You could say the Pontiac GTO story starts here: with the launch of the 1962 Pontiac Tempest LeMans.
The introduction of the Pontiac Tempest LeMans in 1962 is noteworthy from a couple of angles, but one thought immediately comes to mind: It was the the LeMans that eventually begat the sensational 1964 Pontiac GTO, which kicked off the entire muscle car movement. So without the LeMans, who knows? Maybe there would be no GTO, at least as we know it.
The LeMans began with humble enough ambitions—basically, as an appearance package for the Tempest Custom Sport Coupe and Convertible. The Tempest, of course, was Pontiac’s entry on the Senior Compact Y-body platform at General Motors for 1961-63, which also included versions for Buick (Special) and Oldsmobile (F-85). In the original Pontiac commercial below, the announcer ticks off the LeMans equipment list: GM’s wide and comfy bucket seats, a floor mounted shifter, nylon pile carpeting, and some extra trim and badging.
Of course, the ’62 LeMans also included the innovative Tempest driveline, with its distinctive bent propeller shaft, rear transaxle, and swing-axle rear suspension. Both manual and automatic-transmission versions were offered, each borrowing extensively from the Corvair parts bins. Engine choices included GM’s 215 CID aluminum V8, but it’s interesting to note that in this spot, the half-a-V8 194 CID Trophy four gets the spotlight. In performance tune with a four-barrel carb and a 10.25:1 compression ratio, the slant four was rated at 166 horsepower. It was no GTO, certainly, but it was a start. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Full set of Allegheny Ludlum stainless steel-bodied Fords put up for sale by the company that built them
Photo courtesy Worldwide Auctioneers.
For decades, Allegheny Ludlum and its successor company have held on to the bulk of the 11 stainless-bodied Ford products that resulted from three different collaborations between the two companies. A source of pride for the company and for the Pittsburgh region in general, it seemed that the cars would forever remain in possession of the specialty metals company. However, in the face of a tough economic climate, Allegheny has decided to sell three of the cars, apparently the first time a complete set of the stainless Fords has ever hit the market.
"We didn't make the decision lightly," said Natalie Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Technologies Inc. "But we decided it's only appropriate to utilize every lever we have...as we're faced with this extraordinary economic challenge."
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Allegheny started out 2020 downsizing its salaried workforce "to align cost structures to demand levels," according to its first-quarter shareholders report. With sales down five percent year-over-year and with tougher times ahead due to the pandemic, the company has temporarily idled some of its facilities, cut executive pay by 20 percent, furloughed non-essential workers, and made various other cuts in expenses.
While it didn't seem like the five stainless Fords that Allegheny had held onto until just recently cost much to keep around - they'd been relegated in recent years from regular parade duty to the occasional car show and recruiting fair - the cars also weren't doing much for the company's bottom line. After all, most of its business these days comes from the aerospace, defense, and energy sectors with automotive sales accounting for just 7 percent of its business.
In the Thirties, however, Allegheny envisioned entire cars built from its stainless steel. The company was already supplying Ford with stainless for trim and radiator shells so, as Walt Gosden wrote in Special Interest Autos #60, December 1980, Allegheny took the next logical step of stamping entire bodies out of stainless. Six 1936 Ford Tudor Touring Sedans - which used standard Ford chassis and running gear - resulted, and by the end of the run the tougher stainless had reportedly ruined Ford's dies. Each of the six went to Allegheny district offices around the country and remained on the road as demonstrator vehicles well into the 1940s, by which time the bodies remained intact and in good shape but the chassis had racked up hundreds of thousands of miles and had worn out like any other 1936 Ford with that many miles would.
Postcard photo of three of the Allegheny Ludlum stainless-bodied Fords. Hemmings archive image.
The two companies didn't collaborate again until 1960 when Allegheny stamped body panels, bumpers, grilles, and exhaust systems for two Thunderbird coupes out of T302 stainless and then sent those to Budd for assembly. Then again, six years later, Allegheny and Ford collaborated to build three Lincoln Continental convertibles, two of which went on to receive updates to 1967 Lincoln Continental appearance. According to Gosden, both the Thunderbirds and the Continentals somehow ended up weighing about the same as their production counterparts. (According to Frank Scheidt of the Early Ford V-8 Foundation, the stainless 1936 Ford weighs anywhere from a couple hundred pounds to 500 pounds more than a comparable production 1936 Ford.)
