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.