It started innocently enough with an ad on eBay for a 1963 Pontiac LeMans Tempest with just 3,165 miles. With no engine or transmission, at first glace it seemed like just another derelict parts car. The Tempest had been part of a deal that included a load of scrap. At one point, the car was destined for a trip to the crusher, but there wasn't enough room on the truck. Instead of junking the Tempest, the seller thought he might get $500 if he was lucky.
What he didn't realize when he placed the ad on eBay was this wasn't "just another old Tempest." In fact, what he had was the ultimate barn find--one of six 421 Super Duty aluminum front end Tempests built by Pontiac in 1963 for Super Stock and A/FX drag racing. Instead of ending up as a cube of steel, it was on its way to being reborn as an NHRA racing legend.
The "1963 Tempest" eBay listing was soon being emailed to hundreds of Pontiac and drag racing fans across the country. It didn't take long to determine from the serial number that it really was one of the six 421 SD Tempest lightweights. For years, it was listed as "Whereabouts Unknown" in Pete McCarthy's superb book, Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955-1979. According to Pontiac records reprinted in McCarthy's book, the 421 SD Tempest had originally been shipped by Pontiac to Stan Antlocer, who campaigned the car in 1963, sponsored by Stan Long Pontiac in Detroit.
Pontiac's Super Duty racing program had begun in 1961, and picked up steam in 1962 with 179 421 Super Duty Catalinas and Grand Prixs produced. A handful were built at the factory with lightweight aluminum body panels, and even aluminum exhaust manifolds (which had a tendency to melt). Some of these cars went to established racers like Arnie Beswick, Mickey Thompson, Jim Wangers, Lloyd Cox, and other top Pontiac Super Stock racers.
For 1963, along with the fullsized models, Pontiac constructed a handful of specially modified Tempest coupes and wagons for S/S and A/FX competition. The heart of the package was the 421 Super Duty engine, grossly underrated at 405 horsepower at 5,600 and 425 lb-ft of twist at 4,400. The fire-breathing 421 Super Duty was the most powerful engine Pontiac had built to date, and was packed with their best racing technology learned from NASCAR and NHRA competition. The block was well beefed, with larger main bearing bores to accommodate the special forged "990" crank with large 3.25-inch main journals and four-bolt main bearing caps. A large-capacity oil pump was housed in a deep-well oil pan.
The heat-treated rods were fitted to Forge True aluminum alloy pistons with 12.0:1 compression (13.0:1 pistons were optional for 420 horsepower). Cylinder clearances were "loose" to allow for expansion at high-rpm operation. The iron Super Duty heads had streamlined ports, were fitted with 2.02-inch intake and 1.76-inch exhaust valves, and had shallow chambers with reliefs cut at the top of each cylinder bore for better breathing through the big intakes. The valves were tuliped and swirl polished to improve flow and reduce deposits. Dual valvesprings with titanium retainers were also part of the package. A "McKellar number 10" mechanical camshaft with 308/320 degrees and 0.445-inch lift was standard, bumping hardened 5/16-inch pushrods and 1.65:1 rockers.
This 1963 SD Tempest was delivered...
This 1963 SD Tempest was delivered to George DeLorean and was never modified. Like all six SD Tempest coupes, it was painted Cameo White with a blue interior. This is exactly how Stan Antlocer's Tempest looked at delivery, and after an exhaustive restoration, how it may look some day.
The centerpiece of the Super Duty engine was the remarkable two-piece, cast-aluminum "Bathtub" tunnel ram intake designed specifically for the '63 421 Super Duty. Pontiac historian Pete McCarthy has even called the bathtub intake "the best factory-developed manifold in existence, regardless of make." The manifold consisted of two groups of four passages that form 11-inch ram tubes that opened into the bottom of the plenum chamber. The size of the plenum and the length and diameter of the tubes were balanced to prevent them from pulsating through the carburetors and to maximize velocity. Pontiac Engineering recommended that the Super Duty had to idle over 1,000 rpm to ensure that the bearings and valves received adequate lubrication.