Allegheny made the latter five easy to keep track of: It held on to the two Thunderbirds and two of the three Continentals and eventually bought back the third Continental before the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland obtained one of each.
The six 1936 Fords, however, Allegheny sold off after their use as demonstrators. Allegheny re-purchased two of the six over the years and the Crawford tracked down another to compile the first complete set of the three for public display. A fourth passed through a number of private owners before it was donated to the Early Ford V-8 Museum in 2016. Two remain unaccounted for.
The 1936 Ford that has since been donated to the Early Ford V-8 Museum. Photo by Jeff Koch.
Of the five remaining in Allegheny's possession, the company recently donated one to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. "It was our way of ensuring that a piece of Allegheny Ludlum's legacy is retained in Pittsburgh," Gillespie said. One of the Lincoln Continentals will remain with Allegheny Technologies, but the three others - one 1936 Ford, one 1960 Thunderbird, and one 1966/1967 Lincoln Continental - will head to auction this fall at the Worldwide Auctioneers Auburn sale.
"They're fantastic," Gillespie said, "but we want to make sure these three are kept and maintained by somebody who loves them."
At what is perhaps the only time any of the 11 stainless cars has previously come up for auction, the 1936 Ford that has since joined the Early Ford V-8 Museum's collection bid up to $550,000 at the 2009 Mecum Monterey sale. Leo Gephardt, the owner of the car at the time, later told Hemmings Classic Car that he valued it at about triple that price.
According to Worldwide, the three will cross the block as one lot with no reserve. Worldwide's Auburn sale is planned to take place September 5. For more information, visit WorldwideAuctioneers.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Daniel Strohl.
To showcase its all-new 232 cubic-inch inline six engine, in 1964 American Motors introduced a limited-production Rambler Classic and called it the Typhoon.
In 1964, American Motors wasn’t really in the performance car business. After all, it was in ’64 that the company introduced its famous print ad proclaiming, “The only race Rambler cares about is the human race!” But every now and then the Kenosha carmaker would show a little style and flash, for example with the 1957 Rambler Rebel and the clever Twin-Stick transmission. Here’s one more interesting example: the limited-production 1964 Typhoon.
By the early ’60s, AMC’s venerable inline six engine family, first produced way back in 1941 for the Nash 600, had grown horribly obsolete. Plunking down $45 million, a serious investment for the little automaker, AMC engineered an all-new six-cylinder engine line and a manufacturing plant to go with it. Justifiably proud of the new Torque Command Six, as it was called, AMC whipped up a special edition of the Rambler Classic 770 hardtop, its top of the line mid-sized model, to serve as a showcase.
While the old Rambler six was conservative to a fault (there was still an L-head version in production well into the ’60s) the new Torque Command Six, above, was state of the art. With a bore of 3.75 inches and a stroke of 3.25 inches, the layout was generously oversquare, while the roomy 4.38-inch bore spacing allowed plenty of coolant circulation. And down below, seven main bearings and a fully counterweighted crankshaft provided a stiff and sturdy lower end.
The initial displacement was 232 cubic inches with an output of 145 hp, but the engine was continually revised and refined over the years, enjoying an impressively long production life. In 1970 American Motors acquired Jeep and in 1987 American Motors was in turn acquired by Chrysler, and so it came to pass that Jeep vehicles used an updated version of this same basic engine package through 2006.
The new inline six was a $59.95 option in the Classic and Ambassador for 1964, but standard in the limited-edition Typhoon, which is distinguished by its Solar Yellow exterior paint and gloss black roof, along with a blacked-out grille, black-insert side trim, and unique badging. Additionally, all Typhoons apparently (we’re not entirely certain) sported a black vinyl interior with bucket seats and a console. Based on the Classic 770 two-door hardtop, the Typhoon received a late mid-year introduction in April of 1964, and only 2,520 were produced. Still, a remarkably high number of them seem to have survived, so you’re likely to encounter one from time to time in the hands of a dedicated AMC enthusiast.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Purists will say the 1958 Hawk isn’t truly a Packard. That may be so, but it’s certainly an interesting car.
In gearhead lore, the 1958 Packard Hawk was created almost by accident. Roy Hurley, the Curtiss-Wright CEO who was in charge at Studebaker-Packard in the final days of the Packard brand, asked chief designer Duncan McRae to create a customized vehicle for his personal use. As this single custom car was completed, somehow the decision was made to add it to Packard’s meager production lineup for 1958. As a result of this unusual provenance, the Packard Hawk is sometimes referred to by S-P enthusiasts as the Hurley Hawk. (For more on the final Studebaker-based Packards of 1957-58, see our feature, The Packardbakers.)
