 V8 engine, but it needed more. The model needed to add power and subtract weight (via Hemmings).
To do the latter, Pontiac’s engineers manufactured numerous aluminum parts like bumpers, fenders, hoods, and so on, saving 159 pounds from the heavy car. Moreover, the car got the nickname “Swiss Cheese” since they also drilled holes in the car’s frame to save a few more grams. With a high-compression 421 V8 engine and 410 HP, these Catalinas were lightning quick. The cars were used for two years, 1962 and 1963, and Pontiac built only 14 “Swiss Cheese” Catalinas, each given to notable drag racers of the day.