1961 Pontiac Monte Carlo Concept Car

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, concept cars were usually built for a specific purpose and then sadly later destroyed. But occasionally one would escape the crusher, like this Monte Carlo 2-seat convertible by Pontiac from 1961. It gets many of its styling cues from the Pontiac Tempest of the same model year. It differs from other concept cars as it was built to be a functional vehicle. Then-GM president Ed Cole ended up taking the car home with him, so it lives to tell the tale. Located in Mt. Kisco, New York, the car is available here on Hunting Ridge Motors for a price to be worked out between the seller and the buyer. Thanks, Kyle Knorr, for uncovering this remarkably interesting car for us!

How the car came to be isn’t known, but it was Project XP-741 and named the Monte Carlo (a name that Chevrolet would use nine years later on its new personal luxury car). The automobile made the car show circuit in 1961 and 1962, where it was seen with a half-windshield and Halibrand knock-off wheels. When that tour of duty was completed, the car was fitted with an operational soft-top, full windshield, roll up windows, wiper motor and anything else needed to be road worthy. After Cole was done with the car, he passed it along to his son to take to college. Beyond that, it spent several years in a museum in Texas where it was prominently displayed.

This one-off beauty has many of the cues common with concept cars in its day. It has custom stainless-steel cove moldings, a special instrument panel with tachometer, custom bucket seats and a wood-trimmed sports steering wheel. The Monte Carlo wears beautiful Pearlescent White paint with blue racing stripes, dark blue leather interior, brushed aluminum center console and a convertible top that completely disappears when in the down position.

Mechanically, it’s powered by a 215 cubic inch aluminum block V-8 with a 4-speed transaxle transmission (from the Tempest?) and independent suspension at all four wheels (also Tempest?). The odometer reads under 24,000 miles, so it has seen some road time, perhaps during the Ed Cole era. The Monte Carlo comes with a fully documented history dating back to the show car years. We’re told this machine cost GM $250,000 to build back in 1961 and, for them to replicate it today, maybe $2 million. Inquiring minds would really like to know what the seller hopes to net on this beautiful semi-roadster.

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    WOW – that’s cool!
    Never seen it before.

    Like 30
    • James Nichol

      I just located a not very good photo I took at the NY Auto Show/Users/jimnichol/Desktop/PontiacNYAS.jpeg

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars

        Can’t open the link. How about you post it here?

        Like 1
      • James Nichol

        I wish I could figure out how to post the photo…

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars

        Guess you have to be a member? I normally get a field to choose a photo file when I submit a comment. Otherwise, how about separating the link from the words of the sentence.

  2. Al_Bundy Member

    That Aluminum Buick 215 V-8 is a very impressive engine. Many don’t know about it. The body on this car is so compact for it’s day. As if it was intended to be a front engine version of the Corvair by another GM division. If it is as rare as stated, It would be a trailer queen. Like it just the same…

    Like 25
    • misterlou Member

      It took Rover to make that motor leak.

      Like 26
      • alphasud Member

        They should have used the Oldsmobile Version of this engine. They had 5 head bolts per cylinder instead of 4. Olds got the turbo in 62

        Like 12
      • ken tilly UK Member

        Where did you get that story from? I owned a Rover SDX V8 and it NEVER leaked oil in the several thousand miles that I drove it.

        Like 4
      • JP

        Have you ever owned a Rover? My P6 had its share of problems, but engine leaking wasn’t one of them. In fact, as English cars of the period go, this is one reliable Brit.

    • Bob K

      Just a shortened Tempest, probably about 18” like the Corvair Super Spyder. The proportions are similar. Pontiac wanted a compact to sell along side the Corvair but didn’t have the money to developers it’s own so used the Corvair floor pan and just rebodied it. Had to use the “rope” driveshaft ( that spun at engine speed) because there was no driveshaft tunnel. A flat firewall left no room for an upfront transmission but with plenty of room in the rear meant that the trans and clutch/torque converter went back there. Same with the “Shakey Jake” 4 cylinder engine, to save money simply cut a 326ci V-8 in half to make a 4 banger. Accent on the banger.

