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Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: 1965 Pontiac Tempest Custom

Given the popularity of the mid-1960s Pontiac GTO, the Tempest often gets overlooked in collector circles. Which is a shame because this survivor from 1965 is a beautiful example. Both cars shared the same platform (along with the LeMans) and at a passing glance one could mistake this car for its more powerful cousin. For the past 54 years, this car has been in the same family, but a growing auto collection means something’s gotta go. This 1965 Tempest Custom can be found in Bowling Green, Kentucky and here on eBay for $11,000 with the reserve not yet met. Thanks, local_sheriff, for finding this beauty for us!

The Pontiac Tempest began as an entry-level compact for 1961, sharing its heritage with the Buick Special and Olds F-85. It would first spawn the LeMans (a dressed-up Tempest as a compact) and later the GTO (a performance Tempest as an intermediate). The nameplate would last through 1970 and make a comeback from 1987-91. In 1965, the second year of the first generation that the Tempest would be a mid-size car, production of Pontiac’s intermediates would look like this: Tempest (standard): 39,525 units; Tempest Custom: 84,653; Lemans: 107,553; and GTO: 32,450. So, the Tempest Custom would be the second most popular model, of which 18,367 units would be 2-door coupes like the seller’s car. Thanks, Pontiac Registry!

As the early GTO’s were targeted as less expensive muscle cars, they were on a comparable trim level with the Tempest Custom. So, if you were to stick a set of aftermarket wheels on the seller’s car, you could almost mistake it for a GTO. This survivor, at just 28,000 miles, was purchased by the seller’s grandmother from the original owner in 1966 and it’s stayed in the family ever since. The car has seen little road time in the last 50 years, although it does come out to play from time to time. The rest of the time, it was stored inside to help preserve it. The car wears its original Montero Red/Cameo White paint, which is in very good condition, although there are a few chips on the doors and roof, but nothing you’d want to repaint. Although a little red overspray under the hood perhaps suggests a touch-up? The interior looks virtually spotless.

You won’t find a 389 V-8 under the hood, or even a 326, for that matter. What resides there instead is the entry-level inline six-cylinder, a 215 cubic inch which pumped out 140 hp. With a 2-speed automatic, this car isn’t likely to burn any rubber off the rear tires. To make driving the car as pleasant as possible for Grandma, this Tempest has power steering and brakes and likely an AM radio. The seller is reluctant to sell this car due to the obvious history; but nothing is forever, so it’s time for someone else to enjoy the car. Given the condition of the Tempest, it looks as though it could come close to the top end value that Hagerty places at north of $20,000.


  1. Big_Fun Member

    Never thought about it until this write up – the OHV 6, that is. I knew about the OHC 6, but now I know that came later.
    This “sheep” just might be the bigger draw at the cruise in…

    Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    I too never heard of the “215”, I read, derived from the Chevy 230. I had a friend that had a car like this, only a Sprint, with the OHC. With a 4 speed and 4 barrel, it had all the steam of a small V8. Most cars had the OHC, and was our 1st experience with rubber cam belts. Most ended up burning oil, and someone here stayed with the tried and true OHV, and was probably smart for doing so. Nice car, and proof, not all were GTO’s.

    Like 7
  3. Mike

    The 1980s Tempest was a badge engineered Chevy Corsica sold only in Canada. I’ve seen pictures and as usual the Canadian Pontiac looked better then it’s Chevy twin.

    Like 2
    • Stan Kaminski

      Mike you’re right about The 1980s Tempest was a badge engineered Chevy Corsica sold only in Canada. GM thought it looked better then it’s Chevy twin. When GM dropped the Tempest they used the Tempest tail lights on all the Corsica’s until production ended. Prior to that Corsica had the Chevy bowtie on the lens.

      Like 0
  4. Bob C.

    That 215 six was pretty much an orphan engine, produced in 1964 and 65 as a replacement for the “Trophy 4.”

    Like 0
    • Blyndgesser

      It’s really not. It’s an amalgam of the Chevy 194 and 230. All parts except the Pontiac-branded valve cover are widely available.

      Like 1
  5. Jcinvt7648

    Don’t think. ohc available for this year, also gov had belt cover on front of engine

    Like 0
  6. Jimmy

    My mom bought a new 64 Tempest with the auto and inline 6, it got passed down through my 3 older sister and ended up with me and by then it had more scratches and dents than a junkyard dog. It got me around until I saved enough to buy my first musclecar, a 65 GTO with a 389 / 4 speed. Always loved Pontiacs of the 60s.

    Like 6
  7. Stan Marks

    As a previous owner, of a Montero red “65 GTO, I was totally unaware of the poor man’s Tempest LeMans(6cyl). But then, why would I be?
    I also wasn’t aware that they could be ordered with an ugleeeeee white top.
    What were they thinking?? I never saw a shifter on the tree.
    I guess the one positive is, you won’t be heading to the gas station, as often.
    The latest bid is currently $11,100 & the reserve hasn’t been met.
    Clean-looking car, Especially on the interior. Although, my GTO had black interior. I love red. But that’s a little over kill.You need contrast.

    Would you put in a 389 & get rid of the 215? Plus, a HD suspension would have to be installed. What about that white top? That’s not contrast.That’s ugly. You would have to paint the entire car, to match a red top.
    So many decisions……

    Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      Stan, i think you will love the color combo & column shift
      in this ’70 trans am …
      Heater core for this Tempest avail at rockauto.

      Like 0
      • Stan Marks

        I like it, Joe.
        But it’s a TA. Not a Tempest LeMans. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

        While working at the studios, during the 70s, I worked on Smokey & the Bandit.

        Like 3
    • JoeNYWF64

      Stan , i seen plenty of cars with white steel tops & different body colors – like ’64 impalas. Doesn’t white match with anything? This tempest looks fine to me! & a white roof would keep the car cooler in hot summer! & give the illusion of a vinyl roof – from a distance w/o the rust worries.
      A column shift, bench seat & grandma’s motor makes perfect sense for her. A floor shift does not. I’m sure they built a lot of these & malibus with bench seat, 6, & column shift. Good for the drive-in too.
      While a column shift in a t/a is ridiculous(IMO), since no bench seat is available! Imagine a column shift in a corvette! Or a
      Mach 1.

      That scene in ’77 bandit movie where the t/a wildly hits that mailbox in the ditch area is somethin else. I don’t think anyone in recent times has complained about that front vanity plate on the t/a – yet. Maybe no one noticed it.

      Like 1
      • Stan Marks

        I understand, Joe. But we’re talking about this car. I owned my ’65 GTO, in L.A., with no a/c.
        I rolled down the windows and cruised down the Sunset strip, or Laurel Cyn.
        I was 21 and didn’t have a care in the world.
        Re: grandma, I totally agree.
        Although, we don’t know how old she was, back then.
        Again, we’re talking about this ’65.

        Working on the “Bandit” movies, was a blast.

        Like 2
  8. JoeNYWF64
    • local_sheriff

      Big fan of I-6 here; curious whether anyone with hands-on experience with the 215 can verify what bellhousing pattern it uses – Chev or BOP? Also, what kind of auto would a 215 equipped Tempest have – some variant of the PG or ST300…?

      Like 0
  9. Vince H

    The Tempest had a different grille than the LeMans and GTO

    Like 1

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