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Guilty Pleasure: 1961-63 Pontiac Tempest With Trophy 4 Engine

 

1962 Pontiac Tempest

1962 Pontiac Tempest

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Most of the vehicles in this series were built in the last 25 years, but what about classic Detroit cars that nobody in their right mind would want?

The early Pontiac Tempest was a John Delorean-backed machine with plenty of wildly innovative features, including a rear-mounted transaxle and flexible cable-style driveshaft.

One of those innovative features, however, wasn't so great: the four-cylinder "Trophy 4" engine, which was a designed-on-a-shoestring-budget-at-the-last-minute deal, essentially one cylinder bank of the 389-cubic-inch V8, knocked together by Smokey Yunick on a random workbench in his Florida shop.

The Trophy 4 was nearly as heavy as a V-8, would shake the fillings out of your teeth if it wasn't tuned perfectly, and only the most frighteningly completist Tempest zealots--if there is such a thing--would ever want one today.

Now, your early Tempest with the 215-cubic-inch, destined-to-become-the-Rover-V-8 engine is pretty cool, and the Tempest with the 326-cubic-inch V-8 is also cool. A few years later, you could get a Tempest with a SOHC six-cylinder engine boasting the first timing belt in production automobile history, which is extremely cool.

Everybody wants one of those cars. The Trophy 4-equipped cars, however, are seen as somewhat shameful things, so of course I want one for my fleet of Guilty Pleasure cars.

1962 Pontiac Tempest

1962 Pontiac Tempest

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Comments (5)
  1. i know this would go against what you are trying to achieve from a purists standpoint, but there is nothing stopping you from picking up a "4" getting rid of the that shocker of an engine, dropping in a custom rebuild "8" or a new age "6" and you havea winner. the Styling screams Corvette stingray hard top sedan, and i would love one !
     
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  2. I think I have found a Trophy 4 engine and would like to know what it may be worth. A friend and I found it while cleaning out his dad's shop.
     
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  3. Pretty good article pontiac OHC was first GM use of timing belt there was one before that
    The first known timing belt was used in 1954 in the Devin Sports Car that won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championship in 1956 (See May 1957 article in Sports Cars Illustrated, author O. C. Rich) -Wikipedia-
    wiki/Timing_belt_(camshaft)
     
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  4. I had one of these when I was a teenager. It had the slant 4 "Trophy" engine and automatic transaxel. It was one of the best cars I've had in 50 years of driving.

    This was my first car and as a tinkerer I learned a LOT the hard way (doing almost everything wrong). . Luckily a friend of mine found a 9 year old original GM manual for the 61 Tempest.

    Two important points. The dwell can be set with a meter but it can also be set by ear (see manual for method) and makes a big difference in the smoothness of the engine. The other is that the hydraulic lifters that can make the engine sound like a clattering diesel require SAE 20W20 oil year round.
     
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  5. One more point. .

    Also note that parts books in the 70's listed the starter as being the same as the 389. IT IS NOT. The starter gear is about 1/8" shorter then that for the V8 and set back a bit. The V8 starters grind against the flywheel ring gear and have a VERY short life. I found a proper fitting solenoid gear assembly and replaced the one on a V8 starter and years of aggravation was ended.

    The engine may have been heavy but I thought it had all the power the car needed considering bias ply tires and drum brakes of the era. It went plenty fast enough to keep me in trouble. . .
     
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