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.
The body was mostly straightened, but it didn't need to be perfect. Things like holes for missing trim were left. The glass was flush-mounted, and most of the glass is actually Lexan. The car was shot in PPG DP90 satin black epoxy primer. Fiberglass front and rear bumpers were fitted to continue the spray-bomb appearance of the car. The finishing touches on the exterior came in the form of die-cut vinyl lettering that mimic race car sponsorship decals, but maintain a uniform look to this pseudo racer. An era-correct "389 cu.in." was applied to both sides of the hood, and a large number 65 on the doors. The finishing touch was a logo for the car, designed by Wally Goto in the likeness of nose art found on World War II planes. The car was developing a sinister look that was a bit seductive, so Goto created a Temptress. A voluptuous Cougar with devil's horns, pitchfork and tail, complete with the Pontiac arrowhead as a tip.
The interior called for the same Spartan approach. Window nets were hung while the door panels were abandoned. The factory dash was left with a smattering of the original switches. Race car equipment included the addition of a full cage, racing seats, and Simpson harnesses. A full rack of Auto Meter Pro Comp Ultra-Lite gauges was installed in a stainless panel with a turned look to it, playing off a Pontiac design cue. Jeff's crew applied bedliner to the floor for a tiny bit of sound deadening (and painted metal would have scratched anyway).
To deliver the kind of performance that the looks promised, the car uses a combination of Schwartz Muscleup chassis. The chassis features mandrel-bent rails, and custom front and rear suspension. The chassis is 200 percent stiffer than the original frame, and is capable of delivering over 1 g of lateral handling. The front suspension features a custom A-arm upper, and single-tube lower control arm. This car uses Bilstein adjustable coilover shocks, but the chassis also fits Ride Tech ShockWaves. The chassis also mounts rack-and-pinion steering and integrated sway bar. The rear suspension is a four-link with a sway bar. The Pontiac uses a Dana 60 with 3.55 gears and a posi.
The LS9 engine came with a...
The LS9 engine came with a dry-sump oiling system, which was retained on this car. An LS7 oil pan and Schwartz billet accessory drive system were used, and an external oil tank was plumbed into the system, resting just behind the driver-side headlight.
With the upgraded chassis and a mini-tub job for the rear, the GM A-body can sit on 275/35ZR18 BFGoodrich g-force T/A KDW tires in the front and 335/30ZR18s in the rear. The tires are mounted on XXR wheels, 18x9.5 up front and 18x13 in the rear. That's some serious meat, and exactly what would be needed to lay down some serious times on the road course.
Grant and Duncan arrived on June 2, 2009 to help Jeff's team at Schwartz Performance wrap up the car. It took nearly five sleepless nights to get the car finished, but June 6 found the trio in Racine, Wisconsin, for the start of the event.
While that sounds like the end of the story, it was really just the beginning. For Power Tour, Jeff had just dropped in an LS3 engine. Shortly after the event, he built an LS9 engine. Well, it was mostly LS9. Jeff bored an LS9 block and assembled a reciprocating assembly made of Wiseco pistons, K1 rods, and a forged LS9 crank. The heads were massaged, and an LS7 cam was selected to activate the valves. An LS3 intake manifold was used, along with a 90mm drive-by-wire throttle body. Jeff created a custom wiring harness and used a Corvette ECU. The engine is backed up by a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed transmission rated to take more than 600 lb-ft of torque. The combo smokes down the quarter-mile at 12.36 at 117 mph, but can also cruise at more than 20 mpg on the highway.
The fuel tank under the car...
The fuel tank under the car was replaced by an RCI fuel cell in the trunk. Even though the tank is a tad smaller than stock, the car gets more than 20 mpg on the highway, providing plenty of range. Also visible in the trunk are the stretched wheel tubs, the Schwartz Performance bottom-clamp Optima battery mount, and the NOS bottle.
In less than six months after completion, the car won more than its share of trophies and awards, including taking top honors in the muscle car class at Car Craft magazine's Real Street Eliminator. It's also participated in Pro-Touring.com's Run Through the Hills and Motor State Challenge. The race-inspired motif that was driven by a short time frame actually turned into a visual statement that matches the car's DNA and stands apart from all of the show cars. That was 10 weeks of effort well invested.
Tires with a 275mm tread width...
Tires with a 275mm tread width are common for the rear of GM A-bodies, but the chassis under Grant's Tempest fits P275/35ZR18s under the front. The XXR wheels are lightweight and modern in design, but still fit with the vintage road racer look.
The turned stainless steel...
The turned stainless steel gauge insert is the one mod strictly for style in the interior. Everything else is purely functional, from the bedliner floor covering, to the five-point harnesses. The cool limb (leaning forward off the shifter) is a bracket that holds the nitrous button. This position makes it possible for Grant to hit the squeeze with his thumb between gearshifts.
A race car cue that is quite...
A race car cue that is quite functional is the deletion of the high-beam headlights. Grilles were made to cover the openings, letting fresh air into the engine bay. The air inlet is mounted just behind the opening on the passenger side to grab cool air.
|BY THE NUMBERS
|'65 Pontiac Tempest
|Grant Craft • Hong Kong, China
||Chevy 378 small-block
||LS9, bored to 4.070 inches
||LS9 dry-sump system, LS9 pan
||LS9 forged crank and K1 H-beam rods; forged Wiseco pistons
||Massaged LS9 aluminum castings with original valves
||LS7 211/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller, .591/.591-inch lift
||LS9 components, Patriot dual valvesprings with Titanium retainers
||LS3 intake manifold, 90mm drive-by-wire throttle body
||Schwartz Performance 1 7/8-inch stainless steel headers, dual 3-inch Magnaflow mufflers
||NOS dry fogger system
||Holley EFI pump, Aeromotive filters and regulator
||GM coil-on-plug, MSD plug wires
||Be Cool radiator and fan
||501 hp at 6,300 rpm and 450 lb-ft at 5,100 rpm
||Tremec TKO 600 five-speed
||'69 Dana 60 with 3.55 gears and posi
||Schwartz Muscleup tubular front suspension, Bilstein coilovers, Schwartz Muscleup spindles, QA1 rod ends, 1-inch splined sway bar with billet endlinks
||Schwartz Muscleup four-link, Bilstein coilovers, QA1 rod ends, 3/4-inch splined sway bar
||Baer Pro Plus six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors front and rear
|WHEELS & TIRES
||XXR 18x9.5, front; 18x13, rear (rear wheels widened by Weldcraft)
||BFGoodrich 275/35ZR18 g-force T/A KDW, front; BFGoodrich 335/30ZR18s g-force T/A KDW, rear
The Tempest rides on the latest...
The Tempest rides on the latest version of a Schwartz Muscleup chassis. This bolt-on chassis replaces the factory frame and suspension system. In addition to extreme handling capability with a comfortable on-road ride, the chassis makes things like mounting modern engines, transmissions, and decent exhaust a breeze.