Couple keeps their first car in original condition

 
 
Posted11/19/2018 6:00 AM
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  • 1965 Pontiac Catalina Ventura

    1965 Pontiac Catalina Ventura Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • The Pontiac Catalina Ventura is in original, unrestored condition.

    The Pontiac Catalina Ventura is in original, unrestored condition.

  • Zielinski keeps a photo of himself from his Army days in a photo album with pictures of the Pontiac from 1965.

    Zielinski keeps a photo of himself from his Army days in a photo album with pictures of the Pontiac from 1965.

  • Zielinski kept the Catalina's original window sticker price sheet from Peter Epsteen Pontiac in Skokie, where he paid $4,657 for the car.

    Zielinski kept the Catalina's original window sticker price sheet from Peter Epsteen Pontiac in Skokie, where he paid $4,657 for the car.

Fresh out of college and eager to buy his first car, George Zielinski had a hankering for high power. It was 1965 and his starry eyes were set on Ford's superhot 427 Galaxy.

His blue oval energy faded fast when the young man learned Dodge's news for 1966: a 426 Hemi Charger. Fired up with interest, he spun by legendary Chicago dealership Grand Spaulding Dodge for the full scoop.

"They told me the engine was only warrantied for 90 days," said George, who now lives in Des Plaines. "If I spun a bearing or something, the motor was mine to cover."

George Zielinski of Des Plaines is displaying his 1965 Pontiac Catalina Ventura this weekend at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont.
George Zielinski of Des Plaines is displaying his 1965 Pontiac Catalina Ventura this weekend at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont. -

Taking that kind of financial risk wasn't easy for the new grad, who decided to keep looking. A Pontiac ad in the newspaper then sparked interest.

"The engines weren't as potent but still good," said George, who in August of '65 went to Peter Epsteen Pontiac in Skokie. There, (after paying $4,657) he special ordered a Starlight Black 1965 Catalina. George ticked the box for the high-output, 421-cubic-inch V-8, but the desire to haul didn't stop there.

With plans to take his future family camping, he also selected the trailer package and heavy-duty battery, springs and shocks.

The big, beautiful coupe was delivered just before Thanksgiving, and while grateful, George had only a few short months with it before shipping off to his new Army assignment in Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks. His girlfriend (and now wife of 52 years), Judy, regularly drove the Catalina down to see him.

One of the earliest photographs Zielinski has of his new Pontiac Catalina Ventura in 1965.
One of the earliest photographs Zielinski has of his new Pontiac Catalina Ventura in 1965. -

"I willed it to her when I shipped out and thankfully, she even took over payments," George said. "What I made in the service wasn't enough."

His next tour of duty was at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, and again, loving Judy was rolling (now west) in the Pontiac for R&R with her darling BF at the base. Not long after, George returned to Chicago, was wed and began commuting in the car from the Norwood Park Township family home to downtown.

"It needed high-test gas and I stopped at one Sunoco station so much, the owner let me use the wash bay once a week for free," said George, who chalks up the car's great, unrestored condition to those regular hose-downs.

That wasn't the end of the car's open road motoring: George, Judy and their two boys drove all over the country, visiting such spots as the Tennessee Smokey Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. Back home, they'd be found at drive-ins and hangouts like Skip's or Russell's, both off North Avenue.

The Pontiac Catalina is powered by a 421-cubic-inch V-8 engine.
The Pontiac Catalina is powered by a 421-cubic-inch V-8 engine. -

The Catalina could also be seen in the lot of Elmwood Park High School. "Judy was the math teacher and whenever she'd bring it in, the kids would go nuts," George said.

Maybe it was all those fawning looks that prompted Judy to want to keep the classic even more than her hubby. On two different occasions (George's entry into the military and in the last five years), George had thoughts to sell.

"I didn't have a plan to keep it," he said. "But I'm sure glad I did."

• Matt Avery's new book can be ordered at COPOthebook.com. Share your car's story with him at auto@dailyherald.com.

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