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History of the 1961-1963 Pontiac LeMans
This car had a very interesting incubation. The powers that be at General Motors had planned for Pontiac to be assigned a version of the rear engine Corvair for sale, and had even gone as far as assigning production capacity for the Corvair transaxles to Pontiac. Pontiac management and engineers alike were apparently aghast at the idea, and countered with a proposal for a Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac shared “upscale compact” which would be introduced a year after the Corvair. This car is what became the Pontiac Tempest and upscale sporty version, called the LeMans, which was introduced for 1962 along with a new convertible body style. The BOP’ers, as the upscale compacts were called, were unit construction and were remotely related to the Corvair, structurally speaking, so Pontiac’s cars in this era used the first modern split drive system with transaxle and independent rear suspension, but front engine. The engine was essentially the right bank of the Pontiac 389 V8, with extremely soft motor mounts to help keep the driver and passengers from feeling as if they were in a king-sized paint shaker while the car was at stop lights, and there was an innovative enclosed curved “rope drive” shaft between engine and transaxle. The alloy Buick 215 cubic inch V8 was an option, but given the economy car nature of the market in 1961 and 1962, it proved to be very unpopular. Buyers interested in the V8 apparently flocked instead to the Oldsmobile F85/Cutlass and Buick Special/Skylark. John Z. Delorean’s Pontiac engineers could see the handwriting on the wall regarding how the youth market and sporty, speedy, fast cars were going to be the way to go, and so for 1963, this small car obtained the option of a de-bored version of the big, heavy, nearly big-block Pontiac V8 which displaced 326 cubic inches and which produced 260 hp. Cars so equipped were blisteringly fast, but despite the fully independent suspension, handling was problematical due to the massive weight of the full sized Pontiac V8, and overstressed rope drives regularly snapped. A four cylinder Tempest or LeMans from this era could be had with a hot setup including 4 barrel carburetor with 130 hp right from the factory, and would make a fun, affordable, yet rare and interesting collector piece.
1963 pontiac lemans Info
2dr Sport Coupe
8-cyl. 326cid/260hp 2bbl
Curb Weight: 2810 lbs.
Length: 194.3 in.
Wheel Base: 112 in.
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