Bronzed Big-Block: 1966 Pontiac Tempest 455

Before the GTO was introduced in 1964, putting Pontiac solidly on the performance-car map, the economical Tempest could actually be specified with options that gave it a higher output than the Corvette. This 1966 Tempest looks a bit plain in brown, but it actually comes with a 455 V8! It’s listed for sale here on eBay in Wayne, New Jersey. It bas a BIN price of $16,500, but there is also the option to make other offers.

Credit due to Hemmings, here is a brief excerpt from a 2004 article that perfectly describes the reason Pontiac introduced the Tempest: “Small cars had never sold well or proved popular with buyers up to that point, but when the VW Beetle’s popularity took off due to changing buyer demographics, it signaled a shift in convention; small and efficient were now just as good as large and opulent. Each American automaker responded with a compact in their own way: Ford and Plymouth sold their conventional front-engine/rear-drive Falcons and Valiants, Chevrolet went out on a limb with the air-cooled, rear-engined/rear-drive Corvair, and Pontiac combined a bit of both with their front-engine/rear-transaxle Tempest. Innovative mechanical designs, intriguingly detailed styling and pure Pontiac power combined to stir up the market and make the original 1961-1963 Tempest and Le Mans into critical (Motor Trend magazine’s 1961 Car of the Year) and popular (over 375,500 sold) successes.”

The exterior of this Tempest is an unassuming brown/bronze color that overall looks pretty good. You can see a bit of damage on the front driver-side fender, as well as a little bit of bubbling around the door sill trim. However, all the trim and badges are present and undamaged, the glass looks great, and the large chrome bumpers are nice and shiny, although the rear bumper isn’t sitting flush. I see one piece of trim coming loose around the rear window, so it’s probably a good idea to investigate that further since you can already see some rust forming. The photos of the underside of the car and the trunk pan show some surface corrosion, but nothing that appears to be too serious.

The interior will need a bit of work. First of all, you can see how some of the seams on the front seats have come unstitched. There is also a small crack on the dash. But what worries me most is the condition of the carpet – it looks almost like mold to me. Windows left open, windshield leaking, or something else? I’d almost think it was the heater core, but the stains are in both footwells.

The engine is a 455 V8, which as far I can tell is not an option that was offered on the Tempest in 1966. Can any GM fans confirmed? Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick all had their own varieties of the 455 engine in later years, so it’s likely that one was transplanted into the engine bay here. You can see some other work has been done too, like the MSD ignition module located on the firewall and what appears to be an oil filter mounted to the inner fender. Unfortunately, the seller says it doesn’t run, so there’s no way at the moment to know what sort of condition it’s in. Hopefully with a little bit of elbow grease the next owner can get it going.


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  1. Driveinstile Member

    The best as I can recall, the Tempest and Lemans had a 326 either 2 or 4 barrel as the largest available engine. In 66 the 389 tri power was the top engine. But in the GTO only.

    Like 5
    • Driveinstile Member

      Oh and I apologize, I forgot the OHC 6. Including the high performance “Sprint Six”.

      Like 11
  2. gbvette62

    There were no 455’s in 66. The 455 didn’t come out until 1970, and this car does not have a “big block”. Pontiac only had one V8 block. There were short and tall deck versions, and small and large journal versions, but the basic block and architecture was the same for all Pontiac V8’s from 1955 on. I’d want to see some numbers, or other proof that this is a 455, and not take the seller’s work for it.

    It may look like “surface” rust in the trunk, but the standing water and the obvious rust at the base of the roof sail panels, are things to be concerned about. There’s no doubt that that’s mold on the carper, and the door sills and dash front are showing some surface rust, so I’m guessing the weatherstrip’s shot, or worse yet, the windshield’s leaking, allowing water into the interior. As a note to the writer, GM didn’t “stitch” the seams on seats, they were foamed using a heat pressing process, and with time and use they start to split, like those in this car.

    It’s a shame, looking at the wet trunk, moldy carpet, interior surface rust, peeling paint and rust and corrosion under the hood, this looks like it was probably a pretty nice car before someone decided to store it outside in the mud and weather, where water started to find it’s way inside.

    Like 21
    • Yohan

      Absolutely correct about ‘70 being the first year for the Pontiac 455. And for crying out loud, Pontiac never had a “small block” or a “big block” V-8!! I’m starting to think that you guys write that stuff on purpose…

      Like 9
  3. HC

    This Pontiac Tempest looks more interesting than the 6 cylinder 67 version you featured last week. May not be as clean, but at least a more promising drivetrain. Shame it was left outside and got water in it. Probably best to inspect in person before buying it to see how extensive any damage is.

