Trophy-4 Engine: 1962 Pontiac Tempest

Pontiac intended to get into the compact car game in 1961 with a clone of Chevy’s new Corvair. But instead, they got a different car that was unique in its own engineering. Named the Tempest, its standard motor would be a “Trophy-4” which was half of a V8 paired with an optional 2-speed rear-mounted transaxle automatic transmission. This 1962 Tempest Custom Safari station wagon looks like a solid survivor that has a lot of miles left in it. Located in Franklin, New Jersey, this Pontiac is available here on craigslist for $21,500 OBO. Our thanks to T.J. for bringing this interesting compact to our attention!

During its first generation (1961-63), the Pontiac Tempest/LeMans shared its new unibody “Y” platform (a first for General Motors) with the Buick Special/Skylark and Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass. In 1964, all these cars would be promoted to mid-size status with GM’s new A-body, and the Tempest would have a more traditional drivetrain set-up going forward. But that was not before the vehicle was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 1961 for being “exceptionally roomy” (the floorboards were flat like the Corvair) and being “one of the very best utility cars since the Ford Model A.”

One of the most interesting parts of the Tempest was its engine. It was a 195 cubic-inch inline-4 that was derived from the right cylinder bank of Pontiac’s 389 “Trophy 8” V8 motor. The car had no driveshaft and thus no tunnel through the passenger compartment, a set-up that would become known as “rope drive” which had only been used previously by GM on the 1951 Le Sabre concept car. 4-wheel independent suspension was part of the Tempest package, making it a nimble-handling automobile.

Production of the Tempest Custom Safari wagon was low for the day, coming in at 6,500 units for 1962. That should equate to a dwindling number of examples still on the road 60 years later, with the seller’s red-on-red wagon being one of them. The transport looks to be original, but no claim is made to that effect. The paint looks good but there appears to be a small amount of filler and primer on the north end of the passenger-side rear wheel well.

We’re told the interior is “near mint” and – from the photos provided – that is likely true. Everything is said to work as it’s supposed to. At 74,000 miles, the car may have seen its fair share of storage as time has passed by. The seller has treated the car to a tune-up and fluids change along with a new exhaust system, and the tires have plenty of life left. The seller says the Tempest starts and runs just like it did in 1962. If you were looking for an interesting car from this era, this Pontiac would probably be the only one like it at Cars & Coffee.


  1. alphasud Member

    Price might be a tad strong but the wagons are pretty rare. Looked at buying one that needed everything but it was a desert car and had a good body. That one had the high compression Trophy with the 4bbl. carb and a floor shifted 4-speed. Pretty clever engineering to put the driveshaft under tension to keep it from oscillation if it were run straight. They are also very robust in design. Cool cars. The first time I saw a Trophy 4 was in a T bucket hot rod. My friend and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out what we were looking at. At the time I didn’t know the Y body Tempest used a transaxle like the Corvair.

    Like 7
  2. Todd J. Member

    My mother traded in a Ford Ranch Wagon for a new ’62 Tempest wagon which, for some reason, didn’t want to start in cold weather. “I never should have gotten rid of that Ford,” she would grumble.

    Like 11
    • Dusty Rider

      Nice. My buddy had a sedan that color back in the day.

      Like 3
      • Will Fox

        “Honduras Maroon” <—Pontiac lingo in `62.

        Like 5
      • jimbosidecar

        Wondering if I was your buddy. I drove one (in this color) for about a year in high school. My favorite activity was to take a 90 degree corner at about 50 mph with one arm out the window and the rear swing axle rear end would slide out to about a 45 degree angle. “just showin’ off” my car control skills. What fun it was for a very under-powered car.

        Like 1
    • Bob C.

      So funny, even the Ford y blocks had a reputation for not liking the cold weather either, assuming that’s what she had.

      Like 2
    • Rick

      In the mid 1970s I had the misfortune to own a ’63 Tempest wagon with the Trophy half V8. That car was a real prize all right. Yet, to its credit, it’s the car that made me realize that a lousy car can help develop some useful diagnosis and repair skills.

      Like 4
  3. angliagt angliagt Member

    Great styling in a great color!

