1961-1963 Pontiac Tempest

The rarest 1963 Pontiac Tempest was the base-model Safari wagon, of which 4,203 were made. A long-handled floor shifter worked the three-speed transmission.

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1962 Pontiac Tempest

The 1962 Pontiac Tempest followed the motto, "If it's not broken, don't try to fix it." Once again, this unit was borrowed from the Corvair and modified slightly to accept the torque tube and curved driveshaft.

Production figures rose sharply for 1962. A total of 143,193 Tempests and LeManses were built. The jump can most likely be attributed to series expansion and the public's growing comfort level with the leading-edge technology.

The 1963 model year was one of sweeping and significant changes to Pontiac's senior compact. All-new sheet-metal below the beltline gave the Tempest a more upscale look. The split-grille theme returned, but with an eggcrate grille mesh. The body was a bit more slab-sided, with noticeably longer rear quarters that helped contribute to the additional five inches of length. The tail treatment was new, too. Tempests received two small, round taillamps mounted vertically per side. LeMans coupes and convertibles received thin rectangular lenses with a ribbed stainless trim panel between them.

There was much to talk about under the hood as well. While the four received a new cylinder head (and the 115-bhp version became the base engine regardless of transmission), the aluminum V-8 was history. In its place was a small-bore version of the cast-iron 389 displacing 326 cubic inches. Equipped with a two-barrel carburetor, the 326 was rated at 260 bhp at 4800 rpm, with 352 pound-feet of torque at 2800 revs. Later in the model year, a high-output version appeared. With a Carter AFB four-barrel, it was good for 280 horses at 4800 rpm and 355 pound-feet of torque at 3200. The four-speed manual was not available with either 326, as it did not have sufficient torque capacity.

The automatic transaxle received some revisions as well, having specific versions for slant-four and V-8 installations. They mainly differed in torque-converter size and the number of clutch packs. A "Park" position was added and LeManses received an exclusive floor shifter.

The rear suspension was also improved. The swing-axle arrangement used on the '61 and '62 models was replaced with a new trailing-arm design similar in layout to the one used on the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette. Axles had U-joints at both ends to allow the wheel to maintain a more constant camber setting throughout its range of travel. This new design allowed the rear wheels to operate more independently of one another and reduce the Tempest's natural tendency to over-steer.

Like all good things, the run of the Pontiac Tempest eventually had to come to an end. Learn how on the next page.

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