Hurley had recently traveled to Europe, where the Maserati 3500 Gran Turismo Allemano, a $10,000 exotic with bodywork by Carrozzeria Allemano, had caught his eye. So to please the boss, McRae borrowed two of its features, the low, wide grille opening and the aggressive hood scoop, and adapted them to the Studebaker Hawk K-body hardtop shell, as shown above. A fiberglass hood and bolt-on front fascia replaced the Studebaker Hawk’s neo-classical vertical grille theme, while a pair of plated dagmars were added to the familiar Stude front bumper.
At the rear, McRae discarded the Studebaker Hawk’s raised and squared-off deck lid and reverted to the the low, sloping panel used in Bob Bourke’s original 1953 Studebaker design. To this pressing he added a trendy faux spare tire—again, molded in fiberglass to save tooling cost. (The phony spare was earlier seen on several Chrysler idea cars and then adopted by Chrysler for the production Imperial.) Gold-tone inserts for the tail fins completed the look at the rear. While the presentation is interesting and distinctive, there’s no mistaking the Packard Hawk for anything but what it is: a Studebaker with some clever but modest redecorating.
The Packard Hawk’s dash was essentially the same as the Studebaker Golden Hawk, with an engine-turned panel and a generous complement of racy Stewart-Warner gauges. A column-mounted shift lever commands the only available transmission, a three-speed Borg-Warner automatic. And like all the badge-engineered Studebakers that wore a Packard badge in 1958, the .Hawk was powered by a 289 CID Studebaker V8, but here with a belt-driven McCulloch VS-57S supercharger, a package rated at 275 horsepower. Performance was quite decent, as magazine testers were able to obtain better than 122 mph.
Another feature that distinguished the Packard Hawk from its Studebaker siblings was the luxurious interior, finished entirely in premium leather. To create an aircraft-style ambience, as McRae recalled it, the upholstery wrapped over the doors, extending past the door glass, so part of the leather lived out in the weather, as shown above. The feature is definitely novel: We can’t think of another postwar production car that shares it. Doesn’t seem terribly practical.
From time to time, automotive writers have been known to observe that the Hawk failed to save Packard. In truth, that was never in the cards as the brand was essentially already dead. The 1958 Packard line was offered mainly to satisfy the few remaining dealer contracts, so the automaker would not be compelled to take back the remaining parts, tools, and inventory. A mere 2,622 Packards were produced in 1958, and 588 of them were Hawks.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The flat-top era at General Motors lasted only two years, but it left a memorable impression.on the automotive world.
The flat-top cars of General Motors for 1959-60 were created during a tumultuous period for the automaker’s styling shop. At that moment, the studio was carefully navigating the transition from Harley Earl to Bill Mitchell as leader of the operation. And meanwhile, the GM designers were thrown for a loop by Virgil Exner’s stunning 1957 Chrysler line, which seemed to obsolete everything they had on the drawing board.
In response to the challenges, the GM stylists cleared their easels and for 1959, they came up with some of the most distinctive cars ever produced by the company. One of the more striking innovations was a bold, blade-like roofline for the four-door hardtops that soon became known as the flat top.
The Flying Wing, as the automaker preferred to call the cantilevered top configuration, was the creation of a young Japanese-American GM stylist, Bug Sugano, in early 1957, with support from Carl Renner, who developed the concept for production. Since all five GM car divisions shared their interior structural sheet metal for 1959, all five brands got their own versions of the simple yet dramatic greenhouse package: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac.
With all five car brands sharing a common roofline, on their four-door hardtop body styles at least, the company’s product line presented a unified look across the price range—not such a common occurrence at GM in those years. Following their existing naming conventions, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile called the body style a Sport Sedan, while Cadillac chose the name Four Window Sedan, having a multitude of four-door styles for buyers to choose from. Buick took the simple route: Four-Door Hardtop. For its version of the flat top, Pontiac chose the name Vista, underscoring the design’s excellent 360-degree visibility (glass distortion notwithstanding). Even after the flat tops were discontinued for 1961, Pontiac continued to use the Vista model name for its four-door hardtop styles.
