Four-Cylinder/Transaxle: 1963 Pontiac Tempest

This 1963 Pontiac Tempest has only ever had one registered owner, and it looks as though it could represent a fairly easy and straightforward restoration project. It might not have a throbbing V8 under the hood, but it still remains an interesting car. It is located in Fulton, Illinois, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding is currently sitting at $3,000, but the reserve hasn’t been met. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Ikey H for spotting this great project car for us.

Finished in Yorktown Blue Metallic, the Tempest is said to be a solid car with only very minor rust. The owner supplies a good selection of photos of the vehicle’s underside, and it appears to only have a dusting of surface corrosion, but no rot. In fact, even the body itself seems to have little more than surface corrosion, along with a couple of very small spots around the back of the car, just below the bumper. The glass is all in good condition, while the external chrome and trim need little beyond a polish.

The interior provides a pleasant surprise because if the front seat was to be fitted with a new cover, it would present quite nicely. The headliner and remaining trim look good, while the rubber floor-mat also looks like it has survived the past 56-years relatively well. The mat will need a scrub, but I don’t see any tears there. This is by no means a highly-specified car, with no real luxury features beyond a heater. It doesn’t look like the original owner chose to fit the Tempest with a radio, meaning that this is a car that represents 1963 motoring at its most basic.

If you were hoping for a V8 under the hood, then you will probably find this to be a bit disappointing at first. This is the 4-cylinder, 195ci “Trophy 4” engine, producing 115hp. This is where the Tempest actually becomes interesting though. This front-mounted engine sends its power through a torque shaft to the rear-mounted 4-speed manual transaxle. This is a neat setup, and in the case of the cars equipped with the Trophy 4 engine, it provided almost perfect weight distribution from front to rear. The owner says that the car is all original and that it runs and drives. It isn’t clear whether the Tempest is roadworthy, but with any sort of luck, it might not take much work to get it to that point.

For someone looking to secure a project vehicle, this car is also interesting simply because it doesn’t sport a V8 under the hood. If you aren’t sure what I mean, have a look at examples that are out in the market, and the vast majority of these will have a 326 under the hood. If you can find a half reasonable 4-cylinder project car, then you can expect to pay around $5,000 for it. That means that depending on where the reserve has been set, this could be a pretty decent buy.


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  1. Haig Haleblian

    First car I owned 53 years ago at 15. Threw out the 4 banger and dropped in a 326. Easy transfer since the 4 was an 8 sliced down the middle. Nostalgia has me interested, but I suspect after driving it, my nostalgia would be cured.

    Like 9
    • Sunshine

      For 1963 the 326 was based on the 389 with a different bore yielding an actual displacement of 336 CI; for 1964 the bore was reduced again to make it an actual 326. GM corporate dictated the reduced displacement for Intermediates. So, you could just as easily drop in a Pontiac 389, 400, 421, 428, or 455 since all are based on the same block [don’t know about engine mounts, but presume]! Can you imagine this ~2900 pound Tempest with 400+ HP and 400+ foot pounds of torque? LOL

      Like 2
  2. Jim in FL

    My dad was a mechanic at a Pontiac dealer when these came out. My mom told me the story of how, as a flat-rate guy, he took three twelve hour days to rebuild his first transmission on a rope drive tempest. The job paid about ten hours but he wouldn’t let it beat him. After that, he was the go-to guy on these and could do one in a day.

    I wound up driving a convertible version that belonged to a friend for a day. It was fun, but this is not a modern car. Slow, and with four drums it doesn’t stop that well either. Inexpensive way to get into the hobby though. Would be a good father son project. Just watch out for the transmission.

    Like 4
  3. sparkster

    Now which car was used in the robbery of that convenience store in MY COUSIN VINNY ? Too bad this wasn’t “mint green”

    Like 4
    • Bob C.

      And it also had posi traction (according to Marissa Tomei ). The defense was WRONG. I loved the way she gave it back to the prosecutor about the 55 Chevy Belair with the 327.

      Like 4
  4. Little_Cars

    Much, much better deal than the “project” 61-63 sedan from a few days ago, sitting on the garage floor without any wheels or rear axle.