    Like 2
  4. DRV

    My dad ordered his 66 Tempest with a 389. It was stripped and a sleeper which he , as a doctor, needed to run to the hospital in for emergencies. It also had a beefy suspension so that was on an order list too.
    Good memories …took my driver’s test in it.

    Like 4
    • HC

      389s were great tried and true engines in Pontiacs back in the mid sixties. Easy to work on and very dependable. May be what this 66 had originally if it didn’t come with this 455 from the factory.

  5. Mountainwoodie

    I’m trying here………….what’s with the Chevy? slushbox shifter setup if that’s what it is. I’ve never seen that in a Pontiac.

    Asks have really gotten beyond common sense. I mean you have a base Tempest with a different drivetrain than the car came with…and the seller wants junkyard GTO value for it?

    Somebody show me where I’m wrong. I must be somewhere.

    Like 2
  6. GTOMAN455

    pontiac blocks are all the same from 326 too 455, so no big block on pontiac motors. just a friendly reminder

    Like 1
  7. GTOMAN455

    NO BIG BLOCKS ON PONTIAC MOTORS 326 TOO 455 THE BLOCK IS ALL THE SAME. just a friendly reminder

    Like 1
  8. jeffrey m davis

    the seats and console are not 66 they are 67

    Like 1
    • HC

      I’m sure 66 and 67 consoles and seats are close enough as not to be a big problem for most people. I’m more interested in what engine this car came with from factory. I’m thinking it was the 389 since it probably wasnt this 455

    • trav66

      I agree with you, jeffrey. Looks like the seats, console and maybe 3-spoke sport steering wheel from a ’67, nice upgrades. This would be a good start for a weekend project, but it’s a priced too high. Wouldn’t take much to have it back on the road.

  9. Al

    Those rugs/mold, rusty valve covers, New Jersey= victim of hurricanes Sandy & Ida. So many muscle cars saw their fate after those two & many remnants of tropical storms offshore that still brought in heavy flooding of salt water. Why would anyone buy from there when so many dry states still to buy from with much less headaches & surprises.

    Like 1
    • gbvette62

      Wayne NJ is a long way from the coast. Wayne has seen flooding over the years, mainly from the Pompton River, but neither Sandy nor Ida caused any major flooding in that area, that I’m aware of.

      It’s funny how many people think all of NJ has been flooded, as the result of a couple hurricanes. Some inland rivers flooded, but the majority of flooding during Sandy (and other storms) was along the Atlantic coast, from Atlantic City north. Most areas hit were seasonal resort towns. I live 30 miles inland from one of the places hardest hit by Sandy. I have a stream running through my property, and a lake across the street from me, I’ve never experienced flooding in 30 years here. The number of flood damaged cars in NJ over the years, is such a miniscule percentage of the 2.8 million cars registered in NJ, it’s hardly calculable.

      Wet and moldy carpet in a car is far more often the result of worn out weatherstrip, poorly fitting door or vent glass, or windshield frames rusting under the moldings, than being under water.

      Like 2
  10. HC

    Yeah, I’m afraid that even if this 66 Tempest was garaged, that it may have suffered from flood and extensive water damage in that Jersey area.. Such a shame if that’s the case for this car.

  11. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    10 years ago, this was probably really nice. The seller has done this car no favors and I hope someone can grab it of their hands before it gets any worse.

  12. GTOMAN455

    455 came out in 1970 for pontiac

    Like 1
  13. john

    my friend bought a 66 from NJ with water damage, I bet if you go under that body and pull off them door panels, theres water damage

  14. HC

    Swapping a 1970s 455 into a 1966 Pontiac Tempest like this one isn’t that much of a stretch,and actually a pretty smart match.IMO. It’s a shame that it says it’s not running though. That could mean anything, including a full on rebuild

    Like 1
    • Mark

      Nice car but not 16G’s nice!

      Like 1
  15. Andy M

    Ok Pontiac guys, when were the 421 and 428s available?

  16. Dave M.

    At first glance she looks pretty good, but whenever I see NJ cars the big question is what evil lurks beneath. I grew up in NE NJ and it wasn’t rain or even floods that killed cars, but the salt on the roads in winter. In the 70s and 80s it wasn’t uncommon to see a five year old car with rust thru.

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