For 1971, Catalina and other full-sized Pontiacs were completely redesigned and restyled from the wheels up with long hood/short deck proportions and fuselage styling somewhat similar to Chrysler Corporation's 1969 full-sized cars, along with a double shell roof for improved roll-over protection and flush pull-up exterior door handles - the latter two features first seen on the 1970 1⁄2 Firebird. Catalina and Catalina Brougham sedans and coupes rode on a 123.4-inch (3,130 mm) wheelbase while Bonneville and Grand Ville used a longer 126-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase, and Safari wagons were an inch longer at 127 inches. Station wagons also got their own multi-leaf spring rear suspensions, while sedans and coupes continued to be suspended with front and rear coil springs.
New for 1971 was the Catalina Brougham series, which offered a more luxurious interior trim than the regular Catalina, available as a two-door hardtop, four-door hardtop and four-door pillared sedan. It was similar in concept to the Ventura series (1960-1961, 1966-1969) and the Ventura custom trim option on the Catalina (1962-1965, 1970). It was dropped in 1973 after its sales failed to meet expectations. 1972 also marked the final appearance of the Catalina convertible.
The Catalina Safari wagon became simply the Pontiac Safari for 1971 (though it continued to share interior and exterior trimmings with Catalina sedans and coupes) while the more luxurious Executive and Bonneville wagons were replaced by the new Grand Safari wagon. While the Grand Safari shared its grille design with the new Grand Ville series, its interior trim was identical to the optional vinyl interior offered on the Bonneville series. Pontiac now grouped its full-sized wagons as a separate series from their sedan counterparts, as did Chevrolet (Brookwood, Townsman, Kingswood, Kingswood Estate), Oldsmobile (Custom Cruiser), and Buick (Estate Wagon).
As did all GM B-Body wagons, the Safari and Grand Safari received GM's new clamshell tailgate. Operated by switches on the instrument panel or a key switch on the rear quarter panel, the tailgate slid into a recess under the cargo floor while the electric window slid upward into the rear roof section. Pontiac boasted the new system made it easier to load and unload the wagon in tight spaces, but the "Glide-Away" tailgate was prone to electrical and mechanical problems, and water and air leakage problems, as the cars aged.
Another trouble-prone feature Pontiacs shared with all GM B- and C-body cars for 1971 was a new power ventilation system. The system, also shared with the ill-fated Vega, used the heater fan to draw air into the car from the cowl intake, and force it out through vents in the trunk lid or tailgate. In theory, passengers could enjoy fresh air even when the car was moving slowly or stopped, as in heavy traffic. In practice, however, it didn't work.
Within weeks of the 1971 models' debut, however, Pontiac—and all other GM dealers—received multiple complaints from drivers who complained the ventilation system pulled cold air into the car before the heater could warm up—and could not be shut off. The ventilation system was extensively revised for 1972.
All models featured new Grand Prix-style wrap-around cockpit instrument panels that placed controls and instruments within easy reach of the driver along with two round pods for a speedometer and the other for warning lights, fuel gauge or optional gauges and electric clock. Interior trims were available in cloth and Morrokide vinyl or expanded Morrokide depending on model.
Standard engine in Catalina sedans and coupes was a 255-horsepower "350" (actually 355 cid) V8 with two-barrel carburetor. Catalina Brougham models and Safari wagons came standard with a 400 cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carburetor rated at 265 gross horsepower that was optional on other Catalina models. Optional engines included a 455 cubic-inch V8 with two- or four-barrel carburetion and respective horsepower ratings of 285 and 325, respectively. All Pontiac engines for 1971 were designed to run on lower-octane regular leaded, low lead or unleaded gasoline thanks to a GM corporate edict, necessitating reductions in compression ratios.
Power front disc brakes were made standard equipment for the first time in 1971. As in previous years, variable ratio power steering and Turbo Hydramatic transmission were extra-cost options but became standard equipment midway through the 1971 model run. Also available on early 1971 Catalinas with the 350 engine was a two-speed automatic transmission in addition to the standard column-shift three-speed manual.
Source: Wikipedia, 2014