Some people spend a lifetime building a cool car. Sometimes, they start with a vision and keep at it until the vision sparks to life and rolls out of the garage. Often, there isn't a vision; just a meandering through time and parts as the car comes together. All too often, the vision for the car changes every few years, prolonging the buildup as parts are sold off to purchase new ones and the car changes from street machine to Pro Street to super street to Pro Touring. The example of Grant Craft's 1965 Pontiac Tempest couldn't be farther from this last example. A mere 10 weeks passed between desire to have a car like this built, and driving the vision down the road. It took creativity, cunning, and care from engine builder, chassis fabricator, and car builder Jeff Schwartz of Schwartz Performance. But this was more than a random phone call to a car builder and a check.
Grant and Jeff first met in 2005. Both owned Ultima GT-R kit cars. Before you think cheesy side pipes and ill-fitting fiberglass panels, know that the Ultima is a supercar built on a space frame that can handle up to 1,000 hp, all in a car that weighs less than 2,200 pounds. Got your attention? One of these cars spanked the Ferrari Enzo's lap times on tracks in Europe. A few years ago, Grant called on Jeff to build an LS2 for his Ultima. Jeff had a reputation for building killer engines that start with the initials "LS," and he delivered a Magnacharged, 660hp winner to Grant. The next year, he invited Grant to do Hot Rod magazine's Power Tour with him in his Ultima. Doing an event like Power Tour together is intense. You're pretty much together every hour of the day. Grant and Jeff learned that they had a common appreciation for performance cars, and they shared a good number of opinions and ideas about how cars should be built.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2009. Grant was approaching his 40th birthday and wanted to do something cool. Grant was raised in Australia, but has lived in Hong Kong for the past 15 years. Since moving away from Australia, he hadn't been able to see his brother, Duncan, as much as he would have liked. Power Tour that year was scheduled pretty close to his birthday. He hatched a plan to find a car to do the tour in, and he and his brother would fly stateside to do the event. He called Jeff to see if he had any projects laying around that he could takeover. As it turned out, Jeff had a Pontiac Tempest that he couldn't hawk on eBay. The car was a parts car for another customer's project. Jeff suggested that they could toss one of his chassis under the car, an LS engine in it, and do something quick with the body. This was a mere 10 weeks before the Power Tour was set to begin, so there wasn't a lot of time. The two exchanged emails and phone calls for a couple of weeks to hash out the details. Once an agreement was reached, the countdown began. The body was dropped off at Imperial Blasting the next day and the project was officially kicked off.
The motif was dictated by the tight time frame. There just wasn't time to do show-quality bodywork and paint. But how do you convert a parts car to a cool car? Grant's father was always into vintage cars. As kids, he and his brother were often watching their dad and his buddies thrash their old stuff around the track. His favorite class was pre-'65 touring cars, so it was decided that this car would take on a road race/NASCAR flair. Something a little edgy, a little rough, and with a very purpose-built look.
Most of the glass in the Tempest...
Most of the glass in the Tempest is actually Lexan. The windshield and rear window have been mounted flush. In addition to the door glass, Jeff hung a pair of window nets in their place-stylish and functional.
Jeff Schwartz has built an...
Jeff Schwartz has built an amazing number of LS engines. This one uses an LS9 block, crank, and heads, and the camshaft and intake from an LS3. Wiseco pistons bring the compression up to 11:1 to produce 501 hp at 5,300 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 5,100 rpm.