While the flat top era proper at GM lasted only two model years, Cadillac soldiered on for one more year with a variation on the theme (below). The Four Window Sedan style for the SIxty-Two and De Ville models in ’61 used a modified Flying Wing with less rear overhang and a more prominent rear glass. But sales were poor as the more conventional six-window four-door outsold the flat top by more than a five-to-one margin, and the body style was killed off permanently for 1962. Automotive fashion was evolving once again, toward more formal limousine-style roof treatments.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Chris Webb of Webb Motorworks has done the unfathomable: He’s converted the beloved small-block Chevy V8 into an all-electric vehicle propulsion module.
This flabbergasting project is the work of Chris Webb of Webb Motorworks of Victoria, British Columbia, where the previous products include conversion kits to make a Chevrolet small-block V8 resemble a vintage Ford V8 or Lincoln Zephyr V12. From there, it seems the next step was only natural, almost. Now he’s re-engineered the familiar Chevy SBC to contain a pair of electric motors hidden away inside, creating a drop-in EV conversion unit for hot rods, street machines, and so on. How will this product go over with the traditional hot rodding crowd? We have no clue, but it’s an awesome and fascinating idea.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
This largely original 1964 Pontiac GTO in Aquamarine and Parchment is expected to cross the block at the Mecum Indy sale, currently rescheduled for June 23-28.
Some automotive writers like to engage poetic license with the familiar term “muscle car.” They’re willing to speculate that perhaps the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 was the first muscle car. Or maybe the Rambler Rebel, the Buick Century, or the Stutz Bearcat. But not us. We’re strict constructionists on the matter. As far as we’re concerned, the muscle car era for real begins in 1964 and the first true muscle car, the one that started it all, was the Pontiac GTO. One like this, for instance: a distinctive Aquamarine and Parchment Coupe that is scheduled to cross the block at the Mecum Indy Auction on June 23-28.
Technically, the GTO was not a stand-alone model for ’64 but an optional equipment group that piggybacked on the sporty Le Mans. Three body styles were available: a two-door Hardtop, a Convertible, and a two-door post Coupe like this one. Depending on your point of view, the Coupe could be the most desirable of the three: With its sturdy B-pillar construction, it’s the lightest and the most rigid, and the least prone to wind and water leaks.
This particular GTO has an additional feature of interest to hardcore performance enthusiasts: It’s equipped with the Royal Bobcat package, a special dealer setup offered back in the day by Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside Detroit.
In the Royal Bobcat treatment, the 389 CID Pontiac Tri-Power engine, factory rated at 348 horsepower, was upfitted with thinner head gaskets to bump up the compression ratio, a more aggressive distributor advance curve, fatter carburetor jetting and mechanical-progressive carb linkage, blocked heat risers, poly-locks for the valvetrain, and other classic hot-rodding tricks.
Hard-wired to the division’s upper management through marketing wizard Jim Wangers, Royal was the go-to performance emporium for Pontiac enthusiasts in the muscle car era. Top mechanics in the Royal performance department included Milt Schornack, who raced the dealership’s Pontiacs on the drag strip when he wasn’t performing his trickery on customer cars.
On the outside, this GTO could be described as just a touch on the plain side with poverty hub caps and Coker redline tires, but in the cabin there’s plenty of ’60s Detroit flash with near-white Parchment (Code 219) upholstery, a full-length bright-metal console to house the four-speed shifter, and the classic GTO instrument panel with its familiar engine-turned look. In the authentic Day Two muscle-car manner, there’s a Sun electric tachometer clamped to the steering column and a three-dial accessory gauge panel attached to the bottom of the dash.
The factory-correct Aquamarine paint (Code P) is said to be a single repaint since new on a largely original car with just 14,900 miles showing on the odometer. This example is one of nine Pontiac GTOs from the personal collection of auction impresario Dana Mecum, billed as “Dana’s GTOs” and originally scheduled for sale at the annual Mecum Indy sale in May. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the sale date has been pushed back to June 23-28 (and you’ll want to check for updates at Mecum.com).
Our preferred reference on American car pricing, Hagerty Insurance, currently values the 1964 GTO at all the way up to $119,000 for an example in #1 concours condition. But of course, the originality of this car and the Royal Bobcat package put a unique twist on the valuation. We’ll be interested to see what the auction market decides. -Photos by Mecum Auctions.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Pontiac Grand Prix was well-positioned for the upsurge in personal luxury car popularity in the 1970s, as it had been serving that market since its 1962 debut. With the SSJ conversion offered by the Hurst Performance Research Corporation, its standing could be further elevated.
