Despite taking a break from drag racing for nearly half a century, Jeff Bourcier finally found his way back to the sport. When he purchased a 1962 Pontiac Catalina, though, things really began to pick up speed.
Bourcier “always had a love for Pontiacs” and a love of cars in general, ever since the septuagenarian was a young boy. His first, a 1967 Pontiac Firebird, perhaps started it all and led him to acquire a 1969 Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV, which he still owns even many decades later. “I’ve also had a 1973 Pontiac Formula Super Duty, a ’69 400 Firebird, a ’72 Firebird, a ’74 Formula racecar, and a ’63 Tempest Arnie Beswick clone in NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock,” the man detailed of the many coveted classics that he’s been lucky enough to enjoy over the years.
“I started out racing the ’69 GTO but then took a break for 40 years. My friend, Gary Beemer, said I needed to get into racing so there could be two Pontiacs going against all the Mopars,” shared Bourcier, grateful to have been given a second chance to pursue his passion. Together, the men purchased a 1963 Pontiac Tempest that was located in California. “I was hooked! Life is good and I’m living the dream!”
After having made his grand return to racing, Bourcier wound up wheeling several different entries in a variety of classes. The Arnie Beswick tribute car, which is signed by the legendary Pontiac racer himself, was called into battle for NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock competition in 2018. With a 501 cubic-inch engine and two 750 cfm carburetors sitting up top, Bourcier had a blast depleting his 401K account thanks to the Tempest, which is capable of single-digit 1/4-mile elapsed times.
His 1974 Formula, meanwhile, got to enjoy the spotlight in the Factory Appearing Stock Tire (F.A.S.T.) series in 2020. Equipped with a rare set of “dog dish” hubcaps, which were standard on the Formula models, and upgraded engine internals, Bourcier ran low 11-second passes with the car. Meanwhile, he finished twelfth overall in NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock championship points both in 2019 and 2020 with the Tempest.
In 2020, though, Bourcier found a clean 1962 Pontiac Catalina in the Pontiac-Oakland Club International’s Smoke Signals magazine and was drawn to how well-built it was. From his home in North Branch, Michigan, he traveled to Marietta, Georgia, just northwest of Atlanta, to complete the purchase and made the car his personal priority.
Wanting to keep the car as close to its original configuration as possible to pay homage to its roots and to enjoy the NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock category he had come to know and love, Bourcier was careful with the build process.
“I’m running a 545 cubic-inch Kauffman Racing Equipment MR-1A with a Bullet camshaft, Diamond pistons, and GRP aluminum connecting rods,” said Bourcier, who assembled the 16:1 compression, naturally aspirated engine himself at his shop, Red Bird Racing, and added a complete MSD ignition system from coil and distributor down to the plug wires firing a set of NGK spark-makers. “I’m also using Edelbrock aluminum heads with Jesel rocker arms.”
Bourcier also tunes the engine himself, using two Edelbrock 750 cfm carburetors to dial in the air-fuel mixture exactly as he desires before it flows through the Wenzler tunnel ram intake manifold.
With no power adder to get in the way of the all-motor engine’s flow, the exhaust is quickly expelled through a set of custom headers and into a 2-inch exhaust system.
The Catalina’s engine produces 940 horsepower, and each one is harnessed by a GM Turbo 400 from Smitty’s Transmission Repair with a 6,200 stall speed Coan torque converter and a TCI flexplate. Coupled with a Derale transmission cooler and a shift kit, Bourcier thoroughly enjoys each and every gear change with his hand on the B&M shifter.
“The driveshaft is chromoly with a safety loop,” he added. Out back, the 1962 Catalina was bestowed a bunch of parts from Strange Engineering including its rearend, axles, and spool. “It’s been back-halfed and has a four-link with Strange double-adjustable shocks, Strange springs, Strange disc brakes all around, and sway bar.”
In keeping with the rule requirements, save for a set of simple Strange shocks, the pristine Pontiac’s front suspension was left mostly untouched as the stock control arms and manual steering box are all still in place.
Originally an Arizona car, the Pontiac’s black-hued body was in great condition and no major work was required to keep it looking as good as it did the day it left the showroom floor. A carbon-fiber hood was added for weight savings, though, and a set of Bogart wheels with modern Mickey Thompson 10.5W rubber were added to take offset the rolling mass.
Inside, Bourcier’s beauty is a showcase of maroon upholstery with white accents with a 12-point chromoly roll cage framing it all. A full set of gauges help the driver keep an eye on the engine’s vital signs, while safety harnesses lock him securely in place during 9.40-second 1/4-mile passes at a tick over 140 mph.
With “too many hours to count” invested in the build, Bourcier’s favorite part of the Pontiac project is its overall appearance.
Since he began racing it in NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock, Bourcier finished ninth overall in championship points for his 2021 season and tenth in 2022. “I practice my lights and watch the weather details,” he noted of his careful driving and competition style. “I’ve finished in the Top 10 for NSS in the last two years, and now I’m trying for number one.”
After the first three NMCA events of the year, Bourcier is well on his way to that goal. At the season opener in Orlando, Florida, he qualified ninth in the competitive NSS category with a 9.549-second pass on his 9.50 dial in then went dead-on with a 9.500 at 140.17 mph in round one of eliminations before a -0.006-second reaction time took him out in round two.
In Rockingham, North Carolina, Bourcier went 9.59 at 140.36 mph in qualifying to begin eliminations from the sixteenth position and, unfortunately, wasn’t able to advance past the first pairing.
He rallied at the following race in St. Louis, Missouri, though, and moved way up in the order after running a 9.502-second blast in qualifying to rank fourth in the 26-car field. Running near his dial with a 9.539 at 141.24 mph pass, Bourcier had hopes of turning on the win light in his lane but had to swallow the hard pill of defeat when it lit in the opposing lane instead.
With three more races still to go for the 2023 NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock season, though, anything could happen – including, hopefully, his first win in the class.
“Thanks to Gary Beemer for getting me going in racing again, and Barb Parrott for having my back and going with me to every race,” Bourcier said, thankful for the unconditional support he’s received from his people while on the exciting journey with his 1962 Pontiac Catalina. “We are looking forward to many more years to come!”
Car: 1962 Pontiac Catalina
Chassis: 12-point chromoly roll cage
Engine: 545 ci Kauffman Racing Equipment MR-1A built by Jeff Bourcier of Red Bird Racing
Cylinder Heads: Edelbrock aluminum
Rods: GRP aluminum
Power Adder: none, naturally aspirated
Transmission: Smitty’s Turbo 400
Torque Converter: Coan
Fuel Management: Dual Edelbrock 750 cfm carburetors
Wheels: Bogart Racing
Tires: Mickey Thompson 10.5Wx33
Quickest E.T.: 9.40-seconds
Fastest MPH: 141 mph
Best 60′: 1.32-seconds