    Like 4
  4. Howard A Member

    Hard to think, the most iconic muscle car came from these roots. I knew a guy that put a 389 , 4 speed in a ’62 Tempest, with a conventional driveshaft and rear end, pre-dating the GTO by almost 2 years. He wasn’t the only one. Drag racers found out quickly, a Tempest was your best bet agin them pesky Fords and Mopars. I believe Arnie Beswick started with a Tempest. It’s a great find. Naturally, the only thing holding back on the sale, is the price. A young family, this would be perfect, but at $20gs, not going to happen, and that’s a shame.

    Like 12
    • Haig L Haleblian

      Ha! I did the same thing when I was 15 with a 63 LeMans 4 banger that was kissed in the front.Smoked all the rich Hinsdale kids with their daddy bought 442’s, Goats, etc with that sweet little 326 4 speed.

      Like 4
    • Mountainwoodie

      My mother’s best friend had the exact model, year and color Tempest wagon just down the road from us as I was growing up. It was about three years old at the time. We had a ’65 stripper Buick wagon and I always prefered riding in the Pontac. Years later I had a ’63 rope drive Le Mans convertible. One of the best balanced cars I ever had……shame it had a slushbox in it. Sold it for a ’66 911S! Targa. Dont ask. lol

      Like 1
  5. David Nelson

    My very first car was a 61 deluxe sedan version of this model. Very peppy and dependable! I loved the split grill on mine as it mimicked the grill on the 59 full size Pontiac. How odd that 15″ rims were used on all 3 yrs of the Tempests but the 61-62 Skylarks/Specials had too-small-looking 13″ rims!

    Like 3
    • S

      Actually 15″ rims were an option on the Special and Skylark. 13″ was standard. so they were offered, but you rarely see them.

      Like 4
      • Joe Padavano

        I’m not sure about Buick, but the 1963 Olds F85s actually offered both 14″ and 15″ wheels and tires as options.

        Like 2
      • Rick

        Our family car for a few years was a ’63 Buick Special with 6.50 X 13 tires. I remember the specs in the owner’s manual listing 15 inch tires and wheels as optional, but I can’t recall the tread width.

        Like 1
  6. Joe Padavano

    Cool car, but the Barrett-Jackson pricing is a fantasy. Few Tempests came with the Buick 215.

    Like 5
  7. chrllsful

    I love strange ducks and this is certainly one. I see the bent4 SAAB too & would love to ‘play’ w/either one (tq tube/rope drive, the trans axel, frnt motor here). And a waggy to boot. I’d see it asa prize if at our shop (owned or not).

    Like 1
  8. S

    This is an awesome car! This is rare – not only because it’s an early 60s Tempest, but because it’s a wagon. Let alone its condition. They are asking a lot, but where are you going to find a better one?

    Like 4
  9. Psychofish2

    This is how a low mileage old car should look.

    Study it.

    They don’t look like rusty, clapped out, interior free Corvairs. “Only 64,000 miles!!!”

    Like 9
  10. tom hofstad

    I owned the exact twin to this! What a flashback. It was surprising how well it did with the big 4 and slush-o-matic. Comfy, thrifty and weird – perfect for me. Sadly it sucked a valve and shattered the piston leaving the rod to thrash in its bore but still made it 5 miles home. Im sure they could see the cloud of smoke and hear the noise from space!

    Like 3
  11. man ' war

    Neet to notice the suttle differences in this 62 Tempest and my 61 Skylark wagon promo model car except my little model car does not show all the fine chrome metal trim; however, the iconic three holes dotting the side front fenders are there.

    Like 1
    • man ' war

      I have to make a correction. My little promo model car is not a Skylark :( There is a 62 Buick Special Wagon featured on BarnFinds today. That got me to looking at my little promo car, and I realize it is a 61 Buck Special wagon :) as the lettering is very small and same color as the car. lol

      Happy Motoring!

  12. Stephen P Bowlby

    My first car was a 62 Tempest Sedan.

    Like 2
  13. Haig L Haleblian

    Ha! I did the same thing when I was 15 with a 63 LeMans 4 banger that was kissed in the front.Smoked all the rich Hinsdale kids with their daddy bought 442’s, Goats, etc with that sweet little 326 4 speed.

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