The Rearview Mirror: A Forgotten, Yet Popular, Pontiac

Mary N

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest had a rear-mounted transaxle for improved equilibrium.

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

Primarily based on the Chevrolet Corvair, it was festooned with the typical Pontiac styling cues of the period, but its overall body shell and motor were being shared with Chevrolet. Yet Common Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and Assistant Chief Engineer John Z. DeLorean were being not impressed.

The auto flipped frequently during testing, and General Motors was unwilling to expend the extra scratch to healthy the automobiles with anti-roll bars, a decision that would sooner or later price tag the corporation considerably far more. 

But that was in the future. For now, the pair gave the thought thumbs down. A distinctive compact would be issued by the automaker, a person with its individual novel engineering: the 1961 Pontiac Tempest.

A car or truck is born

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest experienced a a rear-mounted transaxle, with a curved, flexible driveshaft.

Owing to the expanding popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle and the 1958 economic downturn, American automakers begun making compact cars to fulfill this expanding market place, with American Motors reviving the compact 1950-55 Rambler as the 1958 Rambler American. Studebaker followed for 1959 with the Lark, which proved prosperous adequate to preserve the business from still an additional bankruptcy — for the time getting.

So it’s only all-natural that America’s greatest automakers would stick to in 1960. Plymouth introduced the Valiant, Ford let the Falcon consider flight, although Chevrolet released the Corvair.

But the rear-motor, air-cooled Corvair proved pricey to acquire, so GM employed its Y-human body chassis for a line of “senior compacts,” which would result in the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85 and the Pontiac Tempest. With a 112-inch wheelbase, the similar triplets boasted a selection of innovations, be it Buick’s aluminum V-8 and V-6 engines, Oldsmobile’s turbocharged Jetfire, or the Tempest’s rear-mounted transaxle.

Identified by the inner designation X-100, DeLorean required his compact to have a flat ground, house for six grownups, and a 50/50 entrance-to-rear weight distribution for optimal dealing with. This demanded the work of a flexible driveshaft and a rear-mounted transaxle — a groundbreaking design and style. But its cost weighed intensely on the task, so DeLorean experimented with to use off-the-shelf areas wherever feasible.

A new outdated motor

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

Even though the X-100s were being engineered for V-6 and V-8 engines, DeLorean desired an inexpensive inline 4-cylinder engine. Pontiac had no this kind of engine, and budget constraints would not enable 1 to be created from scratch. So the division took its 6.4-liter (389-CID) and lopped off 50 percent the cylinders.

The outcome 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 particularly vibratory, thanks to the absence of equilibrium shafts. A 3-velocity guide transmission came typical a 2-pace Powerglide computerized — marketed as “TempesTorque” — was optional, as the automobile applied a modified version of the Corvair’s coil-spring, swing-axle rear suspension. 

Inside of the car shared its basic instrument panel with its Buick and Oldsmobile cousins, albeit with diverse detailing. Twin sunshine-visors, transform alerts, electric powered wipers, and 15-inch tires came standard. An AM Radio, windshield washers, backup lamps, ability steering, heater and defroster, sideview mirrors and visor vainness mirrors ended up between the selections. Energy brakes ended up not accessible — even as an option.

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

After it strike showrooms, it proved popular, winning the 1961 Motor Craze “Car of the Year” award. 

“The new Pontiac Tempest sets several new developments and unquestionably is a prototype for the American automobile for the Sixties,” they wrote, hoping that American vehicles would slim down and shed their surplus mass. 

Alas, it was not to be.

However the Tempest should really be remembered for its exceptional engineering — lionized at the time, and now forgotten. If it’s remembered at all right now, it’s for serving as the foundation for the famous Pontiac GTO, which arrived in 1964. But which is a tale for an additional day.

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