      Like 14
      • alphasud Member

        The rope driveshaft you mention is actually a clever bit of engineering. I believe John DeLorean had a hand in the design. A small diameter steel shaft 3/4” in diameter and made from a special alloy. The shaft was installed with a deflection to prevent any wobble or vibration. I went to a car show with a friend and we saw a roadster make with the Tempest drivetrain. At the time I didn’t know about the rear transaxle design. We really scratched our heads on that one!

        Like 7
      • Mountainwoodie

        Yup all the way around. I had a ’63 LeMans convertible…….rope drive , but a V8 and all. A really balanced ride and I had a ball zooming around………a 4 speed would have been nice. To my eyes, the shortened frame on this makes it ungainly……….perhaps a nice piece of GM history belongs where it can be seen maybe in the GM museum

        Like 3
      • BOP_GUY Member

        And actually the 4 cylinder was half of a 389, making it just under 195 ci’s. I have a 62 LeMans convertible with that 4, along with the “power pack” which has a 10.5:1 compression ratio and a four barrel Rochester. Mine is equipped with a TempestTorque 2 speed a/t, basically a Powerglide. Weighing in at around 2400 pounds + or -, it’s a blast to drive with 4 wheel independent suspension and a near 50/50 weight distribution. The reputation of an engine that shakes comes from them being out of tune, and isn’t present when properly maintained. During the million mile testing before going into production, the “rope shaft” transaxle proved to be solid, and still works perfectly all these years later.

        Like 4
      • JoeBob396

        The 1961-63 Trophy 4 was a 45-degree inclined 194.43 cu in (3.2 L) inline-4 created from the right bank of the 389 for the debut of the Tempest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontiac_V8_engine

        Like 2
      • Bob K

        I stand corrected on the engine size, the 4 cylinder was, indeed, half of a 389, not a 326 like I said. Sorry all!

        Like 3
  3. Troy s

    If all else, it’s absolutely guaranteed you’ll have the only one known to man. Good looking car that is destined to wear “Look, but don’t touch, don’t even think about it!” signs. Interesting piece of history.

    Like 14
  4. Ian McLennan

    One of the many reasons I enjoy this site so much, I often learn something. Had no idea this car existed, what a beautiful little machine.

    Like 27
  5. Joe Haska

    My only personnal experence with a concept car, was the Oldsmobile F-85, that sold at Barrett-Jackson in about 2002, for over 3 Million Dollars. I happened to be a good friend of seller and got to be a member of the inner cicle for the sale, after parrty etc. What I learned was, that if I could ever get a concept car, I would. Its been a long time since the F-85 and the seller has past away, I know what he paid for the car and its not my place to say, but there is no doubt in my mind,he is the uncontested KING of The Flippers. I doubt that will happen with this car, but you never know?

    Like 1
  6. Ken Hillman

    The handling of this little beauty would be amazing! The Tempest transaxle, independent suspension was a winner! I learned to drive on a 1963 Tempest coupe with the 194cu in 4 cyl. It was a fun car!

    Like 11
    • jokacz

      Swing axles, not really independent rear suspension.

      Like 3
      • Willowen Member

        @jokaxz: Same difference. As long as the wheels move independently from each other that’s independent suspension. Lousy IRS, yes, but IRS anyway. The only non-IRS design that uses a chassis-mounted diff is DeDion, like what my Alfa Milano has, with a sprung tubular axle connecting the wheels.

        I’ve never driven an early Tempest, but know that some folks have had good luck with them, and have once followed a well-driven one go very quickly down a twisty Alaskan road, me on a motorcycle just barely keeping up. That one was a V8 too.

        Like 5
    • Ronald Stephens

      I learned the hard way about that transaxle rear end. On my way home after work and crowded it on a cloverleaf interchange and wound up in the infield. No damage but this 18 year old (then) was a bit shaken. It was similar to the corvair that Ralph Nader excoriated.

