Almost European: 1962 Pontiac Tempest Convertible

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Along with Buick, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile, Pontiac launched its first compact car, the Tempest, in 1960. All four of these GM brands shared a new monocoque Y-body, but the mechanicals varied by brand. Pontiac had the distinction of offering a four-cylinder engine and a rear mounted transaxle though, and that gave the Tempest an even weight distribution and enabled it to use of four-wheel independent suspension.

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The transaxle also eliminated the transmission floor hump in the front, giving the Tempest extra leg room.

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Then in 1962, this body shell was refreshed for each brand line.

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This new design worked really well for the B-O-P siblings. Pontiac introduced the LeMans nameplate as an upscale trim across the Tempest line, so in this first year that you could buy a Tempest convertible, 5076 were made, while 15,559 customers opted for the convertible in the fancier LeMans form.

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These cars were pretty prone to rust, and now more than 50 years on, we don’t see too many 1962 Tempest convertibles on the road or at car shows. So this apparently rust free example, which is for sale on here on craigslist in Tucson, Arizona, is now a rarity, especially since it has a manual transmission.

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The base engine for this car was a 4 cylinder. The seller says this car has its original motor, but does not state whether this car is a Tempest or a Tempest LeMans – an important distinction.

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The seller’s price of $4,500 seems very reasonable for the rarity and condition, and it’s a safe bet this car won’t last very long.

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According to the seller, it needs a new top, some interior work and the paint has typical sun caused fading. Recent work includes the fuel tank being drained, new spark plugs, cap, wires, a rebuilt carburetor and new radial tires.

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This looks like a very driveable – and affordable – classic car that you can use daily while gradually improving its appearance. It’s reasonably inexpensive to fix and maintain, fun to drive, and best of all for those of us who suffer from salty winters, a big attraction is that this car is (apparently) relatively rust-free.

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Comments

  1. Gary I

    Shouldn’t last long at that price, not for a solid Arizona car. I never see these this cheap in Ohio, maybe $8,000 or $10,000 around here. Looks like a good entry level car that you should be able to profit on down the road.

  2. Mark P

    Love the motor, exactly half a 389.

  3. JW

    Well my mom inherited one of these in 1963 but a hard top and automatic, if I remember right it was a aluminum block 4 cylinder and she only kept it one year because living it Illinois it wouldn’t start in the winter time. She traded it for a 64 Pontiac Tempest with a 6 cylinder iron block convertible which lasted through her and each one of us 4 kids used it until we bought our own cars and it was still running when we sold that one. In a warm climate or if you only drove it in the summer it would be fine.

  4. sir mike

    A car way ahead of it’s time…love it…

  5. 9k2164s

    I ran a ’62 two door as a winter-bomb in the early 90’s. It had a great ride, very stable. Slant 4 shook at idle but had plenty of grunt. 80 on the highway no problem. This is a great cruiser.

  6. John

    Terrible car. My parents bought one brand-new. Half a V8, totally unbalanced, Corvair transaxle, oversteered horrendously. All the thrills of racing without exceeding the speed limit. Front suspension broke two times sliding car into other lane.

  7. JW454

    My first car was a ’63 Lemans Convertible. 194 Cu. In. 4 cylinder and an automatic transaxel rearend. It was a great little car that I proceeded to destroy with all dispatch. Similar to this one with a white top.

  8. Jason Houston

    While announced in 1960, the first Tempest was 1961. One of the handsomest strains of Pontiac, and most were already excellent.

  9. OhU8one2

    Really nice car,and for the money,very hard to beat. Looking at the 63 LeMans,I noticed all kinds of design cues for the up and coming GTO. Pontiac’s from late 50’s to 79 have to be my favorite from GM. I’m still upset about GM ditching Pontiac. Maybe one day we’ll see a 20?? GMC Trans Am…………

    • Jason Houston

      Pontiac gets my vote, too, on fav car line from GM, 1949-1979. I heard rumors they were bringing back the Firebird Trans-AM. Anyone…?

  10. Irish Bill

    My Mother had a1962. They were notorious for the timing chain jumping a link. I changed it several times but I assume that was finally solved with better components

  11. Ethan

    Reminds me of the movie My Cousin Vinny in which the murder is solved because this was the only car that could have left the particular set of tire marks from the crime scene due to the IRS and V8 power.

    • Rocco Member

      I was thinking the same thing.
      Marisa Tomei on the witness stand is the best part. Plus she won an oscar for it.

      • Jason Houston

        She deserved it. That was one powerful performance.

      • Ethan

        I agree

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      IIRC what Marisa Tomei on the stand said was that the two equal tire tracks from the burnout could only have been left from a car with Positraction, and that identified the robber’s car as different from Vinny’s car. Anyway, it was Positraction that told the tale.

  12. wagon master

    I think it’s “biological clock is ticking” ….

    The 4 barrel “trophy” engine with 4spd is not horrible to drive.

  13. Pete

    I had a ’63 tempest too. My convertible was a push button auto with a 326 V8.
    Nice car.

    • Woodie Man

      I had a 63 LeMans Convertible…black on black with a maroon top. V8 I loved how well balanced it was. The rope drive took a bit of getting used to..at least for me. The shift lever on the automatic was a short chrome lever as pictured below on the dash as soon through the lower right quadrant of the steering wheel

  14. Matt Tritt

    My mother bought a 62 LeMans conv like this one new. Great car/crappy car! The only big issue it had was a missing tooth in the transaxle – in 2nd gear as I remember. They wanted so much to fix it she left it the way it was, but it never broke all the way, just clicked. They would go fast but float around a bit on the straight and had too much body weight for nimble cornering. Ugh.