    Like 3
  5. rustylink

    ahh a hay bailer – a slant 4 – though for years I thought it was a HB because the sound was similar to a hay bailer when at idle. Turns out they kick and buck like a hay bailer if the timing gets off on them. They are not the smoothest of engines but they are pretty rock solid.

  6. dave

    I too owned the same car back 50 years ago. I took it to Atco Dragway a few times. I broke the axle twice, otherwise loved it.

  7. 71FXSuperGlide

    Pontiac was certainly ahead of the time with this design.

    Like 1
  8. Bultaco

    The “Trophy 4” was a Pontiac 389 V8 cut in half. Same head, same valve cover, and I think there were even 4-barrel versions. Since they didn’t redesign anything to rebalance the engine as a 4, it shook like crazy if out of time. Apparently they were fine if kept in good tune.

    Like 2
    • Ralph

      The used really soft motor mounts to hide the shake, there was a 4 barrel version.

    • Dave

      I was a contractor working at the Navistar plant in Indianapolis in 1996. While headed to our work site we went through a dark room in which forgotten engines had been stored. One of those was a Slant 4 design. Anyone ever seen one in an International Harvester?

      • aamodel

        It would be a 152, that’s a 304 cut in half, standard equipment in the original International Scout, highest power 4 cylinder in a 4wd into the 80’s. I’m sure Geomechs or Howard would know a lot more info.

  9. Little_Cars

    Funny that by the next model year, these were tossed aside in favor of a much more balanced design (literally and figuratively) with the release of the enlarged 1964 Tempest, Lemans and GTO. No longer a compact car, the dawn of the intermediate models from the General. I’m sure shops at the time were glad not to have to diagnose the shakes on these little Tempests.

    Like 2
  10. Terry

    I really like the early 60s Pontiac styling. This is a great looking car to me.

    “I coulda half a V8!”

    Like 2
  11. moosie moosie

    Repeat yourself much ?

  12. JW454

    My first car was a ’63 Lemans convertible with the 4 cyl. automatic. At the time it was only 9 years old and it was a great first car. Red with Red int. and a white top. It ran great and was a blast for a 16 y.o. kid. After awhile, I got in the mood for a standard shift and it went away in favor of a ’57 Chevy with a 3 speed on the floor.

    Neat little car.

    Like 2
  13. TimM

    Really good project for not a lot of money!!! The buy of the week!!

  14. Jimmy

    My mom got a new 63 Pontiac Tempest from my Uncles estate after him and another uncle plus her parents were killed in a accident with a 18 wheeler who lost his taillights and didn’t know it until they hit him at 70 MPH on RTE 66 near Litchfield, Illinois. The first winter the car would never start when below freezing so Dad got POed and traded it for a new 64 Tempest convertible 6 cylinder, never had a problem, after mom got another Pontiac the 64 went thru us 4 kids driving it and eventually was sold for $100. I think the 63 Tempest was the first car I ever saw with the gear selector on the dash and there was no P for park just RNDL, you had to use the parking brake in the neutral position when parked.

    Like 1
    • Ralph

      It used the same PowerGlide transmission as a Corvair, neither had a P-Park position.

  15. Dave

    The only reason this car isn’t in the junkyard is because of the drivetrain. Tough to abuse something that doesn’t reward your abuse.
    That said, if the buyer restores it they will truly have a unique ride and the odds of seeing another are practically zero.
    When I was attending tech school in Columbus in 1974 I worked at a Big Bear store. A girl who worked in the produce department drove a mint convertible that had the 4 banger and auto trans. Time has stolen her name from my memory…

    Like 3
    • Brad T.

      Dave, don’t you wish sometimes you could get back that time that was stolen, was she a good ‘looker’ along with the mint car?
      Double bonus if she was ! Aaah the things we should have done when we had the chance, one can only dream these days.

      • Dave

        Brad, being far closer to the end than the beginning gives you a certain perspective. What is happening with my memory is that I can see their faces but can’t recall names. Yes, she was pretty, but we weren’t headed in the same direction.
        All part of the tapestry that makes up the story of a life.

        Like 1
  16. Fish

    I had a 62 version 4 banger with a broken exhaust. The wife (girl friend)
    at the time could hear me coming from a block away. I really enjoyed the little speed demon (not).

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