April 6, 2010
CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: The 1963 Pontiac LeMans 326
By Jim Brennan
Welcome to another edition of the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, where we discover cars that were never really thought of as Muscle Cars, and change your mind about them. It’s time to rev up the old Wayback Machine, and return to a time when the muscle car was just about to be discovered. The Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors is credited with creating the classification in 1964, with the introduction of the GTO. But what you may not know is that Pontiac actually created a number of high performance cars before the GTO ever saw the light of day. There were fuel-injected Bonnevilles, Catalina Super Duties, and this gem, the 1963 Pontiac LeMans with the 326 V-8.
The Pontiac LeMans, the Oldsmobile F-85, and the Buick Special, represented the first “compact” car of each of these manufacturers, characterized by a modern unibody design and less weight, but still with room for up to six adults. These cars, especially the Tempest and LeMans, were overbuilt so that they didn’t feel “cheap” compared to other compacts that were then being offered. However, the LeMans and Tempest were unique compared with the more traditional Oldsmobile and Buick versions. They were developed with a fully independent suspension, with the rear housing a unique “transaxle” and achieving an almost even weight distribution–almost unheard of in a domestic vehicle.
The hot ticket was the V-8 equipped LeMans, with a 326 that produced 260 HP, with only a 2 barrel carburetor. Because the transmission was essentially at the rear, handling was better balanced than almost anything on the road at that time. Transaxle choices were 3 or 4 speed manual, or a 2 speed “Turbine 300″ Automatic, which utilized a shift lever from the dash, similar to the Corvair Powerglide. With the weight back there, this little Pontiac became a favorite with the drag racing set, setting records, and winning races.
In fact, Pontiac built twelve specially-modified Tempest coupes and wagons, stuffed a gigantic 421 Super Duty V-8 under the hood, a special 4-speed transaxle (essentially 2 Powerglides combined in one case), and not much else. These cars are highly sought-after today, with one that recently sold on eBay for over a quarter million dollars.
CarDomain Members’ Rides:
Looks like there are a few 1963 Pontiac Tempest and LeMans models within the community, so let’s take a look. First up is Rick’s LeMans, from Kamloops, British Columbia. His is a 326-equipped 2-door hardtop, with a 3-speed manual. Take a look and leave Rick a comment about his ride.
Here is Vintage Racing and Restorations’ 1963 Tempest Sport Coupe. This looks bone stock, but what’s with only one picture? Come on Dave, the CarDomain community would like to see more of this fantastic ride. Check it out, and leave a comment, and maybe we will see more of it.
So, is this little Pontiac an Obscure Muscle Car, or is it just another boring compact from General Motors of the early 60′s? Let me leave you with this thought: the Pontiac engine actually displaced 336 cubic inches, but the powers that be decreed that no engine could eclipse the Corvette 327, and so Pontiac had to advertise it as a 326. That should tell you about the potential of this little car. Leave your thoughts below, and look for more Obscure Muscle Postings right here on CarDomain.
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