A 1963 Pontiac Tempest Is a Rare Yet Affordable Restoration Car

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Classic cars have an air of history and a rustic charm, and many of them are surprisingly inexpensive. Classic car insurance is also usually cheaper than insurance for regular cars. If you’ve got the mechanical know-how, a beat-up classic car can double as an incredibly satisfying restoration project.
These projects can be pricey depending on the reliability and pre-existing damage on the vehicle. Hemmings said that the 1963 Pontiac Tempest is one of the cheapest cars to restore. Here’s why you need a Tempest in your life, especially one from its debut generation.
The side of a red Pontiac Tempest parked in a lot
The Pontiac Tempest is a great model for a restoration project.

The history of the Pontiac Tempest

SUVs are enjoying their time in the spotlight now, but the compact car was in its glory around the 60s. The Pontiac Tempest was one of the first sedans on the American auto market. Unlike competing Chevy Corvairs and Ford Falcons, the Tempest was exceptionally innovative with its front-engine/rear-transaxle setup.
The first-generation Pontiac Tempest debuted for the 1960 model year and ended with the 1963 model. It was powered by a straight-four engine and was nicely weighted with its four-wheel independent suspension. It also had quite a few “luxury” options, such as air conditioning, seat belts, and windshield washers.
The second generation of the Tempest came along in 1964, growing nearly 90 inches in length. It was also built with a different body design and a traditional front-engine layout, though it made less power. However, it was also still offered with two optional engines that could produce up to 280 horsepower.
The Tempest was redesigned again in 1968 to have a coke-bottle body and a new high-powered GTO variant. The Tempest went away in 1970, but the car could still be found under the Le Mans brand. The Tempest would reappear in certain international markets nearly two decades later, but these were essentially rebadged Chevy Corsicas.

1963 Pontiac Tempest specs and features

The first-gen Pontiac Tempest is regarded as the best model, winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award in 1961. Car and Driver tested a GTO version in 1964, praising the vehicle’s performance and the user-friendliness of the controls. The ride only felt unsettled at extremely high speeds, and the interior materials looked fancy enough to be luxury adornments.
The base motor could potentially produce 140 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, with either a two-speed automatic or three-speed manual transmission. In addition to its ample power, the engine is also regarded to be both efficient and reliable even by today’s standards. The optional four-barrel carburetor setup could make 155 horsepower and 211 lb-ft of torque.
The rear-mounted transaxle setup made it so that there was no transmission “hump” in the cabin. This allowed the transmission to be smoother over bumps and created a more spacious cabin.

How hard is it to find a Pontiac Tempest?

Hemmings says that only 600 Tempests are road-worthy today out of over 300,000 sold in its time. While the 1963 four-barrel V8 is the most enjoyable one to drive, the 1961 coupe is the most coveted model. Once restored, a Pontiac Tempest can easily fetch at least $30,000 to $50,000.
The Pontiac Tempest has very reliable parts, so you may find that most of its inner workings are still in good condition. The problem lies within finding the actual replacement parts, many of which haven’t been replicated. Fortunately, there’s a Pontiac-Oakland Club community dedicated to Pontiac Tempest restoration that can connect newcomers to the components they need.
Though the Pontiac Tempest might be rare, it’s easy to get a personalized insurance plan for one with Jerry. You can use the app to compare rates for free and get the best price for coverage on your classic car.

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