The 421 SD fit nicely in the engine bay since it had the same exterior dimensions as the Tempest's optional 326ci engine; however, the installation required special exhaust manifolds. These welded steel tri-Y exhaust manifolds had a single three-bolt outlet to side-exit collectors that ended in three-inch Lake-style "dumps" covered by a plate. When the covers were removed, an unobstructed flow from the headers was scavenged. When the cover plates were on, the exhaust was directed from a balance pipe through a 2.25-inch exhaust pipe to a low-restriction, reverse-flow muffler, and then out a 2-inch-diameter tailpipe.
Pontiac chose to equip the cars with a four-speed version of their Tempest rear transaxle, called Powershift. All were equipped with 3.90:1 limited-slip rears. Each SD Tempest was painted Cameo White and fitted with 326 emblems in the grille. All 421 SD Tempests received aluminum front ends. They were delivered with 10-inch M&H Racemasters at the rear on bare, black-painted steel wheels. Inside was a blue bucket seat interior with the gear selector located between the front seats.
This is the original aluminum...
This is the original aluminum hood from Antlocer's SD Tempest. No one is sure when it was separated from the car, or who painted the blue stripe.
Of the six SD Tempests, Antlocer's is unique, thanks to the conversion work he did to the drivetrain. "I was notified to pick the car up at the factory the first week of February 1963," Antlocer told Popular Hot Rodding. "I drove the car from the factory to the shop, and we pulled the motor. We balanced and blueprinted it, and got the rest of the car race ready."
The first tests at Detroit Dragway were disappointing. "I made at least a half-dozen runs," Antlocer said, "and it just wasn't there. The car just wouldn't e.t. like we thought it should with the big 405hp motor in it. It wouldn't mile per hour that great, either. We brought the car back to the shop and talked about what to do. We thought we ought to put a fullsized Pontiac rear end in it like Mickey Thompson did with his '62 Tempest."
"I called Bill Klinger at the factory," Antlocer said. "He was our engineering liaison. I asked him if it would be possible to put a big Pontiac rear in the Tempest." Klinger said that was fine, and asked Antlocer for a list of the parts. "He said Pontiac would assign part numbers on them and submit them to the NHRA," Antlocer said, "and then the car would be legal."
With help from Ted Henke, they pulled the transaxle out and set a '57 Pontiac rearend in the car, and measured it out for use with both7- and 10-inch tires. They took the rear end to Logghe Brothers in Detroit and had them cut the rearend down. "We used the '57 Pontiac leaf springs and had shackles made for them," Antlocer said.
Compare the louvers on the...
Compare the louvers on the hood with the picture of Antlocer standing with the car in 1963 (taken in front of the Antlocer family speed shop in Detroit). The car is fitted with 10-inch tires, which could produce 11-second e.t.'s. Compare the louvered hood with the way it looks now. There's no mistaking it.
Antlocer then removed the rope driveshaft and installed a Pontiac heavy-duty three-speed manual transmission made by BorgWarner. "That was the USAC transmission that was used on the circle track," Antlocer said. "It was a very beefy transmission with a 2.28:1 First, and I never had a bit of trouble with it." Antlocer had run that same transmission in his '61 car. "That combination with the 4.30:1 gears gave us the best overall speed and e.t.," Antlocer said. "I tried other transmissions and gears, but this was the best combination for use with the 421 Super Duty motor. I would shift at 6,000 rpm and go through the traps at around 5,800 rpm. What a difference it made. The car kept getting quicker and quicker."
"We got a new camshaft for that engine. Pontiac developed a new camshaft with Iskenderian with .505-inch lift. It was called the Magnum 505-C. We put it in around midseason and that helped the car's performance. The car ran 123.95 at that point with seven-inch tires.
"After the nationals I did a couple of big Super Stock races. We were allowed to use 10-inch M&H tires, and those gave us the good bite. The car ran 11.87 with the 10-inch tires." Antlocer proudly painted "World's Fastest Tempest" on the quarters.
Since only one of the six coupes have been found and restored, the idea that another had come to daylight reverberated throughout the vintage Pontiac and Super Stock hobby. The eBay ad offered some tantalizing information about the car, noting the Plexiglas side windows, the 1964 license plate, and low mileage. Among the accompanying photos were shots of the complete but rusty exhaust with the tri-Y manifolds and dumps, complete interior, factory in-dash tach, and other parts. In the trunk was a hole in the pan (to access the transaxle) and a faded rusty outline of the rear-mounted battery. Another front clip, which had been installed decades ago, was steel.
