GM's Pontiac division created a storm when it produced the first muscle car – the 1964 Pontiac GTO Tempest. In fact, they opened doors to the first generation of high performance, mid-size muscle cars that were affordable.
The Birth of the Pontiac GTO Tempest
GM was at first hesitant to give the green light to start the production of the Tempest GTO. The top management at GM mainly feared the effect that a new car would have on its older customers. And with an impending Government threat to break GM's market dominance, the company further tightened its conservative views on the production of a new car. In 1963, GM banned mid-size cars with large engines, like the Pontiac 389-cubic-inch V8, which was exactly what the GTO Tempest needed!
It was the arduous efforts of John Delorean (Chief Engineer at GM), Bill Collins and Rus Gee, that gave life to the new GTO Tempest. What started off as a fun game between the three later helped to create a timeless legend. In fact, Jim Wangers, the Pontiac Advertising Executive and part-time product planner, boldly added the word GTO to the package deal. He audaciously borrowed the title “GTO” from a recently launched Ferrari. GTO or Gran Turismo Omologato, means in Italian, the racing approved production for a grand touring car. Wangers added some more specifications to the muscle car like the 3-speed manual transmission with floor shifts, heavy duty suspension, improved tires, dual exhausts and a few more.
The Features of the Legendary Tempest
Apart from including the groundbreaking 389 V8 engine that produced 325 horsepower at 4600 rpm on mid-size muscle cars, the other standard features of the new car were:
- 3-speed stick with Hurst Shifter
- Shockers, Heavy duty Springs and Stabilizer bus
- Special 7.5×14 tires with optional rayon cord whitewalls at no extra charge and 14x6JK wide-rim wheels
- High capacity battery run air cleaner, high capacity radiator, oil filler cap and rocker covers.
GM produced the cars in three body types: 2-seater Coupes, Hardtops and Convertibles. The company had initially planned to produce 5000 cars. Maybe the Pontiac dealers had the intuition that the Tempest was going to be a hit, because by the end of the year the company wrapped up production with 32,450 cars. A higher number of cars could have been sold if not for the limited production capacity of the plants. 7384 Sports Coupes, 18,422 Hardtop Coupes and 6644 Convertibles were sold in the first year of production. A price tag of $2852 for a Sports Coupe made the Tempest an affordable buy for any youngster with a job. The affordability factor was one of the reasons which increased demand for the car amongst the younger generation of that time.
The Pontiac GTO Tempest – A Collector’s Car
Many car enthusiasts and muscle car collectors feel that the 1964 Pontiac GTO Tempest was the only muscle car to have created this strong of an impact on the muscle car industry. And maybe this is the reason why the Tempest is still the most sought after muscle car. This year, Gooding & Co sold a 1964 Pontiac GTO Convertible (with Chassis No: 824F38361) for $220,000. Another Pontiac GTO Convertible was sold at the Barrett Jackson auction this year for $82,500.
If you are lucky enough to own a Pontiac GTO Tempest, don't forget collector car insurance to protect your muscle car. Classic Auto Insurance provides the best muscle car insurance deals. For more info, please call 888-901-1338.
About the Author
Drew Yagodnik is Vice President of Classic Automobile Insurance Agency, Inc. Classic Automobile Insurance Agency has been protecting collector, classic and exotics since 1992.