      Like 5
    • John

      Ha ha! All the thrills of racing without exceeding the speed limit. My folks had an early (‘62 I think) Tempest and it oversteered insanely.
      The front suspension broke twice too. Fortunately I was driving and no one got hurt. If Nader drive one of these he would have forgotten the Corvair!

      Like 1
      • K. R. V. Member

        Just like the Corvair, drivers who had troubles actually driving the Corvair especially and to not quite the extent of the Tempest, both had more weight in the rear, the Corvair actually had more weight in the rear than the front, but the Tempest, especially the 4 cyl version had a significant amount of weight in the rear than other types of cars, kind of like driving around with a transmission in your trunk! So like the Corvair, to an extent, tire pressure was critical, especially in the daze of small skinny bias ply tires, that absolutely especially in a Corvair, you needed more air, like at least 28 rear, 18 front. But in the Tempest, the normal 26-28 front 22-24 rear would and did get drivers in trouble! Especially with any weight added into the trunk!

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars

        @K.R.V. fast forward to 1998 and foolishly I strapped a Corvair wagon to a swivel tow dolly to transport it many miles to its final destination. Not realizing the physics involved in keeping my rig centered on the road. Had to stop after 20 miles or so to reposition my rear engined beauty on the tow dolly backwards and strap the steering wheel in the straight ahead position. Tow dollies and Vairs don’t play well together.

  7. Rex

    Sold!… at Barrett-Jackson in 2007 for $40,700

    Like 12
  8. Mike

    Before the Solstice, before the Fiero, before the Firebird there could have been this. Would have been cool!

    Like 10
  9. Phil Thomas

    The nose/grille looks unfinished…..or just IMO there should have been some sort of bright work in there.
    But yes – VERY cool car.
    Still if I was in this classic car market (and I understand this is the ONLY one in existence) for me and my tastes there would be ten or twelve other cars I would want before I shelled out whatever they eventually do get for this one.

    • Little_Cars

      The “bright work” as you call it went onto the production Tempest if you could call the nacelles these used “bright.” This car has a VERY VERY modern look with those coves being body color. Fast forward to 2020!

      Like 1
  10. ccrvtt

    Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac got their ‘compact’ cars in 1961. Convertibles came with the 1962 model year. The sharply creased side treatment continued for 2 years and this appears to be a shortened version of the original Tempest. It also has the 1961 Tempest front grille shape.

    It appears to have 15″ wheels, a Pontiac exclusive for the GM compacts. I’m not sure but I believe the rear independent suspension on the Tempests were swing axles.

    Neat car, truly one of one.

    Like 5
    • Chuck Dickinson

      The 15″ wheels weren’t a Pontiac exclusive. They were standard on the Tempest, while the Specials and F-85s had 13″s. However, both Olds and Buick offered a 15″ wheel option on their compacts. They can be easily identified by the wheelcovers used on them. Not common, but they were available from the factory that way.

      Like 2
  11. Jay

    Google

    Pontiac Little Indians

    Like 3
  12. Barry Hafeman

    Looks like an early 60,s Buick skylark

    Like 1
  13. Frank Sumatra

    I doubt very much GM spent $250,000 in developing this car. More seller fantasy talk to jack the price. Show me the detailed accounting records and think about what folks were being paid back then.

    Like 8
  14. Don Page

    The convertible top looks like it could of come from the Corvette.

    Like 3
    • moosie moosie

      Thats what I thought also Don Page, except for the 2 humps in the rear bow its the spittin image of a C2 soft top. Nice car and a very interesting story about its history. I’m surprised it isn’t in the G.M. Heritage Museum in Michigan ?

      Like 3
      • Little_Cars

        Actually, the two humps also make the back of this convertible top look like one from a Thunderbird, 1964-66. The tops on the Squarebirds also dropped down into a compartment with no separate boot needed.

  15. Elanguy

    Nice story about it here:
    https://www.macsmotorcitygarage.com/pontiacs-sporty-showpiece-the-1961-tempest-monte-carlo/

    Interesting car. And I too am curious about teh asking price.

