Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Pontiac was awarded as Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine upon its 1961 debut. Let’s see if this innovative design still holds up today.
Legendary ad man David Ogilvy famously promoted Rolls-Royce with the line, “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” I won’t say that the 1983 Rolls-Royce Camargue we looked at yesterday exactly left us all speechless, but there wasn’t much clamor for either it or its $60,000 asking price. In the end, that resulted in a substantial 93 percent No Dice loss.
While Rolls may have once been the “Standard of the World,” General Motors was far more proletariat and, as such, became, for a good long time, the largest automaker on the globe. So important was this economic juggernaut that it was once espoused here in the States that “what is good for GM is good for America.” That wouldn’t last forever, though. The beginning of the end of GM’s reign atop the automotive industry began in the late 1950s when foreign makes began trickling into the U.S., offering lower prices, higher economy, and generally quirkier experiences than what the domestic manufacturers were putting into the dealerships at the time.
Seeing the likes of Volkswagen and Renault chipping away at the bottom of the market, the American companies did try to fight back, introducing new models that were smaller and, in some cases, more innovative than their traditional wares.
This 1962 Pontiac Tempest is one of those cars. Dubbed the “Senior Compacts” by GM, the Tempest and its co-developed siblings, the Olds F-85 and Buick Special/Skylark, sat in size and price below the traditional full-size ranges, but above GM’s true compact, the Chevy Corvair. Each of the brands shared a basic unit-body architecture for their model, but there were sizable differences for each under the skin.
In the case of the Tempest, that included the line’s only four-cylinder, a 195 CID in-line engine dubbed the “Trophy 4” which was a derivation (literally half) of Pontiac’s 389 “Trophy 8” V8. The OHV four was rated at between 110 and 130 horsepower, depending on whether it was fitted with a one or two-barrel carburetor.
Along with that innovation, the Tempest received what is arguably the model’s most notable feature, which is a rear-mounted transaxle connected to the engine via a torque tube that actually curves the driveshaft, allowing for a few more inches of floor space in the cabin. The “Rope Shaft” and transaxle design also allowed for a nearly 50/50 weight distribution and an independent rear suspension, albeit swing axles, both pretty unique features in this class.
This Tempest is painted a handsome maroon and wears center cap and trim ring wheel adornment. Both the paint (which is a re-spray) and the chrome work appear to be in very good shape. Underneath all that, the bodywork looks to be straight and without issue.
The interior is a bit rougher, although the back seat, with its Cordaveen vinyl upholstery, seems to be in great shape. The front seat is apparently another story, as a sarape-style seat cover masks it. The door cards and dash look to be in decent shape, and yes, there is an obligatory hula girl to keep you company atop that dashboard.
According to the seller, the car has had some recent work done, including a new battery and rebuilds of the carburetor, starter, and two-speed automatic. The four-wheel drum brakes are said to have also been refreshed. What’s described as a small oil leak is apparently the car’s only outstanding issue.
All in all, the car is said to be reliable, with the seller claiming to regularly use it for daily driver duty. It comes with a clean title and a rolled-over odometer presently reading 29,000 miles. The seller says that financial hardships borne out of the lengthy WGA strike are forcing the sale. The asking price to complete that sale is $6,500.
What do you think about this classic sorta-compact Pontiac and that $6,500 asking? Does that seem like a deal for a seemingly solid old car? Or does that price forebode a storm of buyer’s regret?
Los Angeles, California, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.
H/T to Don R. for the hookup!
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