The Catalina name had its origins within Pontiac beginning in the 1950 model year, when it was used to describe the all-new hardtop roofline on the Chieftain Super DeLuxe Coupe. The Catalina became a standalone model for 1959, which was a banner year for Pontiac by all accounts. Motor Trend magazine gave the Pontiac division as a whole its “Car of the Year” award, and Pontiacs were victorious in many NASCAR stock car races—including wins at both Daytona and Darlington. Pontiac sales jumped 77% over 1958 models, and the GM division took fourth in industry sales, outpacing its stablemates at Buick and Oldsmobile.
Pontiac claimed 47 engineering advances for its new models. The clever “Wide-Track” tag line was first used in the brand’s advertising, referring to Pontiac’s 4 1/2-inch wider front track that improved handling and roadability. Nineteen-fifty-nine further marked the first year of Pontiac’s split grille, which was to become a trademark of the brand until its passing some 60 years later. With the Chieftain name gone, the Catalina with its “Strato-Star” styling became the entry level Pontiac, and 14,515 buyers said “yes” to a new Catalina Convertible.