Antlocer's original aluminum front end was easy to identify. "I decided to cut the louvers in the hood to keep the engine compartment cool," Antlocer said. "It was such a small compartment, so anything to improve cooling was important. When I went to the Nationals and was in tech inspection, I was told I couldn't run with the louvers. I said it was legal `customizing' according to the rule book. They told me to close them up or I couldn't run. So we put cardboard over them and taped 'em up."
That original front end, complete with Antlocer's louver work on the hood, has been in the hands of a Florida collector since 1979. It's rough but complete, waiting silently to be reunited with the body.
These are the original aluminum...
These are the original aluminum front fenders from Antlocer's SD Tempest. In 1963, Antlocer had purchased another aluminum front end from Pontiac in the event the original panels were damaged. He remembers selling them, still in boxes, to someone in Detroit. They would be worth a small fortune today.
The bidding for the SD Tempest on eBay was intense. The opening bid was $500 on October 30, 2008. Four days later, as word got around that this was the Holy Grail of Pontiac A/FX racing history, the bids had climbed to $27,500. As the tire kickers and wannabes dropped out, the real money started to bid on the car, and the price began to skyrocket. By November 7, it was at $86,500, and bidders were climbing over each other for a shot at the car. On November 9, the auction's last day, 10 bidders quickly raised the stakes from $90,000 to $121,000, and then $155,000, all in a matter of four hours. At the end, a late bidder lost out by $100 and a matter of seconds; the winning offer arrived as the auction ended at $226,521.63.
Aside from the fact Antlocer campaigned the SD Tempest for a year before selling it, little is known about what happened to the car after he sold it. "I raced the car in 1963," Antlocer said, "and sold it at the end of the season, which was after October 1963. I lost track of the car after that. I started looking for the car in 1999. I wanted to restore it, but after five years, I gave up."
Antlocer believes it may have gone to Ohio, but he isn't sure. What's interesting is the car ended up in Harrison, Michigan, and was owned by the Venable family. In 1962, Joe Venable drove Arnie Beswick's '61 S/S Catalina. Arnie recalls selling the '61 to Venable not long after that. Could the same Joe Venable have purchased the lightweight Tempest and parked it? Did his plans to build a 421 Tempest race car fall through, and he simply hung onto the car? No one's answering the phone to respond to our questions.
It may look like a parts car,...
It may look like a parts car, but it's one of only six 1963 421 Super Duty Tempests ever built by Pontiac. Part of a larger stash of stored junk that was carted to the scrapyard, this rare piece of history escaped the crusher only by virtue of the scrap truck being too overloaded for it to fit. It wasn't actually stored in a "barn"--that's just an accepted figure of speech.
The man with the winning bid was John Raconda from Long Island, New York. He had spoken with Antlocer before purchasing the Tempest, and once Antlocer verified that it was his SD Tempest, Scott Tiemann, proprietor of Supercar Specialties in Portland, Michigan, was dispatched to eyeball the car. When Tiemann gave the thumbs up, the deal was sealed for a cool quarter mil.
"When Joe called me and Scott Tiemann was there looking at the car," Antlocer said, "they pushed it back inside. That's when they noticed the sunlight hit it at such an angle you could still see the lettering on the car. He says he thinks someone spray painted over it, and the Champion decal was on there as well."
There are some other things I see in the pictures," Antlocer said, "but most people don't know what they're about. They've got the original Hurst three-speed shifter. The reason I know it's the original shifter is when I talked to Joe, I asked him what was the diagram on the top of the shifter. He said there isn't any. Well, that's true, because the four-speeds had the diagram, and three-speeds didn't."
This black plate on the dash...
This black plate on the dash indicates the Iskenderian "505" camshaft was installed.
The SD Tempest is now safely tucked away at Scott Tiemann's shop in Portland, Michigan. According to Scott, the plan is to return the SD Tempest to as-delivered condition, which means the solid rear axle will be replaced with a correct Powershift transaxle. Scott has done several restorations of early '60s Super Duty Pontiacs for the late Randy Williams, so he's well acquainted with the ultra-rare parts used by Pontiac. Antlocer is skeptical that the parts will be that easy to find, however. "I don't think that's going to be possible today," he said, "because of all the parts needed to go with it. You can get the rear end; there are a few of those around. But the complete setup from shifter to driveshaft and transaxle? No, I don't think so."
