Monday, March 30, 2015

5k: Trophy 4 Banger: 1962 Pontiac Tempest

When Pontiac were developing their first generation Tempest, they needed a small displacement, frugal engine for the mass market, but didn't have the budget for a full scale development effort.  So they took the 389 V8 and hacked one bank of 4-cylinders off, and created one of the strangest looking 4-cylinder engines in existence, the Trophy 4.  Find this 1962 Pontiac Tempest offered for $5,500 in Artesia, CA via craigslist.  Tip from FuelTruck.

The first generation Tempest was developed by a young John Z DeLorean who had yet to become the head of Pontiac division or start his own car company, get entrapped by a sting operation -- you know the story.  The Tempest featured some radical stuff for the day, an inline-4 cylinder engine mated via a "rope drive" to a rear mounted transaxle, and 5 lug on 4.5 inch bolt pattern (a wheel configuration not shared by anything in the GM stable, but a few years later was used by the V8 Mustang).

Under the hood is a misshapen lump that looks like a V8 that has been given a unilateral mastectomy...which is essentially what the Pontiac engineers did.  All the V8 smoothness was replaced with the inherent imbalance of a 3.2 liter inline-4 and power was transferred via Pontiac's rope drive to the rear mounted transaxle.  The fact that the Trophy 4 weighed 200 lbs more than the optional Buick 215 alloy V8 is truly ironic.   No word from the seller if this is a 115, 140, and 166 horsepower version, depending on which carb and compression ratio was used from the factory.

This Tempest is shifted with an automatic transmission, which is going to make it slower, but its not like the manual transmission version was going anywhere quickly anyway.  It should be faster than an automatic transmission equipped Covair from the same era...but...that isn't saying much.

See another '62 for the Mrs?


  1. The fact that a car could be so much less expensive for offering an engine that encourages you to do a swap is amazing. This car is absolutely beautiful.

  2. The car is stunning, and I agree with @Balls, a swap would/could be an interesting thing. I vote for a LF3 twin turbo from GM. 420 horses and 430 lb. ft of torque mated to a six or even 8 speed trans and have a super highway cruiser or put your foot down harder and have a serious shot "out of the hole".

  3. Vinny Gambini: It is possible that the two yutes...
    Judge Chamberlain Haller: ...Ah, the two what? Uh... uh, what was that word?
    Vinny Gambini: Uh... what word?
    Judge Chamberlain Haller: Two what?
    Vinny Gambini: What?
    Judge Chamberlain Haller: Uh... did you say 'yutes'?
    Vinny Gambini: Yeah, two yutes.
    Judge Chamberlain Haller: What is a yute?
    Vinny Gambini: [beat] Oh, excuse me, your honor...
    Vinny Gambini: Two YOUTHS.

  4. @Balls and Jimmy, this is not the car for a swap. The whole car is designed around the rope drive. This means there is no clearance for a drive shaft under the pan. The transaxle is in the back and would likely not be able to withstand a high powered V8, nor would the rope drive. This is likely why nobody has bastardized it yet. I like it because it is a great piece of automotive history in its original form.

    1. I wouldn't consider a swap without swapping the rear end and suspension. I don't even think it would turn under heavy throttle. Thanks for the info on the rope drive, I had heard the term, but didn't have any knowledge...

  5. Lovely car with a crazy engine/driveshaft. My Porsche 924 is also straddled with a half V8 from a 928 and actually it works in that car becuse it off sets the driver weight. Just have to be careful of oil starvation at severe cornering. Probaly the Pontiac is best left as is and just appreciated as built.

    1. Anon -- this is brilliant!! I'd never put the Tempest as a precursor to the 924, but transaxle and coulda-had-a-V8 engine combo is a strange coincidence. If only they had made a Tempest hatchback....

  6. An extraordinary car for an extraordinary price!

  7. On getting more power in here, they did manage to accommodate a smaller bore 326ci Pontiac v8 in the 1963 model. I'm not sure whether Pontiac used a different transaxle for those, or whether the Trophy 4 cars were just overbuilt. Likewise, I'd think whatever was done for the Crown Corvair v8s might be able to be turned around and used in this car. But I suppose trying to find parts from an over-50-year-old car that is rarer than the one to receive the swap, could be unpleasant.

  8. Just to complete the story of this car's engine. The late Micky Thompson cut the Tempest four in half and, after sealing things up with aluminum plates, bolted on a 2-71 GMC Roots blower, single port Hilborn injection, and called it the Twin Tempest. It made 257 HP. He dropped it into an un-streamlined Dragmaster rail chassis and went after records in Class F (61-91 cu in). The car hit 106 MPH in the standing mile.

    1. Was the hot rod you speak of a 2 cylinder? Sounds pretty sweet. Would like to see it. Hot rodderes of old were pretty resourceful.

    2. Not quite vertical, but you have the idea. Thompson kept the tilt of the original V4. The blower was mounted beside the block roughly where the other tow cylinders used to be. Thompson was an amazingly gifted and innovative builder back in the Fifties and Sixties. He invented the slingshot style dragster, ran cars at Indy, and his four-Pontiac-engined Challenger ran 406 MPH at Bonneville. During his lifetime he set more speed and endurance records than anyone else in automotive history.

    3. Thompson made some slick tires in his time too!!


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