Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dusty Rope Drive: 1961 Pontiac Tempest

The early 1960's were a time of experimentation for GM.  One only needs to recall how radical the newly released Corvair was to understand what was going on in the design halls at Detroit iron.  While the Corvair went on to a 10 year production streak, the equally radical Pontiac Tempest only managed a 3 year run before converting back to conventional power train configurations.  Find this 1961 Pontiac Tempest for sale in Tulsa, OK for $2,250 via craigslist. 

At the time, Pontiac's chief designer was none other that John Z. Delorean who would later become famous for the stainless steel DMC-12 and a widely publicized arrest and ensuing legal battle.  Although the Tempest was a shared Y-platform over other GM lines, it received a unique power train configuration with a rear mounted trans-axle assembly and an arched shaft connecting the engine to the rear mounted transmission.  This configuration was know as "Rope Drive" and helped earn Car of the Year accolades from Motor Trend Magazine.

This example is a first year production model and looks to have survived very well.  Interior bits are remarkably preserved for a 56 year old automobile.  Rodent infestations are more common with cars this age that have been in long term storage, but this one seems to have been spared.

The seller discloses some rust on the lower panels and an older re-paint, but overall the car looks complete and worthy of resurrection.  The example is listed as being equipped with the 3.2L inline 4-cylinder engine configuration.  

2K for a unique piece of Pontiac history seems like a bargain.  Some TLC might get this car moving again and help preserve it for years to come.  Rarely seen these days, it would be a neat entry point into classic car ownership.  

See another radical American 60's design looking for some TLC? email us here:

While officially only 10 days into winter, Glenn is already sick of shoveling snow and yearns to be behind the wheel of a classic in warmer weather.


  1. as you say, well worth preserving for posterity.....

  2. ps how on earth can I post on other than 'anonymous'..........I belong to none the named organisations nor do I wish to be.....I am known as 'lowflyerv8'..aka michael eades & would like to use my 'space' name....thanks michael

    1. When you post, select reply as "Name/URL". Then you can enter your own handle. The next time you post, again select "Name/URL" and start typing your handle. Your previous handle will appear to be selected. That is how I do it, because I do not have an account on any of the blogging platforms either. Good luck.

  3. 123 countdown is on could i have my space name Major Tom.....RIP Bowie.

  4. Wow you missed the boat the 4 cylinder was a 389-V-8 block only using one side so slant inline International used something like that also in the Scout and maybe other vehicles in there line up. Yes corvair trans axle and same little dash shift nob for the auto.


  6. I had a '63 V8 Le Mans Convertible in the late nineties. Really well balanced with the transaxle in the rear. There was a guy in San Diego that has a stash of transaxle and rope drive parts...I scored what would be u joints in a conventional car and a shift modulator...fixed me right up. Aesthetically I prefer the '63. I think the Buick 4 was half of an aluminum Rover block....but I could be wrong.

  7. The 215 Buick V-8 never was a slant four. Buick had the 198 and 225 V-6

  8. This presents a great opportunity to make the beast that Vince and I have discussed several times:

    Water-cooled V8 up front
    Rope drive in the center
    Tempest/Corvair transaxle mashup at rear
    Corvair flat-6 behind that!

    There has to be a way to make that transaxle work with input shafts at both ends, right? Twin engine, one transmission, still two wheel drive. The engines would of course be mechanically synched together and would rev at the same speeds, until you put your left foot in and disengaged the clutches...


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