Some chump just dished out $752,467 for a freakin' baseball. This particular ball happens to represent Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run, but nonetheless, it's physically identical to any official MLB game ball available at your local sporting goods store for $13. Unfortunately, with Hemi 'Cudas selling for as much as $3 million these days, it's questionable whether or not hot rodders are any wiser. Although the figures aren't always so preposterous, our hobby's chump population isn't lacking, either. Sure, cars like Hemi-powered Mopars and SS Chevys offer some enhanced mechanical bits over their lesser platform counterparts, but what their enormous price premiums really buy is mystique. If the price of mystique is what's driving up the cost of musclecars, then thank goodness for guys like Bob Davis. His car isn't a GTO. It just shares 99 percent of its parts with one, and is much faster than any comparable Goat built on a similar budget.
Considering that it's credited with launching the musclecar era, to say the '64 GTO isn't anything special is like saying Dale Jr. sucks because he drinks Michelob instead of Budweiser. Luckily, we don't have to say it because Bob said it for us, and after hearing him out, this Pontiac expert makes some compelling arguments. According to Bob, the Tempest was Pontiac's entry-level intermediate-body sedan in 1964. The next level up was the Tempest Custom, which featured nicer interior and trim appointments. The top-of-the-line Tempest was the LeMans, which had the most luxurious interior and least amount of chrome. Then there was the GTO option. "The GTO was simply an engine option on the LeMans, and any option you could get on the GTO was available on the LeMans as well," says Bob. "Other than the GTO's 389 engine, heavy-duty suspension, and fake hoodscoops, there was absolutely no difference between it and a LeMans in '64. It wasn't until '66 that the GTO became its own model line instead of just a trim upgrade on a LeMans."
It's not that Bob dislikes Goats, but his intimate knowledge of Pontiac minutiae is why he isn't smitten by the GTO mystique. Consequently, he wasn't willing to pony up the extra bucks for a GTO, and bought a Tempest Custom instead. "Even back in 1992 when I bought the car, there was a big price difference between the Tempest and the GTO," he explains. "On top of that, I planned on extensively modifying and racing the car, so I didn't see the point in paying a premium for parts I'd change out anyway." Purchased from the car's first owner for $1,200, the Tempest was all original with 94,000 miles. In excellent shape overall, even the factory A/C and windshield washers still worked.
In the 16 years Bob has owned the Tempest, it has evolved from a street car to a 10-second track beast, and now, back to a street car again. All the while, the total sum of money invested in the project hasn't exceeded $20,000. The first wave of mods involved yanking the original 326 in favor of a 455 pulled out of a salvage yard, and chucking the factory two-speed auto for a Muncie four-speed. It was essentially a street car that was bracket-raced on occasion. Bob later installed a bigger cam, a Richmond five-speed, and a freer-flowing exhaust, which netted 13-second timeslips. Still not satisfied, adding a set of CNC-ported Edelbrock heads, a larger cam, and an automatic trans pared e.t.'s down to 12 flat. Having reached the limits of the factory Q-jet carb, Bob replaced it with a 900-cfm Barry Grant unit and immediately picked up three tenths. Upgrading to a BG Gold Claw carb was worth another two tenths, and by this time the Tempest was running mid-11s in full street trim. "Not only was the car completely street-legal, it still had power windows and brakes," says Bob. "For the longest time, I didn't have a trailer, so I just threw my slicks in the trunk and drove it to the track."
Although the Tempest was plenty fast and streetable at this point, the urge to go faster persisted. Having made the decision to transform the car into more of a race machine, the 455 was bored .030-over and fitted with 12.0:1 pistons. The stock crank was retained and matched to a set of Crower billet rods. In addition to installing a 254/254-at-.050 solid roller cam, the A/C, power steering, and sway bars were removed to reduce weight. Along with a set of fiberglass bumpers, the diet shaved 130 pounds off of the car. At a race weight of 3,500 pounds, the Tempest ran a best of 10.46 at 127.59 mph.
After getting his kicks running the Tempest in race trim for seven years, Bob realized how much he missed driving it on the street. Since the motor was also due for freshening-up at this point, it was an ideal opportunity to make it pump-gas compatible once again. This involved swapping out the heads for another set of Edelbrocks, but with larger 86cc chambers, to drop compression down to 10.3:1 while retaining the same short-block. Likewise, the cam was replaced with a smaller 242/248-at-.050 solid roller. Despite these detuning measures and the reinstallation of the steel bumpers, power steering, and sway bars, the Tempest still runs 11.11 at 120.45 mph. The massive torque Pontiacs are famous for overcomes the 29.5-inch-tall slicks and 3.89:1 gears to deliver respectable 1.55-second 60-foot times, but 10-second e.t.'s are definitely feasible with a little more gear or some slightly better air. "I may have added some weight and sacrificed some speed, but now it runs on pump gas and I can drive it anywhere," says Bob. "I'm just amazed at how far engine technology has come since I was a kid. There's more stuff available for Pontiacs now than when GM was still building them."
Obviously, building a car that's this nice and this fast for less that $20,000 requires extensive hands-on experience, and Bob has been working on cars since he was 13. "I don't do transmission work, but I build my own engines, and do all suspension work and wiring myself," he explains. Nonetheless, his claim of having spent nothing on bodywork is sure to draw suspicion, but it was again a matter of putting his skills to use, just in a different way. "My best friend, John Reid, helped me out with the bodywork on my car, and in exchange, I rebuilt the motor in his '69 Barracuda in addition to installing the transmission, wiring, brakes, rearend, exhaust system, and cooling system in it. I learned to weld and do some bodywork by watching John, but he did most of the labor. It took about a year of working on weekends to get it done."
When it comes down to it, there is indeed something special about the actual baseball that broke a long-standing Major League record, or a car perceived by many as the very first musclecar. The question is, how much money is too much to pay for the mystique that these commodities offer? We can't answer that one, but unless your '64 GTO runs 11s for less than $20,000, there's a guy out there with a car almost identical to yours that makes it look like a chump.
Bob runs a 1/2-inch four-hole...
Bob runs a 1/2-inch four-hole spacer stacked together with a 1/2-inch open spacer. He says the arrangement offers superior throttle response over the 1-inch open spacer he ran previously without sacrificing any plenum volume.
From the factory, a coolant...
From the factory, a coolant hose connects from the passenger head to the heater core, and then to the water pump. Bob added a fitting to the driver-side head, and T'd the coolant hoses from each head together before routing them to the water pump. According to Bob, this setup helps cool the motor more efficiently.
The Tempest's air cleaner...
The Tempest's air cleaner is sealed to the functional hoodscoop, and the homemade snorkel draws air from above the radiator core support. Consequently, the carburetor is sealed off from heated air behind the radiator, which Bob says is worth two to three tenths at the track. The Ron Davis radiator is a custom unit modeled after Bob's stocker.
In place of the factory A/C...
In place of the factory A/C controls is a custom gauge panel Bob built himself. The interior was restored with reproduction pieces for a '67 GTO.