Pontiac Tempest

In the late 1950s United States car market was struck by the economic recession of 1958, forcing both buyers and car manufacturers to think outside of the usual large fuel inefficient models. As the 1960s began, compact cars gained in popularity rapidly, causing almost every company to produce their own models.

Pontiac entered the compact market and created one of the very best utility cars with exceptional passenger room that became known under the name Pontiac Tempest. Legendary John DeLorean, Pontiac division's chief engineer designer at the time was one of the most responsible for the Tempest model.

The main issue of his team was how to innovate while remaining cost effective. In order to achieve their goal DeLorean had to rely mostly on existing technology and production facilities. Tempest wasn't only a compact car with lower price and maintenance cost, it also offered comfortable seating for six adult individuals.

Main innovation was a flexible driveshaft nicknamed "rope drive" with a rear-mounted transaxle coupling the forward engine and rear transmission into one unit removing unwanted vibrations in the process.

Similar arrangement was used before only as a concept in the 1951 LeSabre. Such combination had another stunning effect – Tempest had almost ideal 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. Standard engine was 195 cu in 3.2 L four-cylinder engine developed from right cylinder bank of Pontiac's 389 cu in V8 engine.

Performance was satisfactory with fuel economy around 20 mpg, so Pontiac Tempest was marketed as reliable gas saving vehicle for an average consumer. In 1962 Pontiac Tempest was offered in four models: station wagon, sedan, coupe, and convertible. For buyers wanting more luxurious options Tempest Le Mans was sold.

The following year, the Le Mans popularity led it to become a separate series, which reached almost 50% of total Tempest and Le Mans production. Improvements at 1963 model consisted of redesigned transaxle for improved handling, new "TempesTorque" automatic transmission and optional 326 cu in V8 engine.

The most famous Tempest model was made in 1963 under the name Super Duty. Only 14 such vehicles were built at the Pontiac plant in Michigan, designated to compete in NHRA Factory Experimental class.

These race cars are real rarity in automotive world and Super Duty Tempest Le Mans Coupe was sold in 2008. on eBay auction for amazing $226,521. Official testers of the time applauded finish, interior appointments, instrumentation and V8 power performance, but remained critical on the issues of transaxle noise, relatively slow steering and inadequate brakes.

Pontiac invested in Tempest but sales numbers failed to impress. The competition with Le Mans was taking its toll, along with the increased number of rivals in the compact market segment. From the historical perspective Pontiac Tempest brought cutting-edge technology to the compact car field for the first time. In the automotive history Tempest will be remembered for remarkable use of technology combined with manufacturing ingenuity that helped to create one of the most innovative vehicles in the 1960s.

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