Antlocer feels the Tempest should be restored to the configuration he built, with the three-speed tranny and '57 Pontiac rear. "This is a one-off car," Antlocer said. "It has a special set of Pontiac part numbers that legalized the conversion."
One of the restoration challenges Scott has is the aluminum front end. If the original clip can be purchased, Scott already has an aluminum craftsman who does Ferrari work lined up for the Tempest. If not, a reproduction aluminum front end will be hammered to exact specifications.
The data plate on the firewall...
The data plate on the firewall tells the story. All the build information is included except for the VIN.
Since Tiemann's work is in high demand, he's had to clear out some ongoing projects to make room for the SD Tempest. He plans on getting started by February, and it will require a year's worth of work to complete the restoration.
If there's a downside to the story, it's this: When big money comes into play, as it always does with rare and irreplaceable cars, dealings get dark, jaws shut tightly, and lawyers choreograph transactions. Instead of a collective round of congratulations for unearthing a unique race car long thought gone, all parties concerned treated this event like it was the Manhattan project. In the end, however, our hobby has been treated to an extraordinary barn find. That's more than enough to celebrate.
Popular Hot Rodding would like to thank Pete McCarthy, Stan Antlocer, Mike Glass, and Scott Tiemann for their invaluable help in providing information and photos for this story.
The Tempest's odometer reads...
The Tempest's odometer reads just 3,165, which was put on a quarter-mile at a time.
Incredibly, the original tri-Y...
Incredibly, the original tri-Y exhaust manifolds were stored with the car, along with the rest of the front exhaust.
The Super Duty's interior...
The Super Duty's interior is remarkably complete, and the floorpans are intact. Notice the fuel pressure gauge and switch for the electric fuel pump under the left side of the dash.
NHRA rules required a 7-inch...
NHRA rules required a 7-inch tire on the Tempest. "At the Detroit Nationals," Antlocer said, "we had the fastest time at 119.95 mph. We hung in there until the end, but the Ramchargers beat us. They beat me on e.t. because their automatics were so much quicker out of the chute. We were running 7-inch tires, 3,200 pounds on the scale, and Sunoco gas from the track, so the car was Super Stock legal at the time."
A young Stan Antlocer proudly...
A young Stan Antlocer proudly poses with his Super Duty Tempest. Check out the fuel pressure gauge under the dashboard and compare it to the interior shot taken in December. Also note Antlocer's location of the big Sun tachometer.
The 1957 Pontiac rear axle...
The 1957 Pontiac rear axle and leaf springs that Stan Antlocer installed shortly after getting the SD Tempest are still in the car. Antlocer did not install the traction bars.
One of the most complete histories...
One of the most complete histories of early Pontiac racing and technical information is Pontiac Musclecar Performance, written by Pete McCarthy, which was an important source of material for this story.
Department Of Corrections...
Department Of Corrections
The December 1963 issue of Popular Hot Rodding covered the Detroit Nationals and reported on Antlocer's SD Tempest. In the article, we describe his car as a station wagon. "Royal was the only one racing a wagon there," Antlocer said. "I don't know how they made that mistake." Oops!
This collection of timeslips...
This collection of timeslips records events throughout the country, including the NHRA Nationals at Indy, where Antlocer turned a 12.39 in time trials. Back then, timeslips were hand written, not printed out by computer.
Today, Stan Antlocer appears...
Today, Stan Antlocer appears at Pontiac and nostalgic drag racing events around the country. His $18 T-shirt and $39 limited-edition signed posters of him beating Dyno Don are available by email. (Interested parties can contact Stan at firstname.lastname@example.org.) The T-shirt artwork recalls Antlocer's "World's Fastest Tempest" title. Note the blue-painted front header panel on the car. That was correct on Antlocer's Tempest.
The eBay auction for the Antlocer...
The eBay auction for the Antlocer Tempest started out like any other parts car being unloaded for a cut-rate price. As soon as Pontiac experts started posting sharp questions and getting all the right answers, the scrapyard "buy it now" price was gone!