    Like 3
  16. James Babineau

    Last I knew, Ed’s son was still teaching engineering at the University of Michigan. I took several classes from him and got to know him back in the early 90s. I never knew he had such a cool car to drive off to college. Nor can I imagine parking something this rare outside a dorm.

    Like 7
  17. martinsane

    That interior color is stunning.

    Like 5
  18. 4501 Safari Member

    Over the years I’ve seen articles and pieces in books on this car but never a photo of the entire car, side shot, or with the top up, add the hood open to the list. This will go in the files. I hope someone will do aqn indepth photo review of the car. It is a practical beauty. Takes me back to my high school years. Would look great next to my Solstice GXP roadster!

    Like 3
  19. Little_Cars

    Ed Cole had a hand in his daughter’s custom “1960” Monza which was recently restored and on display at the Corvair Preservation Museum. This, and the Super Sebring mentioned earlier, would be three he had a hand in that survived the ravages of time. I sat in the Sebring in 1998 when the CPM was located in Virginia. You could smell the history. Part Corvette rear treatment and stock 1962 Corvair from the cowl forward. I believe Car & Driver had the Sebring on it’s cover sometime in 1962.

    Like 2
  20. Bob McK Member

    I wondered how to price something like this. Since it sold at auction in 2007, there is a starting place. Is it still worth that, more or less? I guess it depends on how much the owner wants it gone.

  21. Erik

    What a SHARP eye catching car! The fact that this post has so many comments leads me to believe that this is one Poncho that should have been built. May have possibly ended up being as hot as Ford’s Mustang.

    Like 5
  22. James Nichol

    It’s a treat to see that the Buick has survived as I remember seeing it with the half windshield and thought it was a car I’d buy (If I had the money, I was not yet quite old enough to get my license!). The 215 had a long brilliant life first with GM in the Buick Special and the Olds F85/Cutlass through 1963, then with Rover, Morgan, and some other specialty English builders. Morgans used it in the +8 until 2003! Some lucky person will have a unique addition to their garage!

  23. roger

    hey j. leno check it out

    Like 3
  24. Greg Millard Member

    I agree it definitely belongs at the GM Heritage Museum in Detroit – anywhere else would not be in the best context

    Like 1
  25. K. R. V. Member

    Very nice! I’ve always loved the first generation Tempest/LeMans. But not many left. Due to the unusual mechanical bits, that were troublesome, even with the standard 4 cyl, that was half of I believe a 326! But the unusual part was the transaxle setup. See the engine was in the front and transmission transaxle in the rear, but the really unusual part was the driveshaft, that was actually like a very heavy speedometer cable! When you looked underneath, the driveshaft is in a sealed CURVED tube! But the cars themselves, with good tires, not so common when they were new, but modern radial tires with good shocks help the cars handle very well, seeing’s they have 4 wheel independent suspension! Yes they could be had with a nice 326/4brl 4 speed, but automatics were 2 speed PowerGlides!

  26. JoeNYWF64

    1st car to get a sister division’s motor? Pontiac had nothing special? – an experimental OHC v8?

  27. jeff51 Member

    Check out the crossed flags on the quarter panel!

  28. Dave Mathers

    That is SWEET!!!

    Like 1
  29. Phlathead Phil

    Wouldn’t it be terrific if GM took our B.F. comments seriously and designed a retro car like this???

    This gem is “Ice Cool” on a hot summer day!

  30. Matt Berens

    I’ve seen this car in person in a car museum in San Antonio, Tx in the fall of 78′. Near the car was a small podium with a plaque giving the history of how it came to be. The story mirrors the same as in this article. I can’t see it in these pics, but I remember Monte Carlo in an old style script on the lower rocker panels. A real piece of history for the Monte Carlo.

  31. jokacz

    I just noticed the Lucas PL headlights in the high beams. So nostalgic, reminds me of my youth! LOL

    • jokacz

      Or are they just “Flamethrowers”? Remember those?

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