$2,450 Wagon: 1961 Pontiac Tempest

This first-generation first-year 1961 Pontiac Tempest wagon was tracked down by eagle-eyed reader Eric H. and it can be found on Craigslist, or here on the CL archive, with an asking price of $2,450. It’s located in Annville, Pennsylvania and it sounds like you’ll need to haul it home instead of driving it.

Other than a missing door handle on the left side rear passenger door this car looks pretty solid. I can’t quite tell if the bottom or around the wheels has been touched up or not but the seller says that this Pontiac “is a solid survivor from dry Montana.” The other side looks just as solid. They list a link with more photos so check those out for the whole story – i.e., the rust that’s present and the general visual condition overall.

The Tempest was designed, as most cars were in this era, to hold six passengers – even though this was considered a compact car. It’s similar to the Oldsmobile F-85 and they even used a few shared body panels. The seller mentions that this car is a rare “Dawnfire Mist/Cameo Ivory two-tone..” I like it. Apparently this car was in storage for the past six years. I’m guessing that it has been stored for longer than that given it’s relatively solid condition.

The interior looks fairly rugged and in need of a lot of work. Parts of it could be cleaned up but a lot of the soft surfaces will need to be redone. Who knows what the back seat looks like, there are no photos of that areasat all, but the cargo area is shown in this photo. NADA lists a low retail value of $6,950 but that should be for a running example that’s at least usable. You’ve got $4,500 to get it up to that low number.

This engine photo is from the link of images that the seller has provided. It’s dusty but otherwise decent and fairly complete looking under that pink, I mean Dawnfire Mist, hood, other than it looks like the generator is missing. The seller says about the engine: “I have no clue if the engine turns over by hand or not. I haven’t tried, so assume it doesn’t.” Bummer, but it sure looks like it should run, doesn’t it? It’s hard to tell from a single grainy photo, of course. This should be the 196 cubic-inch inline-four which was basically half of a Pontiac 389 V8. Can this one be saved? The price sure seems decent, doesn’t it?


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  1. Metoo

    Not enough “patina”.

  2. Madmatt

    This would be nice, because its not so big ,
    that you can’t park it, but still very useable.
    A Minor Resto rod style would work well with this,
    and for sure you would stand out in the “bowtie” sea,
    at most gatherings.Very cool…and unusual….I like it.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Mickey Thompson built a lot of speed equipment for the Poncho fours back in the early 1960s, including a set up for a 3-71 GMC blower. Wouldn’t that wow the troops at any cruise night?

      Like 2
  3. Brian

    Glad I don’t live closer… I might be tempted to buy it, and I have too many projects as it is.


    Gasser written all over it

  5. C.Jay

    If you go too the Craigslist ad for the 1962 wagon and click “other ads by seller”. This is the same seller with a total of four Pontiac wagons for sale.
    This 1961 would it have a solid rear axle or an independent rear?

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      This one has the transaxle and swing arms, C.Jay.

    • Loco Mikado

      Along with the flexible whip driveline.

  6. Duffy Member

    Solid car. Worth saving. Asking price is decent. Great project.

  7. JW

    My mom bought a 62 or 63 Tempest new, her first car and I was baffled the ignition was on the left side of the steering column and the gear shift was on the dash as a lever you moved up or down to change gears. The 4 cylinder gave mom fits as it wouldn’t start in real cold weather so dad traded it in for a 64 Tempest convertible with a 6 cylinder and never had a problem after that.

  8. Mr Firth

    wow I want this so much that I even feel like selling one of the heaps I already have

    Like 1
  9. Ikey Heyman Member

    My mother bought a new ’61 wagon – it struck me as a weird car at the time with the Trophy 4 engine and rear transaxle (no transmission hump in front). She had the same problem as JW’s mother did: wouldn’t start in cold weather. It was gone within a year.

  10. Bill Manzke

    I’ve seen this car advertised before. I think it has been for sale for quite some time now. The missing title is probably the reason.

  11. Beatnik Bedouin

    Holy Arnie Beswick! This would make a fun car for someone, especially where the lack of a title wouldn’t be a barrier to putting this wagon on the road.

  12. Bob c.

    Pontiac was certainly innovative back then. That Trophy 4 was a novel design, chopping a 389 down to make a four.

  13. Ralph Foore

    The correct engine for this may have been the Buick version of the Aluminum 215 V8. Wasn’t a lot with V8 s out there… but there are still some running around here..that engine..if stock bumps this into a more rare position

    • Phil Parmelee

      That is the correct engine for the Tempest. I owned a 4-door back in the 70’s. Was odd to check transmission fluid in the trunk, and as I recalled, the lug nuts were left hand threaded.

  14. Doug

    The transaxle is the same one used in the Corvair, with the ring gear on the opposite side. They can also have the same ” axle-jacking” issues as the Corvair, and the wagon is more top heavy due to the added glass. The Olds, Buick, or Chevy compacts will be easier to get parts for, and a better / more valuable car when finished. The Olds & Buick were both available with the aluminum V8 ( a Rover V8 will fit nicely ), and the Chevy II with either a 153 cubic inch 4 or a 194 cubic inch 6 cylinder, and later the 283 V8.

    • Michael S

      Very few aluminium 215 ci V-8s went into the Pontiac Tempests for 61 & 62 because Pontiac had to buy them from the Buick division. ’63 saw the “326” Pontiac V-8 [actually one year only 336 ci advertised as 326 so it did not exceed the 327ci in the Corvette decreed by GM] with a reduced bore/stroke from the mainstay 389 ci Pontiac V-8. So, if you really want to have some crazy fun, slap a 389 tri-carb under the hood. It will fit! [you will need to source the beefier 4-speed trans-axle from ’63-64 Corvair turbo Spyder.]

    • xrotaryguy

      I believe the transaxle ring gear is the same in this as in the Corvair. The transaxle was made so you can drive it from the front or from the rear. This is why you can drive a Corvair transaxle from the front with a mid engine V8. This is also why for Corvair engine spins counter clockwise.

  15. Rolf Poncho

    Yip a gasser it must be with a lot of flake in paint

  16. Roger

    There’s a ’62 Tempest wagon on Greenville S.C. CL right now,even has underdash A/C but the condition of it is hard to discern but looks like the interior could use a good cleaning and body condition is hard to tell,been on there several times now.


    I just bought this car

    Like 2

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