June 18, 2024
1961 Pontiac Tempest 1
1961 Pontiac Tempest 5
The 1961 Pontiac Tempest had a rear-mounted transaxle for higher stability.

It used to be to be named the Pontiac Polaris, a proposed compact automobile from Pontiac.

According to the Chevrolet Corvair, it used to be festooned with the everyday Pontiac styling cues of the technology, however its physique shell and engine had been shared with Chevrolet. But Normal Supervisor Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and Assistant Leader Engineer John Z. DeLorean weren’t inspired.

The automobile flipped many times all the way through checking out, and Normal Motors used to be unwilling to spend the additional scratch to suit the vehicles with anti-roll bars, a call that may in the end value the corporate way more. 

However that used to be someday. For now, the pair gave the concept that thumbs down. A special compact could be issued through the automaker, one with its personal novel engineering: the 1961 Pontiac Tempest.

A automobile is born

1961 Pontiac Tempest 6
The 1961 Pontiac Tempest had a a rear-mounted transaxle, with a curved, versatile driveshaft.

Because of the rising acclaim for the Volkswagen Beetle and the 1958 recession, American automakers began developing compact vehicles to fulfill this increasing marketplace, with American Motors reviving the compact 1950-55 Rambler because the 1958 Rambler American. Studebaker adopted for 1959 with the Lark, which proved a success sufficient to save lots of the corporate from but some other chapter — in the interim.

So it’s handiest herbal that The united states’s greatest automakers would practice in 1960. Plymouth presented the Valiant, Ford let the Falcon take flight, whilst Chevrolet presented the Corvair.

However the rear-engine, air-cooled Corvair proved expensive to expand, so GM used its Y-body chassis for a line of “senior compacts,” which might end result within the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85 and the Pontiac Tempest. With a 112-inch wheelbase, the similar triplets boasted numerous inventions, be it Buick’s aluminum V-8 and V-6 engines, Oldsmobile’s turbocharged Jetfire, or the Tempest’s rear-mounted transaxle.

Identified through the inner designation X-100, DeLorean sought after his compact to have a flat flooring, area for 6 adults, and a 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution for optimum dealing with. This required the employment of a versatile driveshaft and a rear-mounted transaxle — a groundbreaking design. However its value weighed closely at the challenge, so DeLorean attempted to make use of off-the-shelf portions anywhere imaginable.

A brand new outdated engine

1961 Pontiac Tempest 3
The 1961 Pontiac Tempest’s “Trophy 4” used to be a Pontiac 389-CID V8 with part the cylinders lacking.

Whilst the X-100s had been engineered for V-6 and V-8 engines, DeLorean sought after a cost-effective inline 4-cylinder engine. Pontiac had no such engine, and finances constraints wouldn’t permit one to be constructed from scratch. So the department took its 6.4-liter (389-CID) and lopped off part the cylinders.

The outcome used to be a hefty 3.2-liter 4-cylinder with 110-166 horsepower relying on track. Dubbed the “Trophy 4” through Pontiac, it proved to be extraordinarily vibratory, because of the absence of stability shafts. A three-speed handbook transmission got here same old; a 2-speed Powerglide computerized — advertised as “TempesTorque” — used to be not obligatory, as the automobile used a changed model of the Corvair’s coil-spring, swing-axle rear suspension. 

Throughout the automobile shared its fundamental tool panel with its Buick and Oldsmobile cousins, albeit with other detailing. Twin sun-visors, flip alerts, electrical wipers, and 15-inch tires got here same old. An AM Radio, windshield washers, backup lamps, energy guidance, heater and defroster, sideview mirrors and visor vainness mirrors had been a few of the choices. Energy brakes weren’t to be had — whilst an choice.

Introduced as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or four-door station wagon, the 1961 Pontiac Tempest used to be unveiled this week in 1960 on the Paris Motor Display.

As soon as it hit showrooms, it proved widespread, successful the 1961 Motor Pattern “Automobile of the Yr” award. 

“The brand new Pontiac Tempest units many new developments and without a doubt is a prototype for the American automobile for the 1960s,” they wrote, hoping that American vehicles would slender down and shed their extra mass. 

Alas, it used to be to not be.

But the Tempest will have to be remembered for its distinctive engineering — lionized on the time, and now forgotten. If it’s remembered in any respect lately, it’s for serving as the root for the mythical Pontiac GTO, which got here in 1964. However that’s a tale for some other day.