Out From The Mists of Time Is A Pontiac That Won’t Let People Forget
Words/Photos Rod Short
General Motors stopped making Pontiacs in 2010, but the memory of this now-defunct car brand still burns in the hearts and minds of a number of enthusiasts. Helping fan those flames is Ed Bax of Eugene, MO with this 1963 Tempest Super Duty replica.
Buoyed by their success in NASCAR, a few of Pontiac’s management types saw drag racing as an opportunity to whup some butt as well. Knowing that a GM 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 a mere dozen of these lightweight, aluminum-clad cars were built. 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 made.
All this wasn’t lost on a young Ed 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,” Ed recounted. “It wasn’t running or drivable, but it 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 GTO’s, but this car drew a lot of interest because it was different.”
Different is right! With the notoriously underrated 421 in a Tempest body that weighed a thousand pounds less than the Catalina, these cars were a full half-second quicker than the famous Swiss Cheese full-sized Pontiacs. None of this escaped the attention of a farmer from Morrison, IL named Arnie Beswick. Already a well-known drag racer, Beswick made quick work of many others match racing around the country to become a legend.
Bax and his father finished their Tempest as a tribute to those ultra-rare 421 Super Duty cars and to Beswick both.
Ed built the engine with 461-cid stroker parts from Butler Performance in Lawrenceburg, TN, along with stock 1970-model GTO heads. An ultra-rare cross-ram intake topped by Edelbrock 750’s. 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.
The original stock livery on the car was augmented by hand-painted lettering, which was done by Jim Kliethermes of Ace Advertising in Eugene, MO.
“We get all kinds of comments because no one sees these anymore,” Bax said, “especially on the intake. Arnie has been all over the car, inside out and even underneath. He really likes it!”
We can see why!