December 6, 2022


Let's Talk Car

The Rearview Mirror: A Forgotten, Yet Popular, Pontiac

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest had a rear-mounted transaxle for better balance.

It was to be named the Pontiac Polaris, a proposed compact motor vehicle from Pontiac.

Dependent on the Chevrolet Corvair, it was festooned with the usual Pontiac styling cues of the period, but its physique shell and motor have been shared with Chevrolet. Still Typical Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and Assistant Chief Engineer John Z. DeLorean were being not impressed.

The motor vehicle flipped consistently during screening, and Typical Motors was unwilling to commit the added scratch to suit the autos with anti-roll bars, a conclusion that would eventually expense the corporation much more. 

But that was in the upcoming. For now, the pair gave the idea thumbs down. A diverse compact would be issued by the automaker, a person with its have novel engineering: the 1961 Pontiac Tempest.

A vehicle is born

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest had a a rear-mounted transaxle, with a curved, adaptable driveshaft.

Thanks to the escalating reputation of the Volkswagen Beetle and the 1958 economic downturn, American automakers commenced producing compact automobiles to satisfy this growing industry, with American Motors reviving the compact 1950-55 Rambler as the 1958 Rambler American. Studebaker followed for 1959 with the Lark, which proved prosperous plenty of to help save the business from yet a different bankruptcy — for the time remaining.

So it’s only natural that America’s biggest automakers would follow in 1960. Plymouth released the Valiant, Ford allow the Falcon choose flight, whilst Chevrolet introduced the Corvair.

But the rear-engine, air-cooled Corvair proved pricey to produce, so GM made use of its Y-system chassis for a line of “senior compacts,” which would final result in the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85 and the Pontiac Tempest. With a 112-inch wheelbase, the equivalent triplets boasted a number of improvements, be it Buick’s aluminum V-8 and V-6 engines, Oldsmobile’s turbocharged Jetfire, or the Tempest’s rear-mounted transaxle.

Known by the inside designation X-100, DeLorean desired his compact to have a flat floor, area for six adults, and a 50/50 front-to-rear fat distribution for optimum managing. This necessary the employment of a adaptable driveshaft and a rear-mounted transaxle — a groundbreaking layout. But its price weighed intensely on the venture, so DeLorean tried out to use off-the-shelf components where ever doable.

A new outdated motor

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest’s “Trophy 4” was a Pontiac 389-CID V8 with 50 percent the cylinders missing.

Whilst the X-100s had been engineered for V-6 and V-8 engines, DeLorean preferred an economical inline 4-cylinder engine. Pontiac experienced no these engine, and funds constraints would not allow for a person to be crafted from scratch. So the division took its 6.4-liter (389-CID) and lopped off 50 % the cylinders.

The consequence was a hefty 3.2-liter 4-cylinder with 110-166 horsepower based on tune. Dubbed the “Trophy 4” by Pontiac, it proved to be extremely vibratory, thanks to the absence of stability shafts. A 3-pace handbook transmission arrived standard a 2-speed Powerglide automatic — marketed as “TempesTorque” — was optional, as the car employed a modified version of the Corvair’s coil-spring, swing-axle rear suspension. 

Inside of the automobile shared its basic instrument panel with its Buick and Oldsmobile cousins, albeit with distinctive detailing. Dual sunshine-visors, convert indicators, electrical wipers, and 15-inch tires arrived common. An AM Radio, windshield washers, backup lamps, electrical power steering, heater and defroster, sideview mirrors and visor vanity mirrors were among the the selections. Electricity brakes were being not out there — even as an alternative.

Made available as a two-doorway coupe, four-door sedan or four-doorway station wagon, the 1961 Pontiac Tempest was unveiled this 7 days in 1960 at the Paris Motor Display.

After it strike showrooms, it proved well-known, profitable the 1961 Motor Trend “Car of the Year” award. 

“The new Pontiac Tempest sets several new tendencies and unquestionably is a prototype for the American car for the Sixties,” they wrote, hoping that American autos would slim down and get rid of their extra mass. 

Alas, it was not to be.

Yet the Tempest should be remembered for its exceptional engineering — lionized at the time, and now forgotten. If it’s remembered at all currently, it’s for serving as the foundation for the legendary Pontiac GTO, which arrived in 1964. But which is a story for a different working day.