  15. JimmyinTEXAS

    Never owned one, never drove one, never even rode in one. BUT and it is a big but, every time I saw one, convertible or hard top, I craned my neck to get a better look at it. And I would venture a little wager I still would if I ever saw one in the wild. This would make a great weekend cruiser and if the engine ever gave up, I’m sure one of the new eco-tec from GM would make a suitable replacement with an upgrade to the brakes and a couple new suspension parts thrown in for good measure…

  16. jeff6599

    All the fours were cast iron blocks and all were, indeed, balanced. Fours typically vibrate due to the 180 degree firing order. Modern fours utilize a counterbalance shaft. All other fours of the day were small and vibrated a bit less but the Tempest was a big one. Except for the Scout. A different engine about the same size, also half of a V8 and yup, it vibrated. The automatics used were not pushbutton but had a short shift control lever on the dash.Great, sharp looking little cars; I have 5 of ’em, all coupes

    • Ed P

      Jeff, From what I have heard, the 4 was smooth enough if it was in tune. Out of tune and the engine could really move around.

      • jeff6599

        If you’re indicating a dead miss, I agree. But not with a few degrees in timing in error. The motor mounts used a very low durometer rubber to avoid transferring vibration to the chassis.

  17. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Altho I prefer the ’63 version that JW454 kindly posted a photo of to remind me how good it looks, I think it was a good thing for GM to strike out in a new direction with the first Tempest convertible even if the sculpting is a bit overdone. GM had to do something to refresh the line to combat the stylish Euro cars that were coming along and that David referenced in the title. IIRC GM did learn about the evils of swing axles and made the Corvair’s rear suspension a real IRS toward the end of the Corvair’s run.

    This one is amazingly well kept, and rare as a few comments mention, especially with the floor mounted std transmission. I think if someone wanted an unusual and affordable GM convertible from the early ’60s this would be a good buy at the asking. By now buyers should probably know the car’s limitations and drive it accordingly. The downside would be that big 4, which wouldn’t be the smoothest engine around.

  18. Andrew Croft

    My Mom had a new 62 Lemans hardtop with bucket seats and automatic with shifter on dash. My Senior year of HS I wrecked my 58 Star Chief and I got a 61 with an automatic. It was a fun little but with four people it was no rocket ship. They made one version of the little 4 cylinder with a 4 barrel card.

  19. Charles

    We see a couple of these at the Pontiac shows very year, and I agree with previous posters, they are rare these days.

  20. alan

    And don’t forget the flexible drive shaft that was the real reason the floor tunnel was so small not the transaxle alone.

    https://search.yahoo.com/search/?p=62+pontiac+tempest+driveshaft&fr=spigot-chr-ffmac&type=0&ilc=12&ei=UTF8

  21. moosie Craig Member

    Seems like every ones Mom had one, although mine didnt, if she could drive she would have probably had one too. I wish I had the $4500.00 bucks to spend on this one

  22. alabee

    We had a gold 63 LeMans auto coupe but I don’t remember the underdash gear shift. Did they also have a console mount shifter? Help me remember.

    • Woodie Man

      If you had a ’63 automatic you did indeed have the dashboard mounted “little” shifter that stuck out perpendicular to the dash.

      As for the “rope”drive mentioned above in Alan’s post that is the real reason the floor was flatter. I had to replace the u joints on mine and amazingly…….this was back in the late nineties….an older fellow in San Diego had a stash of transaxle/rope drive transmission parts. Fixed me right up with all I needed AND half shaft axle boots….to boot!

      I too like Dolphin think these are extraordinarily beautifully designed bodies. Maybe the best looking small American cars in the sixties.

    • JW454

      Here’s a couple pictures of the floor shift automatic. When I had my convertible I found one in a scrap yard. I spend a couple hours getting it out but never got around to putting it in my car.

      • JW454

        And here

      • Woodie Man

        Holy smokes I HAVE seen one of those floor mounted shifters……….and totally forgot about it!! Getting older is a pain!!

  23. jeff6599

    They did not make any hardtops in 61, 62 or 63. All of that style were coupes.

  24. jeff6599

    Woodie, they didn’t have u-joints on those driveshafts. It was a solid unflexing connection on each end. The 5/8″ (4 cyl.) or 3/4″ (326 V8) spring steel driveshaft did all the flexing. The only u-joints on the car were one on the inboard end of each rear axle (IRS, remember).

  25. Woodie Man

    Hmmmmmm,,,,,no. Maybe it was a collar,,,,,,of some sort. Yeah… for some reason I remember going to the guys house and buying u joints……..must have gotten them for the axle . Sheesh! :)

  26. Garry Ford

    61 and 62 BOP shared the same body design. The 4 cylinder Pontiac engine (195 cu in) was actually 1/2 (right bank)of the 389 V8 engine and offered the 215 cu in Buick V8 as an option in 61 and 62. In 63 Pontiac offered the 326 cu in engine which was actually a 336 cu in, but called a 326 so that it wasn’t bigger than the Corvette 327 offered in the Corvette. Buick Special/Skylark had a 198 cu in V6 cast iron block (derived from the 215 cu in V8) and the all aluminum 215 cu in V8. The Olds also had a V8 (derived from the Buick 215) but with heads of their own design. In 63 BOP all when to the more boxy design.

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