The Rearview Mirror: A Forgotten, Yet Popular, Pontiac

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

It was to be named the Pontiac Polaris, a proposed compact car or truck from Pontiac.

Centered on the Chevrolet Corvair, it was festooned with the regular Pontiac styling cues of the era, but its body shell and motor had been shared with Chevrolet. Still Common Supervisor Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and Assistant Main Engineer John Z. DeLorean were not impressed.

The car flipped regularly all through screening, and Common Motors was unwilling to devote the extra scratch to suit the vehicles with anti-roll bars, a final decision that would eventually price tag the business far additional. 

But that was in the foreseeable future. For now, the pair gave the strategy thumbs down. A distinct compact would be issued by the automaker, 1 with its have novel engineering: the 1961 Pontiac Tempest.

A car or truck is born

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

Thanks to the developing acceptance of the Volkswagen Beetle and the 1958 economic downturn, American automakers started developing compact vehicles to fulfill this growing industry, with American Motors reviving the compact 1950-55 Rambler as the 1958 Rambler American. Studebaker adopted for 1959 with the Lark, which proved successful more than enough to conserve the firm from yet a further individual bankruptcy — for the time being.

So it is only pure that America’s biggest automakers would follow in 1960. Plymouth launched the Valiant, Ford enable the Falcon consider flight, whilst Chevrolet launched the Corvair.

But the rear-engine, air-cooled Corvair proved dear to create, so GM employed its Y-overall body chassis for a line of “senior compacts,” which would end result in the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85 and the Pontiac Tempest. With a 112-inch wheelbase, the identical 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.

Recognized by the inside designation X-100, DeLorean needed his compact to have a flat flooring, place for six older people, and a 50/50 entrance-to-rear excess weight distribution for best dealing with. This essential the work of a flexible driveshaft and a rear-mounted transaxle — a groundbreaking style. But its charge weighed seriously on the challenge, so DeLorean tried using to use off-the-shelf components where ever doable.

A new old motor

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

Whilst the X-100s have been engineered for V-6 and V-8 engines, DeLorean desired an cost-effective inline 4-cylinder engine. Pontiac had no such engine, and funds constraints would not let one to be built from scratch. So the division took its 6.4-liter (389-CID) and lopped off 50 percent the cylinders.

The result was a significant 3.2-liter 4-cylinder with 110-166 horsepower relying on tune. Dubbed the “Trophy 4” by Pontiac, it proved to be particularly vibratory, many thanks to the absence of equilibrium shafts. A 3-pace guide transmission arrived regular a 2-pace Powerglide computerized — promoted as “TempesTorque” — was optional, as the vehicle employed a modified model of the Corvair’s coil-spring, swing-axle rear suspension. 

Inside of the car or truck shared its primary instrument panel with its Buick and Oldsmobile cousins, albeit with diverse detailing. Dual solar-visors, turn signals, electric wipers, and 15-inch tires came regular. An AM Radio, windshield washers, backup lamps, electrical power steering, heater and defroster, sideview mirrors and visor vanity mirrors had been between the alternatives. Electric power brakes had been not obtainable — even as an option.

Made available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or 4-door station wagon, the 1961 Pontiac Tempest was unveiled this 7 days in 1960 at the Paris Motor Exhibit.

As soon as it strike showrooms, it proved common, winning the 1961 Motor Craze “Car of the Year” award. 

“The new Pontiac Tempest sets a lot of new traits and unquestionably is a prototype for the American auto for the Sixties,” they wrote, hoping that American autos would slender down and drop their surplus mass. 

Alas, it was not to be.

Nevertheless the Tempest ought to be remembered for its unique engineering — lionized at the time, and now neglected. If it’s remembered at all nowadays, it is for serving as the basis for the famous Pontiac GTO, which arrived in 1964. But which is a story for yet another day.

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