When reinvented for '69, the Grand Prix featured contemporary long-hood/shortdeck styling, a much trimmer appearance than its full-size predecessor, and a cockpit-inspired interior. Borrowing nomenclature from Duesenberg, GPs were offered as a Model J or the sportier Model SJ. They posted record sales.
George Hurst wanted to introduce a limited-edition Pontiac, and when he saw adman Jim Wangers' white '69 SJ with Tiger Gold Royal Pontiac paint accents, George bought it to use for development. Hurst partnered with the Pontiac Motor Division to produce the 1970-'72 SSJ Hurst.
The '72 GP's 400-cu.in. four-barrel low-compression engine was standard and a 455 was optional. Both had D-port heads, were rated at 250 hp, and were backed by the rugged TH400 three-speed automatic, but the 455 had an additional 50 lb-ft of torque at 370.
A 10-bolt 3.08:1-geared differential was standard and 3.23 gearing was optional. The C-type 12-bolt differential with 3.07 gears was used with the 455 and 3.31s were available. Safe-T-Track (limited-slip) for either type cost extra.
The 118-inch wheelbase of the G-body Grand Prix's perimeter frame was 6 inches longer than that of the A-body GTO and two-door Le Mans, but like them, it used a short, long arm (SLA) front suspension with anti-roll bar, the four-link rear, and coil springs and shocks fore and aft. Power assists for the variable-ratio steering and disc/drum brakes were standard.
For '71, single headlamps replaced the dual layout on each side of the new grille. Boattail styling was revealed in the revised deck lid, and the taillamps and bumpers were updated. The grille pattern and taillamp details were altered for '72.
To buy an SSJ, a Model J (J or SJ for '70) was ordered at a Pontiac dealer in Cameo White or Starlight Black. Interestingly, George Hurst's '72 SSJ was silver, and a Bluestone Gray (1971 color) '72 SSJ also exists, as does a green one. Rumors of additional colors have surfaced as well.
Body-colored mirrors were required by Hurst but a Cordova top was not allowed. Morrokide or cloth-and-Morrokide-covered buckets with the factory Sport shifter and console, or a notchback bench seat without them could be had. Extra-cost Rally II or Honeycomb wheels with G78-14 whitewall tires were mandated. A Hurst order form was also completed by the salesperson.
American Racing wheels with gold centers, GR60-15 BFG T/A Radials, Wheel- Guard Sentry, Auto Security Alarm System, Auto/Stick shifter for bench-seat SSJs, Roll/Control, and engine super-tuning and blueprinting were offered by Hurst at extra cost. The Digital Performance Computer that calculated ET and mph, a portable Sony TV, and an onboard telephone were innovative for the era.
GPs destined to become SSJs were built on a Pontiac assembly line and then drop-shipped to Roseville, Michigan, ('71-'72) for the Hurst conversion. Shipping code "50 012" ('71-'72) is on the lower right of the factory invoice. (A copy of it is included in a package that can be purchased from PHS Automotive Services, www.phs-online.com, which also contains additional useful information).
An electric sunroof and a black, Antique White, or plain white landau-style half-top were installed, Hurst Fire Frost Gold high-metallic paint accents were applied to the upper body (and wheels) and outlined with hand-painted pinstripes, and die-cast SSJ Hurst emblems were added. For '72, the package's retail cost was $1,275.00. The buyer could take delivery at Hurst or the dealer.
Published production figures we've seen for '72 SSJs are 60 and 52, but Jim Mattison of PHS Automotive Services believes it could be as high as 200, based on his research. In "Pontiac SSJ Grand Prix—A Grand Story" by Rocky Rotella, published in High Performance Pontiac magazine, former Hurst General Manager and SSJ Project Manager Don Morton explained that some dealers made their own versions of SSJs, so those aren't counted here.
Engine OHV V-8; cast-iron block and cylinder heads
Displacement 400-cu.in. (standard); 455-cu.in. (optional)
Horsepower 250 @ 4,400 rpm (400); 250 @ 3,600 rpm (455)
Fuel system Four-barrel with cast-iron intake manifold
Transmission Turbo Hydra-Matic 400
Wheelbase 118 inches
Length 213.6 inches
Width 76.4 inches
Height 52 inches
Curb weight 3,960 pounds (approximate)
Production Unconfirmed, believed to be between 52 and 200 for 1972
Abridged article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Thomas A. DeMauro.