1962 Pontiac Tempest
In the early ’60s, most major U.S. car makers introduced compact models. Chevrolet had the Corvair, Ford had the Falcon, Plymouth had the Valiant and Pontiac presented the Tempest. In most cases, those compact models were smaller versions of bigger cars. So, they all shared design cues and mechanicals.
But Pontiac went a different route and presented one of the most advanced and interesting American cars of the era. The new Tempest had an independent suspension at a time when all cars had a live rear axle. Also, it featured an economical four-cylinder engine that was a cut down V8 when all their competitors had six cylinders. Also, the Tempest used a rear mounted gearbox and a transaxle design, which was unheard of at the time.
Today, only the most expensive Gran Turismo coupes like the Aston Martin or Ferrari use this system. But in the ’60s, Pontiac was the only production model with this solution. More so, the Tempest didn’t have a conventional drive shaft connecting the engine in the front with the transmission in the back. Instead, it used a torque tube with a cable inside. This layout gave the little Tempest an almost ideal weight distribution.
Also, it had enough room for six passengers since there wasn’t a transmission tunnel in the cabin. Compared to the rest of the compact cars, the 1962 and 1963 Pontiac Tempests were from another planet. During its lifespan, Pontiac sold over 200,000 Tempests, making it a solid success.
But in 1964, the company introduced a bigger, more conventional Tempest. Despite its revolutionary mechanics, perfect driving dynamics and motorsport success, people soon forgot those first-generation Tempests. Today only diehard Pontiac fans remember it. And it’s rare to see in any car shows, too.