/ FROM THE MISTS OF TIME A PONTIAC EMERGES THAT STIRS PEOPLE’S MEMORIES
GENERAL MOTORS STOPPED MAKING PONTIACS IN 2010, BUT THE MEMORY OF THIS DEFUNCT BRAND STILL BURNS IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF MANY ENTHUSIASTS. Helping fan those flames is Ed Bax of Eugene, Missouri, with this ’63 Tempest Super
Buoyed by their success in NASCAR, a few of Pontiac’s management types saw drag racing as an opportunity to whup some more butt. Knowing that GM’s ban on racing was forthcoming in 1963, a number of Super Duty Catalinas were hurriedly assembled. Yet, it was the smaller and lighter 421 SD Tempest that made the most noise when Hayden Proffitt won the NHRA Winternationals A/FX crown with one in 1963.
Just 12 of these lightweight, aluminumclad cars were built and, unfortunately, most are long forgotten and unaccounted for. Two other development prototypes, which found their way into the hands of Proffitt and stock car driver Paul Goldsmith, were also made.
None of this was lost on a young Bax who grew up in a Pontiac household. Outside of family, Super Duty Ponchos were their love, and they were always on the lookout for a project car.
“Dad found this Tempest about 20 years ago,” Bax said. “It was drivable and had the original 326 engine and transaxle. He didn’t really have any plans for it ’cause he has a Pontiac salvage yard with a bunch of GTOs, but this car drew a lot of interest because it was different.”
Different is right! With the notoriously underrated 421 in a Tempest body weighing 1,000 pounds less than the Catalina, these cars were a full half-second quicker than their famous Swiss cheese fullsized brethren. None of this escaped the attention of a farmer from Morrison, Illinois, named Arnie Beswick. Already a wellknown drag racer, Beswick and his Tempest made quick work of many others match racing around the country, making him a legend in the process.
Bax and his father finished their Tempest as a tribute to those ultra-rare 421 Super Duty cars and also to Beswick.
Butler Performance in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, put together a 461cid stroker with stock 1970-model GTO heads. An ultra-rare cross ram intake topped by Edelbrock 750s. The rest of the car— suspension and interior— remains essentially stock. With driver Jeff Roberts behind the wheel, the car has gone a sedentary best of 11.38 seconds at 125 mph.
“We get all kinds of comments because no one sees these anymore, especially on the intake,” Bax said. “Arnie has been all over the car, inside out and even underneath. He really likes it!”